Glass ceiling-smashing emergency chief to retire

NSW SES Chief Carlene York will retire next month after making her mark as the first woman to lead a NSW emergency service.

Carlene York: retiring from top SES job

Commissioner York, who has spent five years in the role, will hand the reins to her deputies Damien Johnston and Deborah Platz in May, the state government has announced.

Commissioner York joined the NSW SES in October 2019, becoming the first woman to lead the agency in its almost 70-year history.

During her time at the top she led the the agency through some of the state’s worst natural disasters, including floods and COVID-19, and provided support during the Black Summer bushfires.

Emergency Services Minister Jihad Dib thanked Commissioner York for her commitment to disaster-hit NSW communities during her long and distinguished career.

“She leaves the NSW State Emergency Service in a stronger position to face future disasters, with a strengthened organisation a testament to her leadership,” Mr Dib said.

“I know that she will be greatly missed by many at the SES where she has established a positive culture amongst volunteers and worked hard to make the agency an attractive organisation to join.”

Commissioner York said she took pride in being the first female SES commissioner and it was bittersweet to be leaving a job she loved. 

“It has been an honour to lead an organisation made up of such committed and professional individuals. Over the years I’ve drawn inspiration from their strength, resilience and selflessness,” she said.

“There have definitely been days that are heartbreaking and tough. But even in the very worst of times I have witnessed the very best of humanity.”

Commissioner York joined the SES after almost 40 years in the NSW Police Force, where she served as director of the Forensic Service Group, Commander of Northern Region, Human Resources Commander and led the strike force that captured convicted murderer Malcolm Naden in 2012.

She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Australian Police Medal and the Commissioner’s Commendation for Service.

Deputy Commissioners Johnston and Platz will alternate as Acting Commissioner while a recruitment process is undertaken.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required