Phoenix History

The Phoenix can trace its origins back to the original VICSES produced journal “Impact”.
First edition Impact from March 1981
Impact was produced from 1981 until the summer of 1987. The reasons why Impact ceased are unclear. It wasn’t until 30 years later VICSES began producing a new publication called Community Matters.
Final edition of Impact 1987 (left) and first edition of VICSES Community Matters 2017 (right)
Below are some excepts from the editor’s last words column in final summer edition of Impact from 1987.
“You will be aware by now that this is the last issue of impact. Commencing in the new year a new monthly magazine will be produced by the Victorian Emergency Services association Incorporated, whose membership comprises of volunteer members of VICSES units, which will be distributed free of charge to municipal units.”
“Incidentally, although the decision to cease publication was not mine, with-holding this announcement until now was, and move Regional Directors were unaware of it.”
“I wish the successor to Impact well. I am confident that our readers will give its Editor and their committee the same support and encouragement which I and my predecessors have received.”

Mike Gill – Editor

First copy of “Phoenix” from early 1987 (left) and Issue 1, the first commercial print from June of 1987 (right)

The first edition of the Phoenix was printed in early 1987. This rudimentary first release was the foundation of the journal as we know it today. Prior to the print release of the journal, VESA released a simple newsletter. Below is an excerpt, the authors name was not listed.
“Welcome to the first copy of phoenix, not quite what we had in mind, and not up to what it will become in the future. Phoenix is produced by VESA, set on our I.B.M., and printed sheet—fed offset. Phoenix will be produced eleven issues per year, and bulk—mailed, individually—addressed, to every SES unit in Victoria. Copies will be included for local police, ambulance and fireservice, and controllers are requested to deliver them as needed.”
And this is introduction is from issue 1 of the first commercial release.
“Welcome to the first issue of Phoenix. One of the original goals in establishing VESA was to improve communications within VICSES, particularly within the volunteer element, as well as the public perception of the Service.
There are many people out there who have no idea what VICSES is, or its responsibilities. VICSES makes a tremendously valuable contribution to the welfare of all Victorians, and I believe we need to get out and tell our story. If people don’t know what VICSES is, we can hardly blame them for not supporting our calls for adequate funding and the like.”

Terry Stephens – President, VESA


The choice of the Phoenix as the name and logo is still unclear. It has been suggested that the Phoenix symbolises renewal or “rising from the ashes” which may have been influenced by the events of Ash Wednesday.
Further research and investigation into this topic is continuing. Some Volunteers have suggested one of the early editions of the Phoenix has this mentioned. The first Phoenix logo and cover was designed by John Basham from Croydon Unit and Artwork was completed by Mark Todd from Australia Post’s graphic design department. The cover design would remain unchanged until the early 2000s.
An edition from late 2001 (left) and one from 2005 in the current design iteration (right)
In 2019, after a 32 year print run, the Phoenix moved from physical to digital distribution.
“As Phoenix moves into a contemporary online format, it is worth noting the significant volunteer contribution that has been made to the State of Victoria and its local communities for many decades.
This inaugural online edition of Phoenix looks back at a selection of previously published articles and celebrates the enormous range of SES volunteers’ skills and abilities that continue to build civic cohesion, keep communities safe, work effectively with other agencies, and add value to the lived experience of individuals, in groups and neighbourhoods.
As we review past articles that have been published in Phoenix, it reminds us that SES volunteers give selflessly of their time and energies. The selection of articles in this current edition is just a small indication of the work undertaken by volunteers.”

VICSESVA – Executive Directors

First digital edition.
Anyone with further information regarding VESA’s or Phoenix’s history are welcomed to contact [email protected] Any contributions are greatly appreciated.