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On Friday night Orange SES was part of a small group chat with Prince William. Here's what happened

January 21, 2023

Will and Grace: Prince William and Grace Langlands on the video call. Youtube.

By Peter Holmes

Prince William spent about 40 minutes on Friday night talking to Orange SES’s Grace Langlands and four other people who had been affected by catastrophic flooding in Australia.

“I’m still on a small high, I can’t believe it actually happened,” Langlands told The Orange News Examiner on Saturday.

She had learned on Wednesday that she’d been successfully nominated by her SES zone commander to be part of the conversation with the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, but thought it was a joke. It wasn't.

She described the video conversation with the prince as “genuine”.

“It was an acknowledgement of what was happening, and that he understood, and was able to empathise,” Langlands said.

“It’s very heartwarming to know someone [from so far away] cares about what is happening in Orange and the Central West.”

The call was due to begin at 9am Friday London time (Prince William was thought to be at Kensington Palace), which was 8pm Friday Orange time.

At 7pm local time Langlands cranked up her computer at the Orange SES HQ.

“It did a restart and download and install and I wasn’t able to properly get back on the computer until a few minutes before it started,” she said. “It just decided to not work, I had all my tech friends around me going ‘Work! Work!’.”

According to a release from the office of the Prince and Princess of Wales, also on the call were Daniel Cleave and Curtis Arthur, owners of a small business in Shepparton, Victoria; Maureen Carter, CEO of the Nindilingarri Health Service in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia; and Brad Flowers, owner of the Overland Corner Hotel, Upper Murray, South Australia.

“Collectively, these individuals represent small business owners, frontline responders and local community and Indigenous peoples leaders,” the royal statement read.

The group was briefed ahead of the video hookup, and then left the chat. Once Prince William had joined the call they were able to rejoin.

“We’d been just waiting around chatting and chilling for 10 minutes,” said Langlands. Also in the room were two SES commanders and Langlands’ husband.

Grace Langlands at Robertson Park in 2022. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

“All of a sudden the screen flicked on and there he is.”

The prince “got the conversation rolling” by working out who was who. He then asked the participants to take him through the chronological order of the floods affecting each state, allowing each person on the call to speak for a number of minutes.

“It was a very genuine conversation, which was awesome,” Langlands said.

She said she spoke to Prince William for about 10 minutes, explaining what happened on the November day she spent in Eugowra.

“Myself and three other people from Orange [SES] were the first on the ground in Eugowra,” Langlands told The Orange News Examiner.

She had been working in her professional job as a nurse - she is also a union delegate - but feared for what was happening further west.

“I said to my boss that things were looking pretty crappy … and there’s a chance I may have to leave work. We had a couple of callouts that morning and I said, ‘Look, I have to go now’, and she said, 'give me five minutes'.

“I ran off, got to SES headquarters, was told to get into my wetsuit, ‘you’re going to Eugowra’. I thought we were going for a drive - I had no idea of the devastation.”

Rushed with a “lights and siren” escort to Orange Airport, they were choppered into Eugowra at about 10am.

“We knew we were going into a bad situation, but we didn’t realise how bad it was. I helped set up a field hospital. It was my first flood experience.”

With only wetsuits and no dry clothes, they were unable to stay overnight.

An 80-second video of the call was posted by the royals, but Langlands said she thought the rest of the conversation would remain private.


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