2018 Finalists



Fire and Rescue NSW –  2018 Finalists


JOHN McGARVEY – Senior Fire Fighter – Gosford

The severe psychological stresses of emergency work have not been missed by John McGarvey, a senior firefighter with Fire & Rescue NSW, based at Gosford, a specialist in extricating motor accident victims, who has also devoted his remaining energies as a Peer Support Officer to questions of mental health among firefighters. He been available around the clock to support others. He has persuaded his zone commander to release members to attend Good Mental Health information sessions and has taken up the position of Being Well Coordinator. In the latter position he has liaised with staff throughout the service, activated the service’s trauma response teams and co-authored a new information and education sessions, Good Mental Health for Firefighters.




JUSTIN SULLIVAN – Captain of Retained Fire Fighters – Bankstown

Justin, a senior firefighter and rescue technician with NSW Fire and Rescue, based at Bankstown, has made his dedication and skills exportable. In 2015 he was assigned to an International Urban Search and Rescue team to assist in Vanuatu in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam. Over two weeks the team worked tirelessly in extreme conditions to establish key infrastructure. They reopened and schools. When the team departed, Justin accepted an invitation to stay and assist further. This was a productive year for Justin, who was also inspired by the incidents where firefighters had to make forcible entries to premises. He set about creating a training system for firefighters to practice their forcible entry techniques, to better handle desperate situations with lives in the balance.




RUSSELL TURNER – Station Officer on “C” platoon at Queanbeyan Fire Station – Ingleburn

Russell Turner, a station officer with NSW Fire &Rescue, stationed at Ingleburn, has been a solid rock for firefighters, rescuers and technicians with Urban Search & Rescue, working behind the scenes to ensure provision of such things as transport, training and equipment. Without him, a colleague said, “we would not even make it to places we go, from severe flooding in New South Wales, to cyclone assistance in Queensland and … the Christchurch Earthquake.” Always the last to leave, Russell had been known to work unceasingly, going without food and sleep to ensure the work is done. When the firefighters and rescuers were at a disaster site offering assistance, Russell had been the one “who got us together and put us there”.




ANDREW VERUS – Station Fire Fighter – Korgarah

Andrew, a senior firefighter based at Kogarah, is another emergency worker who saw way beyond his role in just protecting people. He also saw that people, particularly in remote communities such as Kadavu in the Fiji Islands, were severely disadvantaged by having little access to education. Founding a charity, Books Over the Sea, he went to the island in 2015 and with a team built a school library at Vacalea village. He returned to rebuild a run-down library at Kadavu Provincial School, provided books and smoke alarms and fire education to locals who used kerosene lamps and cooked over open fires. His charity has done the funding and has donated more than 20,000 books to the island.



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Marine Rescue NSW –  2018 Finalists




PAUL BALLARD – Duty Leader and Coxswain – Port Jackson

Paul Ballard is a Duty Leader and coxswain with Marine Rescue Port Jackson, which operates on Sydney Harbour, offshore waters and the Parramatta and Lane Cove Rivers. In addition to his operational duties, this volunteer holds the senior roles of unit Trainer and Assessor, dedicating valuable time and effort to mentoring younger members and ensuring volunteers have the skill and knowledge necessary to perform their roles safely and effectively. He also has provided the essential support on which a unit depends, taking on responsibility for unit rostering, Information Technology, vessel detailing and attending regional meetings. He can be relied upon to answer out-of-hours calls for help, to volunteer for duty on public holidays and to extend a helping hand to his fellow crew members.




PAUL ROBINSON – Treasurer and Administration Officer – Port Jackson Sydney Harbour

Volunteer Paul Ballard fulfils the demanding roles of Treasurer and Administration Officer of Marine Rescue Port Jackson, an independent not-for-profit emergency service operating from a base at Birkenhead Point in Sydney’s inner west. As the Administration Officer, Paul was giving at least 10 hours of volunteer service a week, preparing meeting agendas, taking minutes, organising annual general meetings, dealing with correspondence and liaising with Marine Rescue NSW Headquarters. When the unit lost its Treasurer, Paul stepped up to take on this role as well, contributing even more time each week, while maintaining his input to the unit’s vessel committee and fundraising activities. Even when on leave from his duties, he has been available to assist his fellow volunteers.




JACQUELYN TAFFS – Watch Officer – Marine Rescue Wooli – Clarence Valley

Marine Rescue Wooli Watch Officer Jacquelyn Taffs has devoted 16 years to the safety of boaters on an isolated stretch of the Northern NSW coastline. She has maintained an around-the-clock marine radio service, operating from both the unit’s radio base and her home, to track vessel movements and initiate emergency operations in response to distress calls from boaters in peril on the water. She has willingly shared her expertise with her fellow volunteers and the boating community. For more than a decade she has provided Radio Operator and Watch Officer training and professional development programs for members of Marine Rescue NSW units in the Northern Rivers Region and managed boat licence courses for more than 2,000 individuals and groups.




RICHARD WRIGHTSON – Senior Chaplain Marine Rescue NSW – Lake Macquarie

Reverend Richard Wrightson holds the distinction of being the first Senior Chaplain appointed upon the establishment of Marine Rescue NSW.  A volunteer member of Marine Rescue Lake Macquarie, he has always advocated for both boating safety and the welfare of the service’s personnel, particularly in times of crisis and need. Richard’s service and compassion are valued not only within MRNSW but also in other agencies, which have also called upon his help. A retired Uniting Church Minister, Richard has helped coordinate and conducted a range of ceremonies, most notably the annual NSW Emergency Services Volunteer Memorial Service recognising volunteer sacrifice and the commissioning of new rescue vessels in the MRNSW fleet.



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NSW Ambulance – 2018 Finalists




SUSAN BAKER – Station Officer – Ashford

Susan (Sue) Baker, was an honorary ambulance officer for 12 years, prior to joining NSW Ambulance full time in 2000.  Since 2007 Sue has been the Ashford Station Officer, often referred to as “Ma” Baker because she has become a mother figure to most of the regional paramedics. Caring for both staff and patients, she has come to the station with baked goods to provide moral support.  She has organised first-aid courses for the local community and, as a member of the State Emergency Service for 42 years, she has joined in road crash rescues and worked to keep rescue equipment in good working order.




JARROD BROWNING – Paramedic Intern – Richmond

Any emergency worker knows a situation can arise when he or she might be in personal danger. In August last year, Jarrod Browning and a colleague rescued an elderly woman from a burning house which they passed while returning to station at Richmond. While inspecting the property the two paramedics located the woman and carried her to safety before attending to the blaze prior to firefighters arriving on scene. Jarrod, a volunteer firefighter with the Kurrajong Rural Fire Service, has fought fires and taught first-aid skills. He has assisted other emergency services and for eight years has been a member of St John Ambulance where he has served as medical standby for such events as City2Surf.




ALLAN SIMPKINS – Ambulance Officer – Kempsey

It is the mark of real dedication for an emergency worker to complete their paid shift, then immediately volunteer for another service. Allan Simpkins is the Station Officer at Kempsey Ambulance Station, having served as a paramedic for more than 40 years. During the recent bushfires at Crescent Head, Allan finished his shift, rested, and jumped on the first available fire truck. As deputy captain of Aldavilla Rural Fire Service (RFS), Allan has taken the opportunity to train RFS volunteers in first aid and has conducted training sessions on weekends when not rostered for paramedic duties.




PAUL VOWELS – Paramedic – Beresfield Station

Paul Vowels is a paramedic with NSW Ambulance who has made a mark both at his current location at Beresfield in the Hunter Valley and for his dedicated service at Boggabri in the far west of the state. One of the most poignant moments came in the Newcastle region when he was called upon to treat a young girl. After undergoing surgery, one of the first people she asked for was Paul. At Boggabri, Paul took part in the Great Cycle Challenge in 2015, successfully raising more than $10,000 for kids with cancer while the next year he raised $7,000. He also came up with the idea of creating a “Mini Men’s Shed” to help elderly people get through their day.





NSW Rural Fire Service – 2018 Finalists


DONALD ANDERSON – Deputy Captain, Treasurer, Permit Officer, Remote Area Firefighter – Central Coast Region

After working in the Middle East and Africa Don found himself afflicted by post-traumatic stress disorder and learnt to cope using mindfulness and meditation. He eventually became a Zen Buddhist teacher and using his own experience he then helped organise and teach courses on stress, anxiety and depression management on the Central Coast and assisted in setting up similar courses in other parts of Regional NSW. As training officer and fire fighter for Macmasters Beach Rural Fire Service he then ran courses for other service members to prepare for and deal with the stress of big fire seasons. Don is also very involved in fundraising and organising for numerous community events both on the Central Coast and Regional NSW.




INSPECTOR GLENN BYRNES – Inspector, District Coordinator – Lower Hunter Zone

Glenn Byrnes, an inspector and district coordinator with the NSW Rural Fire Service, with more than 30 years full-time service, has a huge portfolio. Based at Maitland, he is responsible for:  outfitting 1,994 volunteers; maintaining and repair of equipment at 44 RFS stations and fire boats, together with radios and associated infrastructure. He has undertaken management roles within NSW, interstate, and even in the United States. He was a venue management liaison officer at the Sydney Olympics. He has even taken on emergency management in the United States. When Dungog was devastated by floods in 2013, Glenn was there with the RFS and also helping the Lions Club. As always, he went out of his way to lend a helping hand.




LES GOLDIE – Captain – Kearsley Rural Fire Service Brigade

Les Goldie, a lifelong resident of Kearsley in the Hunter Valley, joined the Kearsley Bushfire Committee at the age of 16 and in the 50 since has devoted himself to the task of keeping Kearsley and surrounding communities safe. A long-serving captain of the Kearsley Rural Fire Service Brigade, Les has always been on the front line. In 2002, he risked his life at nearby Abernethy where 13 homes were destroyed and a man lost his life. He worked 24 hours straight, and in the weeks and months that followed, supported the devastated families, as he has with many other fire victims. Les has fought bushfires outside his district, including the 2003 Canberra bushfire where he and his wife worked shoulder-to-shoulder with locals.



DEBORAH SHARP – Deputy Captain – Engadine Rural Fire Brigade

In March this year, bushfires tore through Tathra, on the NSW south coast, destroying at least 70 homes, the bewildered residents had to hope someone would come and help. That help came with a truckload of donations from the Sutherland Shire and the driving force beyond that was Deborah Sharp, deputy captain of the Engadine Rural Fire Brigade, who joined 14 years ago to help with catering and then realised she had a lot more to contribute. Since then she has filled roles in fund-raising, community engagement and being president, and has been instrumental in engagement by the brigade with the wider community in Engadine and the shire. When Tathra became the latest disaster to deal with, she was there.




NSW  State Emergency Service –  2018 Finalists



ROY (Bill) ATCHISON – Volunteer Member and Peer Support Member – Grenfell

Bill Atchison retired from the NSW Ambulance Service in 2001 and joined the NSW SES as a volunteer. He became a member of the Critical Incident Support Team from its inception in 2003 and from that time has acted as peer support officer for volunteers who have undergone traumatic experiences and stress. A member of the Grenfell Unit, he has shared his knowledge and experience widely. He has focused on pre-incident, scene and post-incident counselling, on the principle that early intervention to limit the effects of trauma. He has attended many incidents, including road crashes and agricultural, industrial and domestic accidents. In 2009, he was part of the NSW SES Critical Incident Support contingent to the Victorian bushfires.



ROTARIAN KEITH DAWE – Lachlan Shire Local Controller – Condoblin

Keith Dawe moved about as a Council engineer, taking his NSW SES commitment with him, joining units in Narrabri, Deniliquin, Jindabyne, Bombala, Eden, Nyngan and Condobolin. Over 1990-1993, he developed detailed flood intelligence for Deniliquin and in 1993 took four weeks off work to manage the flood response there. In 1997, he was involved for two weeks at the Thredbo Landslide operation and for several months chaired the Thredbo Recovery Coordination Committee.  In 2016, he took another three months off to handle flooding at Condobolin. Keith has served with the NSW Rural Fire Service, Volunteer Rescue Association and previously with VicSES starting 1982. He is presently Lachlan Shire Local Controller and has been a Rotary club president six times.



WILLIAM DODD – Acting Controller – Forster Pacific Palms 

William Dodd, an indigenous man, has been a member of the NSW SES for eight years, and is acting Controller at the Forster-Pacific Palms Unit. Initially unable to read or write, William attended TAFE for three years to gain literacy skills and learn computing. He is a seasoned rescue operator who goes out of his way to respond to callouts including missing person searches, body recoveries, removing fallen trees and flood operations. He helped an elderly woman move a tree that had fallen in her yard, and continued to check on the welfare of a war veteran after he had collapsed on Anzac Day. William has worked with the NSW SES Cadet Program and is inspiring other indigenous people to join the Service to learn new skills.



NAOMI LEVITON – Learning and Development Officer – Manly

It is gratifying when the Rotary Youth Leadership Award program inspires a young person to help the community in a major way. Joining the NSW SES immediately following the program’s completion, Naomi quickly bent her teaching expertise to becoming a high-risk skills trainer. Heavily involved in the Cadet program, she rewrote the course materials to challenge academically gifted students with authentic rescue scenarios then shared her work with Region Cadet Coordinators across the state. As local Learning and Development Officer Naomi has pioneered methods of delivery to suit flexible volunteers and is currently working to extend regular training to Cadet-age members. Naomi also assists with the Salvation Army Emergency Service to support other service people when the SES is not required.




NSW Volunteer Rescue Association –  2018 Finalists



GEOFFREY HAWES – Equipment and Training Officer- Mudgee Rescue Squad

When half a mountain came down on two chalets at Thredbo in 1997, killing 18, Geoff Hawes declined from going and stayed in the local area of Mudgee, attending all manner of mishaps, designing training scenarios and programs, keeping in mind local coalmining, raised funds and applied for grants. He has gone out of his way to avert disasters by presenting a comprehensive driver training program to local schools and attending local council meetings which consider traffic infrastructure and management.



ALAN JOHNSON – Emergency Rescue Operator – Taree 

Alan Johnson, who has served as president of the Taree Volunteer Rescue Association for 14 years and an emergency service volunteer for 48 years, is still attending “out calls” and attending management committee meetings. Caring, conscientious, punctual and dedicated, Alan chalked up an average of an hour a week for 26 years in voluntary service to the community 10 hours a week after the Taree VRA was formed in 1994. The VRA calculates that the total value of his contribution, based on $20 an hour, comes to more than $300,000. Alan has worked in other emergency services, such as the Rural Fire Service at Lightning Ridge, and has contributed in other community activities such surf lifesaving and hockey.



DEBRA SCANES ESM – NSW VRA Public Relations Officer, NSW VRA Deputy Regional Coordinator, President VRA Binalong Rescue Squad – Binalong

Debra Scanes, from Binalong in the Yass Valley of southern NSW, has long gone beyond the confines of her village in helping people in trouble, such as in the 1997 Thredbo landslide, the 2003 Canberra bushfires and the 2012 Jugiong floods. A member of the Binalong Rescue Squad, where she has had many roles over 22 years, Debra has performed many duties, including assisted police in searches for lost bushwalkers and missing persons and attending accidents on the Hume Highway, Burley Griffin Way and Lachlan Valley Way.  And she has gone beyond operation to organisational level at council and regional level, has campaigned for a local phone tower to ensure effective communication and has ensured Binalong’s sole police officer remain.



JOHN WRAIGHT – Regional 1 Coordinator and President of Brunswick VRA – Byron Shire

John Wraight became a founding member of his local rescue organisation in the Brunswick Valley in 1977 when no rescue organisation had existed and locals had to use chains and crowbars to release trapped people after vehicle accidents. His squad became the Brunswick Valley & District Volunteer Rescue Inc, where he became a principal rescuer and captain. Very active in the community, including soccer, hockey, surfing, fishing. A member of the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association, he has mentored rescue trainees and kept up-to-date with modern rescue techniques and helped other squads in the region understand policies. Always on hand, he has lent his services to assist the smooth running of Marine Rescue and events such as the Byron Bay Triathlon.


ACT Ambulance Services –  2018 Finalists



 MICHAEL BOHUN – Intensive Care Paramedic – Belconnen

Michael is an Intensive care paramedic with ACT Ambulance Service and has dedicated his career of more than 20 years to helping people, not just with their medical emergencies but with their state of mind. Respectful of both patients and fellow workers, he has helped morale by doing small things round the station, like taking away rubbish, and by telling jokes, listening to problems, giving retirement advice, even buying food and drinks. He has been in the habit of “having patients laughing and momentarily forgetting their problems”, according to his nominee. Anyone can conduct himself like that for a while, but it is pointed out that Michael has done it for more than 20 years without complaining or being much rewarded.



 ANDY FRANCEYIntensive Care Paramedic – Belconnen

Andrew Francey has worked in different areas of the Emergency Services for over 25 years. He joined ACT Ambulance Service in 2007 as an Intensive Care Paramedic, and has been volunteering with the Rural Fire service since 2014.

Andrew is very community minded and is always putting his hand up for school visits and local events. He also likes to take up a challenge especially for charity, he has run a marathon for a Children’s liver disease charity, taken part in the world’s greatest shave and Movember. His latest effort was completing a 65km walk raising money for cystic fibrosis, a disease his cousin’s 9 year old daughter battles every day. He was able to raise over $3000.



ACT Fire and Rescue – 2018 Finalists



MARK BLAKE – Fire Fighter – Fyshwick

Mark Blake, a senior firefighter with ACT Fire & Rescue, is concerned not just with sudden emergencies but with the ongoing, insidious threat of cancer. To help with this he has taken to the pedal, joining the Lifecycle Teams Challenge, cycling with the group and being “a pivotal point”, according to his nominee, in raising funds that flow from the cycling efforts. The particular beneficiary is the Leukaemia Foundation with funds being raised for the operation of a purpose-built village in Canberra, which will provide accommodation for patients from NSW and the ACT. Mark is also involved in the Hartley Cycle Challenge, another cycling event which raises funds for Canberra-based Hartley Lifecare, a charity dedicated to helping people with disabilities.



ROBERT THOMPSON – Station Officer – Fyshwick

Rob Thompson, a station officer with ACT Fire & Rescue, a specialist in road accident, confined space and vertical rescue, has been noted for his conscientious discharge of his duties and has underlined that efficiency by leading the ACT Fire & Rescue team last year to the Australasian Road Rescue Organisation’s competition in New Zealand, where it performed well.  Rob provides ongoing support towards ill firefighters and those affected by trauma and stress. He has promoted the services of Soldier On, dedicated to the welfare of those who serve and protect Australia, and which is now used by many ACT Fire & Rescue members. He has also taken short-term secondments with the ACT Rural Fire Service and ACT State Emergency Service.



ACT Rural Fire Service – 2018 Finalists



ANTHONY KIDNEY – Molonglo Brigade Training Officer – Higgins

When the dramas come, volunteer emergency workers might only have one chance to do the right thing. Anthony Kidney, known as “TK”, a training officer with the Molonglo RFS Brigade, ACT, is one of those dedicated to ensuring they do just that. Coordinator of training active and a brigade representative at service training meetings, he spends perhaps five hours a week, of his own time, running training nights and mentoring new recruits until they have completed their Basic Firefighter course. He assists in running bushfire fighter courses at tertiary level and runs Advanced Fire Fighting technical courses or his brigade and other brigades. Tony also provides training statistic and training direction input to the brigade committee and service training group.



MARK SEDGMAN – Rural Volunteer Fire Fighter – Rivers, Cotter Road

When horrendous bushfires descended upon Canberra in 2003, and when bushfires have ravaged Victoria, Mark Sedgman, a volunteer with the Rural Fire Service, based at Stromlo in the ACT, has been there, fighting the blazes as he has for the past 19 years. His son said: “My dad is always ready and prepared for a fire, his bag sits at the front door and has now become part of the furniture.” Mark has often had to leave a note for his family saying he is out firefighting. A Community Fire Unit captain in Duffy, ACT, Mark has continually encouraged the community to fireproof their properties and has gone out of his way to help people prune and clear away debris.



ACT State Emergency Service – 2018 Finalists




SUE ELSBURY – Team Leader Peer Support Team – Woden

The effect of traumatic incidents on emergency workers has been a large focus for Sue Elsbury in her role as an ACTSES Peer Support Team, Team Leader.  As a volunteer with the ACTSES since 2007, Sue is a very active operational member responding to storm and flood emergencies, land based search operations, and as a qualified air-observer. Her most recent contribution has been in assisting in the establishment of the ACT Emergency Service Agency’s Peer Support Program to enhance the health and wellbeing of ACTSES volunteers.  Sue has taken the lead in devising a training program, establishing operating procedures and deploying Peer Support volunteers to high-risk emergency responses. Sue is also a very active and passionate member of the ACTSES Community Education and Engagement Team.



NORM NELSON – Volunteer, Pialligo Unit – Operational Command Vehicle – Pialligo

The emergency services cannot work without effective communications and Norm Nelson, a member of the ACTSES Pialligo Unit, has fulfilled that role in style.  With 24 years of experience as an emergency services volunteer, his calm and considered leadership style was most evident when he was sector commander in a major storm flash flooding event in the ACT in February this year. Norm has provided radio communications for all types of SES operations and also in leading teams and coordinating communications for large scale community events in the ACT such as Australia Day and the ACT Multicultural Festival.  Norm is also a member of the ACT ESA Volunteer Incident Management Team providing support for the SES, RFS and ambulance service.

Rotary NSW & ACT Emergency Services Community Awards
Announcement of 2018 Finalists

Wednesday 11 April 2018 at 10:00am
NSW Parliament House – Jubilee Room

Hosted by The Honourable Troy Grant MP, Minister for Emergency Services



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