2021 NSW RESCA Finalists

Fire + Rescue NSW Finalists

JOHN DUN AFSM – Captain/Station Commander – Nowra

With a career spanning more than 38 years, John is an outstanding example of leadership and experience combined. Currently the Captain of Nowra he was integral to Nowra’s response to major bushfire emergencies, including the unprecedented 2019-20 bushfires on the South Coast. John’s commitment to serving others also extends to working closely with local indigenous community members.
Captain Dun recently received an Australian Fire Service Medal in this year’s Australia Day Honours and was recognised by the Governor-General of Australia and NSW Governor in a ceremony in May.

KAMARAH POOLEY – Senior Firefighter – Colo Vale

Senior Firefighter Dr. Kamarah Pooley has been instrumental in the enhancement of prevention education programs within FRNSW to help reduce fires and fire-related fatalities in the community.
Working within the Community Engagement Unit since 2019, SF Pooley reviewed existing literature and developed overarching principles of best practice to enhance FRNSW approach to prevention and education leading to the development of the Community Engagement Planning System.
These principles and insights supported by research and evaluation led to a revision of the Pre Ed, Fire Ed 1, and Fire Ed 2 programs. Along with these programs, SF Pooley was instrumental in delivering FRNSW’s first Diverse Learnings Needs Fire Ed programs assisting educators of children with additional needs. These programs were launched this year with support from the NSW Department of Education

CRAIG VINCENT – Station Officer – Parma

Craig has consistently demonstrated leadership and professionalism, both as an experienced rescue operator and as leader of one of the busiest rescue crews in Metro East in his role as Station Commander, Bankstown.
Craig international deployments to assist following the 2011 Japanese Tsunami and the Christchurch earthquake as well as responding to major local incidents such as a shopping centre fire above Bankstown Railway Station demonstrates  his ability to support crews during extremely challenging and complex incidents. Station Officer Vincent was also named Padstow “Rotarys service officer of the year’ earlier this year for his outstanding contribution to the community.

RICHARD WILSON – Leading Firefighter, Natural Disaster and Humanitarian Team Member – Blue Haven

Disasters come in all forms, and Richard Wilson, Leading Firefighter with FRNSW Natural Disaster and Humanitarian Team was not to be thrown by the latest one the covid crisis, which has affected everyone. Richard has spent countless hours setting up medical tents within Australia and overseas and was recently deployed to Papua New Guinea in April to assist with the surge in covid cases. Contactable virtually around the clock, Richard provides support, training and resources both locally and internationally. A member of a World Health Organisation globally verified medical team, he is said to find “nothing too hard” and is always ready to help.

Marine Rescue NSW Finalists

ALISON CAMERON-BROWN – Training Officer – Port Macquarie

When the worst floods to impact NSW in decades inundated the NSW Mid North Coast in March this year, residents found themselves in peril, with some forced on to the roofs of their homes to escape the rising water. Marine Rescue Port Macquarie member Alison Cameron-Brown and her fellow unit members were among the emergency services personnel who responded. Alison showed leadership and bravery in hazardous conditions, in which she herself was in harm’s way, to save lives. A member of the unit for more than six years, Alison has held the roles of Unit Training Officer, Trainer and Assessor since 2018. Her commitment is evident in these roles, attending to the readiness of the unit’s crew members and trainees, as well as in her performance in search and rescue operations and the many other roles to which she is assigned.

ALEX FENWICK – Port Jackson Base and Boats Officer – Rozelle

Alex Fenwick served with the Rural Fire Service for 26 years but three years ago felt he should do something for people caught in the other extreme. From assisting people in need with storm damage and flood clean up to those at risk of drowning. So, in addition to his RFS duties, he joined Marine Rescue, initially with Terry Hills continuing onto Port Jackson. From the outset, Alex has demonstrated the disciplines he has acquired over 26 years of emergency response, in particular an insistence on training and preparation. During the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfire crisis, he spent hours on the water in addition to taking on a heavy firefighting workload, never refusing a request. A first responder in both services, he invariably turns up at every event and meeting

NEVILLE HAMILTON – Training Systems Operator – Evans Head

Neville Hamilton first learned about altruistic public service as a Boy Scout in Victoria. He built on this foundation through his experience in later years in the Apex Club, becoming a District Governor, as a city councillor in Berwick, Victoria, and in both the Lions and Rotary clubs, Australian Maritime College Invigilator and Volunteer for Isolated Student Education. In 2011, finding himself in Evans Head in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, he joined Marine Rescue Evans Head. Neville has served as Deputy Unit Commander, Administration Officer, Unit Training System Officer and Radio Officer. In this latter capacity, he has played a highly skilled and vital role in managing local marine radio communications, monitoring boating safety and coordinating rescue missions.

WILLIAM (PAT) WELCH – Watchkeeper – Shoalhaven

The greatest reward for Marine Rescue NSW volunteers comes from launching rescue operations to save individuals at risk and return them to safety. Recording and promoting the positive value to be gained from saving lives and giving back to the community serves a powerful motivator, inspiring existing volunteers to continue turning out in cold, dark and unfavourable conditions and drawing new members to the organisation. William (Pat) Welch has been a member of Marine Rescue Shoalhaven for 22 years, initially serving as a radio operator involved in numerous rescue operations, he now keeps the record, photographing and otherwise recording the unit members’ activities. Pat prints the unit’s annual Marine Guide and for the past 15 years has been member of the Culburra Beach Progress Association, putting out its Culburra Beach Bugle magazine, helping as always to let others know.

Surf Life Saving NSW Finalists

STEWART BAILEY – Aircrew/Rescue Crewman – North Bondi

The hovering helicopter above a stormy sea has often represented the difference between life and death for those floundering in the water. As the citation for Stewart says, “there are very few rescues on fine sunny days with flat seas”. Stewart’s works as an Aircrew/Rescue Crewman with the Southern Region Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter, Based at La Perouse and when required at Moruya, it is one of the many support services provided by Surf Life Saving Australia.   Stewart was recently awarded a bravery medal from the Royal Humane Society for a rescue at Clovelly. He is a 35-year veteran of the service, which has taken him not just to sea but to floods, mountains and searches for missing aircraft and persons.

JAMES CONNOLLY – Deputy President South Coast Branch – Erowal Bay

James Connolly retired several years ago as a school principal and committed himself to surf lifesaving, which had occupied his spare time for what is now 59 years. The wisdom he developed counselling and resolving student was carried over into the affairs of the lifesaving movement where, though fulfilling many roles, he was particularly valued for his judgement. Now Deputy South Coast Branch President of the SLSA, and himself based at Sussex Inlet, he has trained and assessed volunteers and has acted as Chair of the Branch Judiciary and Appeals Panel, to ensure equality and fairness among the branch’s 3,600 member, ensuring efficient problem-solving in a volatile environment.

JOHN (JIMMY) KEOUGH – Emergency Services Coordinator Far North Coast – Ballina

The rescue helicopter often makes all the difference, and Jimmy Keough, 25 years a rescuer, is one of those who has made it possible. In operations of the Far North Coast Branch of Surf Life Saving NSW, he has been available full-time, even reporting for night shift, sometimes clocking up 40 hours a week. He has been State Duty Rescue Coordinator for Surf Life Saving NSW for 12 years, in the same period crewing aircraft and training and checking aircraft in the Northern Region Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service. He has done extensive liaison with other emergency services and with local government.

JAMES TURNHAM – Lifeguard Supervisor – Port Macquarie

Transferring skills from one service to another has always helped rescue organisations, and James Turnham, Port Macquarie Supervisor of the Australian Lifeguard Service, has been quick to see the potential of drones, which have been used as search and rescue tools on the beach. He has a full-time lifeguard role which has included training lifeguards, educating school students and responding to emergencies. But he has gone well and beyond, among other things training indigenous rangers in Cape York on the use of drones for monitoring wild pig numbers, checking fence lines, and fire spotting. He has assisted other emergency services offering live drone aerial vision, particularly in areas with difficult access, assisting police in their search for suspects or missing persons, and travelling beyond his local area to assist in the major South Coast fires and North Coast floods.

VRA Rescue NSW Finalists

WILLIAM EVANS – Life and Foundation Member – Casino

At 81 years of age, Bill Evans is far from any form of retirement. Instead, he is helping to run the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association now known as VRA Rescue NSW at Casino in the state’s north. His duties over more than 40 years have taken him to multiple emergencies, including an incident where a vehicle went off a forestry road, a fatal plane crash six years ago and a rail emergency when a woman got her foot caught at a siding. Ensuring that all squad vehicles are in top condition, he performs his duties with the same enthusiasm as younger members and leads by example.

BRUCE FLEMING – Squad Records Administrator – Rylstone

Bruce Fleming, a member of the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association since attending Rylstone Kandos’s inaugural meeting in 1975, now VRA Rescue NSW, has done just about everything, leading the local Cubs, auditing for the Boy Scouts, writing histories of Rylstone Kandos, founding the local museum, and of course rescuing, not only locally but a long way from home, to disasters such as the Thredbo landslide in 1997 where he worked alongside of other VRA rescue personnel, the Newcastle Earthquake of 1989 where he was a part of the VRA team, and to the 2002 Wee Jasper bushfires where he assisted. A man, it might be said, dedicated to the people.

CHRISTOPHER MADGWICK – Rescue Operator – Cessnock

A vital ingredient in any rescue operation is good working equipment, and Chris Madgwick of the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association now known as VRA Rescue NSW at Cessnock in the Hunter Valley, is right up on that, using his skills as an electrician and certified tester. With more than 30 years’ service behind him, and also valued as a snake handler, Chris has gone out of his way, working for a week in the 1993/4 Sydney bushfires, helping locals evacuate in the Abernethy bushfires of 2001, assisting in flood rescue in the Hunter and Central Coast storms in 2007 and leading a team to assist after the Blacktown hailstorm the same year.

ALLAN SHELDON – Captain & President, Regional Coordinator Zone 1 VRAA NSW – Taree

Allan Sheldon, a tow-truck driver by occupation, is professionally committed to caring for people and has extended that to the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association now known as VRA Rescue NSW on the Mid-North Coast, where he has served for 24 years and been noted for his professionalism, care and compassion. This inspires others around him. Allan, Captain of Taree and current Regional Coordinator overseeing six squads, once cut a young woman from a motor vehicle accident, and the woman now raises funds for the Westpac Helicopter, a cause which Allan has also embraced. Allan has accepted a string of awards, has made use of his mechanical skills as well, spending hundreds of hours building rescue trucks from top to bottom.

NSW Ambulance Finalists


JEFFREY ANDREW – Critical Care Paramedic – North Bondi

As a Critical Care Helicopter Paramedic, Jeffrey Andrew has excelled in his job because of his skill and his life experience, which includes five years as a nurse living and working in remote indigenous communities of central Australia. Now with 19 years of service with NSW Ambulance, he has extended that commitment to other areas. This includes being a “Core Life” instructor – a role that deals with issues associated with teenage pregnancy, and the “PARTY safe” program, where he has worked alongside Juvenile Justice, local advocates and police to focus on alcohol and drug abuse problems on the Central Coast. These programs have been picked up by government agencies.

IAN CUNNINGHAM – Telecoms Operational Support/Liaison (retired) – East Ryde

Ian Cunningham learnt early in his emergency services career what trauma is like. Some 40 years ago he lost some of his colleagues in the NSW Rural Fire Service as they fought bushfires. Since joining the NSW Ambulance Service 37 years ago, Ian has worked in a variety of roles up to his most recent appointment as Superintendent Operational Liaison Telecommunications, where he provided a critical link between operational paramedics and technical services. He has been a selfless advocate for paramedic safety and insists on the highest standards of communication. Examples of where he has shown this include counter-terrorist operations, overseas tsunami relief, bushwalker recues, the Sydney Olympics and the Waterfall rail disaster of 2003.

ANDREW RYAN – Southern Zone Operations Manager – Woonoona

Years ago, Andrew Ryan became dedicated to the idea of providing a permanent round-the-clock rescue helicopter for the Illawarra region, and, beginning in 1998, he worked for months without pay with a paramedic team to medically man such a helicopter. That helicopter service is now renowned. Andrew has been involved in the response to many disasters, including the Thredbo Landslide, the New Zealand Earthquake and numerous bushfire emergencies. Andrew also performed a dangerous night-time helicopter rescue of a family trapped on a roof by floodwaters. He was also instrumental in the rescue and care of a workmate fatally injured in an accident near Robertson, where he cared for the victim’s family too.

MARK VENTER – Intensive Care Paramedic – Campbelltown

Intensive Care Paramedic Mark Venter often deals with multi-casualty incidents and also works to ensure a quality work place. He would normally have taken a scheduled three-week break early last year to recharge his batteries. But during the bushfire crisis, particularly at Wingello, he instead went straight to work as a volunteer with the Lynwood Park Rural Fire Service. As a team leader, he used his professional disciplines to prioritise risks, provide clear goals, communicate, delegate tasks, do peer support and contact communities. His nominator for this award said: “Being an Intensive Care Paramedic is physically and emotionally draining but Mark continues to show up time and again. “

NSW Rural Fire Service – Finalists

RONALD (JOHN) ASHTON – Group Captain, Group 5 – Shoalhaven

John Ashton learnt about facing critical situations as a serviceman with the Royal Australian Navy, which included the Vietnam theatre of operations. He joined the Rural Fire Service 43 years ago, and the Tabourie Rural Fire Brigade on the south coast four years later. in 1995 he was elected Group Captain within the Shoalhaven region, responsible for five fire brigades. He has also been involved in firefighting across the state and in Victoria, earning himself the Australian Fire Service Medal. John has not forgotten his former calling either, committing himself from 2006 to the cause of Legacy, continuing to care for the widows of servicemen.

JANE GOLDIE – Deputy Captain – Kearsley

To have someone say you “live and breathe” your local community says volumes. And is can be said of Jane Goldie, who arrived at the village of Kearsley in the Hunter Valley nearly 30 years ago and dedicated herself to community, particular with the Kearsley Brigade, Rural Fire Service. She has helped to keep the brigade running, she has worked closely with the Kearsley Public School to ensure the children are fire aware and know what to do and has helped elderly residents protect their homes.

WAYNE KEEL – Group Officer – Halls Creek

Wayne Keel, Deputy Group Captain of the NSW Rural Fire Service, based in Halls Creek, Tamworth District, worked tirelessly through the dreadful bushfire season of 2019/20, liaising with landowners, and supporting his brigades, and was also deployed as Divisional Commander to some of the larger fires in the State, all of which earned him the NSW Premier’s Citation. A member of the RFS for 20 years, he has sought to train others and has been a passionate leader of the schools’ RFS Cadet program. Not restricted to fires, he has led a team to Moree to help clean up after the floods and has held a swag of other positions in the community including that of Manilla support president of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

BRENDAN SHANNON – Senior Deputy Captain – Windellama

Brendan Shannon, Senior Deputy Captain with the Rural Fire Service at Windellama, Southern Tablelands, has gone way beyond fighting bushfires in his 15 years of service. He has developed a pilot program for “grey nomads” in fire safety and bushfire awareness. Professionally, as a public servant with qualifications in Ethics and Legal Studies, he has helped developing countries across Asia and the Pacific developing governance and leadership skills. He has managed an Australia-wide program to help more than 70,000 low-income people to complete their tax returns. And in 2021 after fighting bushfires full -time for three months in 2019-20, he went to the mid-north coast to help with flood recovery.

State Emergency Service Finalists

PAUL BURG – Local Commander – Port Macquarie

When the fires die, rain comes in torrents as in March this year on the NSW Mid-North Coast. Paul Burg dragged one woman out of danger and when another SES volunteer was struggling to handle her unit during the crisis of 19th/20th March, Paul beat a path to her door and supported her for 24 hours coordinating and conducting multiple rescues which the volunteer said were “coming in mass waves”. As the Local SES Commander in Port Macquarie Hastings, Paul has managed four SES units and also operates a voluntary community Facebook page he created called Mid North Coast Emergency Situations which has been run for nine years and leaves nobody in the dark when it comes to emergency information. Paul is a recipient of the NSW SES 5, 10, 15 & 20 Year Long Service Awards, a Commissioner’s Certificate of Appreciation, the National Medal, SES State Medal for the Hunter/Sydney Northern Storms and the NSW Premier’s Bushfire Emergency Citation.

NICOLA (NICKY) MCDONALD – Deputy Commander Dorrigo Unit – Tyringham

The 2019-20 bushfires, when the whole of Australia seemed to be alight, brought out the best in our volunteers, and one of those was Nicky McDonald when she helped small communities near Dorrigo on the Northern Tablelands recover. A member of the Dorrigo SES Unit and of the Tyringham Rural Fire Service Brigade, she has been particularly noted in the SES for her constant dedication to administration, catering and welfare, even providing firewood to SES volunteers when the weather gets cold. She is also dedicated to training – this year training courses in 4WD, chainsaw cross-cut, land search, and tree felling, all the while attending to family and her farm. Nicola is a recipient of the NSW SES 5, 10 & 15 Year Long Service Awards, NSW SES Commissioner’s Letter of Appreciation, NSW SES Commissioner’s Certificate of Appreciation, SES State Medal for the Hunter/Sydney Northern Storms, the National Medal and the NSW Premier’s Bushfire Emergency Citation.

ANTHONY (TONY) MCPHAIL – Unit Commander – The Rock

Tony McPhail’s exposure to the role of emergency services came years ago when his brother was involved in a bus crash. He joined the NSW SES and the VRA soon after, became a road crash rescue operator and moved on from that to other rescues and support, such as post-traumatic stress, where he has helped rescue workers through some of their darkest moments. Now Unit Commander of The Rock SES unit in southern NSW, and a Rural Fire Service volunteer, Tony has led teams in support of bushfires and this year led a team to Bourke in the state’s far west to deal with serious flooding problems. Tony is a recipient of the NSW SES 5, 10 & 15 Year Long Service Awards, National Medal and the NSW Premier’s Bushfire Emergency Citation.

SANDRA ZIGRA – Operations Officer – St Georges Basin

Sandra Zigra is fully occupied just about all the time. A JP for 30 years, a one-time medical bus driver of eight years’ standing, and member of a ukulele group performing at retirement homes, she has also dedicated herself as Operations Coordinator of the SES Unit at St Georges’ Basin, NSW South Coast. Sandra, generous in the hours she has worked, has been exemplary in appearance conduct, met and assisted new members and contributed many hours to SES operational duties and training. Also a member of the Rural Fire Service Communications Brigade, Sandra has in whatever time she has left assisted local Men’s Shed in promotion and grant applications. Sandra is a recipient of the NSW SES 5 & 10 Year Long Service Awards and the NSW Premier’s Bushfire Emergency Citation.