SEAN DOOHAN – Station Officer – Shoalhaven
Physical dangers to rescuers, including physically succumbing, are always a hazard in emergency work. Station Officer Sean Doohan, attached to Shoalhaven Fire Station, attended a house fire in Nowra where a Firefighter inside suffered a serious medical episode. Sean kicked in the rear door and was integral in carrying his college out and immediately commencing CPR with his crew until paramedics arrived.
A Firefighter for over 20 years, Sean has also served at Broken Hill, where the remoteness and inherent dangers of the area require independence and strong leadership. At Broken Hill, Sean participated in Local Rescue Committee and Local Emergency Management Committee meetings, and was pivotal in the success of several complex multi-agency scenarios . In the Shoalhaven area Sean has been involved in many and varied community engagement activities and also the 2019/20 bushfire response liaising with the Shoalhaven and Bega Emergency Management Centres, coordinating the NSW Fire and Rescue response.
JACK KIRKMAN – Station Officer – Wingham
Jack Kirkman, a Fire & Rescue NSW employee of more than 10 years, at Wingham in northern New South Wales, saw that an elderly man in his community had taken ill and decided to help by mowing his lawn. Described as someone who would “give you the shirt off his back”, he has responded to numerous incidents and disasters, including the Black Summer bushfires in 2019/20 also responding and providing service in the recent floods in New South Wales.
Keeping updated as well in his training with the NSW Ambulance Service, he has been deployed on emergency task forces to other besieged communities. He has coped with the stresses that have been imposed on him and has volunteered at community events, setting up and lending personal equipment to assist in making things run smoother.
STEPHAN NETTING – Manager Fire Safety Compliance Unit – Greenacre
The Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017, which killed 72 people, sent shock waves throughout the world, reviving memories of the Melbourne cladding fire in 2014. Another cladding fire followed in Melbourne in 2019.
Wherever there has been increasing consciousness of fire risk, Stephan Netting Manager of the Fire Safety Compliance Unit at Fire & Rescue NSW, has applied himself to the task of ridding the state of at least that risk, which has required high-level negotiation with industry and government stakeholders. There have been many non-compliant buildings, seemingly harmless until a potential fire has started, and Stephan’s mind has been directed to that eventuality. He has also lent his expertise to the NSW Cladding Taskforce, Project Remediate, the Cladding Product Safety Panel and various fire safety working groups.
GRAHAM TAIT – Systems Officer Operational Communications – Greenacre
Urban firefighting and rescue have become more efficient over the years, and one of those responsible for this is Graham Tait, a Systems Officer Operational Communications with Fire and Rescue NSW, based at headquarters in Greenacre.
A career Firefighter, working in his present role for 17 years, he has become an industry leader in the Emergency Service Operational Communications space, which has seen him recognised nationally and internationally. Graham has over seen the introduction of two-way pagers, new radios, and Mobile Data Terminal Automatic Vehicle Location. He provides an operational response capability as part of Fire and Rescue Urban Search and Rescue capability and provided planning and communications during the Black Summer bushfires and recent flooding events. He has also undertaken several deployments overseas including Vanuatu and Japan.
Marine Rescue NSW Finalists
KAREN LOWRY – Unit Commander – Sussex Inlet
Any volunteer organisation can have trouble recruiting members but with Karen Lowry, Unit Commander at Marine Rescue NSW, Sussex Inlet, that has scarcely been a problem.
Joining the service in 2018, she has devoted herself to building it up, obtaining assistance from other units, selling raffle tickets, doing barbecues and door-knocking to obtain donations. She has also jointly run the Sussex Inlet Radio Club for boaters.
In the space of 18 months, Karen has turned the membership of the rescue unit from 15 to around 50. Through her efforts, the unit has become a key player in community activities such as Australia Day, the Vikings Festival, International Women’s Day and Anzac Day, and in addition the unit has also offered membership to people with disabilities.
DAVID MILLS – Training Officer, Coxswain and Duty Officer – Drummoyne
The Marine Rescue Unit at Port Jackson, now going for 45 years, needed to be modernised, like most organisations in a digital age.
David Mils, training officer, coxswain and duty officer, set about modernisation of records-keeping and other processes needed for a paper-free office. He has shown the same diligence in training for the senior position of coxswain, which normally takes at least three and as long as five years. David did that in less than two years.
Working most days from sunrise to sunset, he has always been available at short notice. He is warm and friendly, training the unit members in First Aid and in his spare time keeps snakes and plays a key role in the Sydney Mardi Gras.
GRANT MOREHOUSE – Leading Crew – Drummoyne
Grant Morehouse, a member of Marine Rescue NSW for three years, is useful to the service not just because of his enthusiasm, which quickly saw him take up a leadership role, but as an electrician.
And little else could be more useful when boats at sea, performing searches and rescues, when they depend on their systems functioning. Hard-working and well-liked, getting in early and staying late, Grant is the leader of choice for other members wanting training.
Earmarked for a greater leadership role, he recently relocated to be near the base office so he could help the community. Not deterred by health problems, he recently represented his unit at a Regional Volunteer Leadership Development Program.
BERNARD RYAN – Admin Officer- Merimbula
Happy is the volunteer organisation where a member can transfer his or her professional skills. Such is the case of Bernard Ryan, who joined Marine Rescue NSW at Merimbula on the south coast in 2017, while running a successful IT business. He has been keen to assist members with their IT needs, visiting them at home if required.
Bernard has performed pivotal roles in administration, training, IT support, radio operation and as a coxswain. It is not uncommon for him to contact a radio shift while training a volunteer, providing IT support to another and conducting an assessment before going out to sea as skipper for a rescue.
Bernard, known also for his sense of humour, is well known through his participation in the Tathra Chamber of Commerce.
Surf Life Saving NSW Finalists
LACHLAN FIELD – Australian Lifeguard Service Tweed Coast Supervisor
Lachlan Field, an Australian Lifeguard Service Supervisor at Tweed Heads, has become highly qualified, including the piloting of unmanned aerial vehicle, and uses that professionalism to train and mentor younger lifeguards.
In the last summer season, he trained 125 lifeguards seeking additional qualifications. He has made presentations at the local TAFE and has been approached by Kingscliff High School to train students in first-aid and rescue. When the running surf has not been there to occupy him, floods have been there to keep him active.
At Lismore, he coordinated volunteer lifesavers and lifeguards and transporting nurses to and from the local hospital, as well as transporting essential medication and transporting ill patients. His 30 trips to the hospital made a difference.
RICHARD LISSENDEN – Skipper Randwick Offshore Rescue Boat
Swimmers often get into difficulty in the surf and the lifesavers get into the act. But the really heavy rescues, when people or boats get pounded on rocks by raging seas, or when injured people need to be transferred boat-to-boat, great commitment is required.
Richard Lissenden, 40 years with emergency services and now chairperson of the Surf Life Saving Randwick Offshore Rescue Boat, has been equal to that challenge. Joining the rescue boat service at the age of 17, he has served continuously ever since.
He has done patrol work at the North Bondi and Maroubra but his focus has been the improvement of rescue boats and training. He has represented the SLS Rescue Boat as their advice to the Surf New South Wales Support Operations Review now in progress.
CAMERON SIMPSON – Deputy President – Elouera SLSC
As a professional firefighter and rescuer, Cameron Simpson had little difficulty appreciating the needs of organising, training and general management after joining the Elouera Surf Lifesaving Club at Cronulla more than 10 years ago.
Taking over as Patrol Captain after one year, he went on to become Director of Education and Training, followed by Director of Lifesaving and Work Health and Safely (WHS) Officer for Surf Life Saving Sydney, implementing a platform to simplify the work of all WHS officers. But Cameron went further than that. He saw the plight of the disabled wanting to enjoy the beach and in consultation with the local council expanding the council’s existing wheelchair fleet by donating a wheelchair that could be used in the water by people living with disabilities.
ANTHONY TURNER – Director of Life Saving, Illawarra Branch
Anthony Turner, an enrolled nurse at the Garrawarra Centre at Waterfall, south of Sydney, caring for dementia patients, carries his care and his professionalism into several fields, including surf lifesaving, firefighting, flood and swift water rescues.
An emergency services volunteer for 30 years, he is on record as having gone into a large running surf after dark at Bulli looking for an overturned boat and participated in a mass rescue at Sanden Point last year when a boat carrying seven capsized. He led teams as a deputy captain of the Austinmer RFS in the 2019/20 Black Summer, saving houses around the state, and in flood times in Wollongong went into deep water at the rear of a house to rescue a trapped woman.
VRA Rescue NSW Finalists
HARVEY BLACK – Deputy Captain, Secretary and Training Officer of Narrabri VRA and Northwest Regional Co-Ordinator
A bite on the hand by a black snake or a death adder put Harvey Black’s life in peril, leaving him with a slight handicap in the bitten hand, but nothing has stopped Harvey getting out, as he has done for more than 47 years, saving lives in the state’s vast north-west, where distance has been such a handicap for injured people.
Harvey, a foundation member of the VRA Rescue NSW Narrabri in 1975, has spread his enthusiasm elsewhere in the state, including small country town where a VRA Rescue NSW, which Harvey might have established, is the only service available. He spent several days assisting in the 1997 Thredbo landslide disaster, and in his work promoting rescue work generally can be credited with having saved numerous lives
BOWEN FINNERTY – Rescue Operator & Training Officer/Manager – Bega District
Bowen Finnerty has been member if the VRA Rescue NSW at Bega on the far south coast for 12 years, a particularly arduous role given the relative remoteness of the area, with its hills and scrub and wild coastline.
Now the Training Officer with the squad, has also been president and captain and is rightly referred to as the backbone of the squad, leading the team to provide road crash rescue, vertical rescue, animal rescue and industrial and domestic rescue, as well as all general land rescue operations.
He has always been there, in all weather, performing at an exceptionally high standard, always, it is said, keeping “one step ahead”, a selfless individual prepared to do “anything for anybody”.
PETA SINCLAIR – CAPS, Trainer & Assessor – Leeton
No emergency service can operate without equipment, and Peta Sinclair, a full-time paramedical for 27 years, now retired, devoted herself to the VRA Rescue NSW at Leeton. She found that during long, hot operation involving a fatal car accident, there was urgent need for a car fridge. She and a colleague reportedly “pounded the footpath” in mid-summer to get the funds. The people of Leeton needed no more convincing. Enough money came in for two fridges, one of which then went to the Salvation Army.
Peta, who is dedicated to first-aid training and assessment within VRA Rescue NSW, and a member of the Leeton Healthcare Community Action Group, has participated in community events such as Rural Outreach Counselling and annual Riverine Redneck Rally to travel widely to raise money.
JULIE TOWNSEND – Treasurer – Narromine Rescue Squad
No emergency service unit can forego good management. Julie Townsend, who has belonged the VRA Rescue NSW Narromine in the state’s central west for 11 years and is now treasurer and events coordinator, has not let the dollars slipped by. Any bill that the rescue squad has incurred has been promptly paid.
Julie has also added to the finances, spending many hours fundraising around the Narromine community, which has included attending local football matches, go-kart races and car shows. She has run the local squad display at the Narromine Show and has organised raffles and barbecues.
Julie has also attended to the welfare of squad members and when the jobs have been extended, she has taken them food and water.
NSW Ambulance Finalists
SARAH BLACK – Station Officer – Mullumbimby
Sarah is the NSW Ambulance Station Officer at Mullumbimby. During the Northern Rivers flood disaster of 2022, Sarah worked around the clock to provide emergency care, including coordinating the airlift of a critically injured patient to hospital. Above and beyond her work as a paramedic, Sarah spent days helping residents in her community clean up their flood-affected properties.
Sarah is a paramedic of 17 years’ service who has previously served in Moree and Mungindi. She’s also a passionate advocate for the remote communities she’s lived in, successfully campaigning for an AED for the village of Federal, and for a satellite phone for her current hinterland neighbourhood.
CLODAGH BARRY – Paramedic – St George & Sutherland Shire
Clodagh Barry is a paramedic who has doubled as a deputy captain with the NSW Rural Fire Service at Loftus in Sydney’s south. As an on-road paramedic Clodagh is at the forefront of patient-centred out-of-hospital care across NSW Ambulance’s South Eastern Sydney Zone. Her commitment to professional development has seen her undertake Multi-Purpose Vehicle Training, which allows her to operate specialist rescue vehicles.
As a firefighter, Clodagh served in multiple states over the years and during the 2019-20 bushfire emergency she received the National Emergency Service Medal. She was an active crew member in the RFS actions that helped protect Grays Point during this emergency response.
KAREL HABIG – Emergency Physician and Aeromedical Retrieval Specialist
Dr Karel Habig is the Lead Clinician and Medical Manager for NSW Ambulance Aeromedical Operations, one of the largest aeromedical retrieval services in the Southern Hemisphere. He completed training as an Emergency Medicine Specialist in Liverpool, Sydney before going on to a career in Prehospital and Retrieval Medicine. He has worked for London’s Air Ambulance and Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and now splits his time between his role with NSW Ambulance and the Emergency Department at Northern Beaches Hospital. He has had a vital role in developing helicopter and aeromedical retrieval services around NSW and has flown clinical missions for almost 15 years including winch operations, complex medical transfers and prehospital rescue.
He has been the lead for the service’s development of how to care for and safely transport critically ill patients with COVID-19 around the state by road, helicopter and fixed wing. Several years ago when multiple young people died at Music Festivals over a short period of time he led the NSW Ambulance Medical Retrieval teams stationed at events preventing further deaths. He is committed to developing educational resources shared with services and clinicians around the world and in his spare time he contributes to the work of Free-Open Access Medical Education – (FOAM-ED) though podcasts, lectures and open source educational materials.
TRUDY PRINCE – Paramedic – Taree
Trudy has served as a paramedic since 2004 and as a voluntary Peer Support Officer for 14 years. She unstintingly shares her skills in the Mid North Coast Emergency Services community, in particular by training members of Fire and Rescue NSW at Wingham in defibrillation, CPR and advanced First Aid. This training has contributed to the FRNSW unit attaining Community First Responder status, a significant boost to out-of-hospital care for the town of Wingham.
Trudy is also active in interagency emergency and disaster response management teams at a local level. She has awarded an award for when devastating bushfires raged through the Manning Valley in 2020, and Trudy and a fellow paramedic from Taree drove through an active fire front to reach a patient who’d suffered a cardiac arrest.
NSW Rural Fire Service – Finalists
LEONIA GARVEY – Manager, Aboriginal Health Unit, Hunter New England Health
Leonie Garvey, an Aboriginal Health Unit manager, is listed as a Community First Responder for the NSW Rural Fire Service at Clarence Town in the Lower Hunter. At times she has “sneaked” back into the family home, according to her daughter, utterly exhausted and so covered in soot she has showered “for hours”.
Her helping spirit extends to assisting ambulance officers, helping search for missing persons, feeding the homeless and even volunteering to help the Maitland United football club. It compels her to meet new challenge such as the onset of the COVID virus. Late last year she participated in a five-day swabbing drive through clinics in Newcastle and when the virus hit the isolated community at Wilcannia, she spent a month there providing community engagement.
SHANE HUGHES – Brigade Captain – Copacabana
Shane Hughes joined the NSW Rural Fire Service at Copacabana on the central coast in 2015 and had a positive impact using his IT skills to upgrade the brigade’s technological capabilities by installing iPads in two of the brigade’s fire appliances, the iPads having specialty bushfire programs such as mapping apps, crew logistical apps and weather apps.
Promoted to deputy captain in 2017, he was noted for his attendance at 90 percent of perhaps 100 fire call-outs a year, and did critical work during the2019/20 black summer season. Promoted to captain in 2020, he guided the brigade through the COVID crisis, keeping the brigade functioning. Pushing ahead, he has applied successfully for grants to purchase extra equipment for fire appliances.
KATHY LAKELAND – Firefighter – Loftus
Kathy Lakeland, a member of the NSW Rural Fire Service at Loftus in Sydney’s south, with five years’ service behind her, was noted for her enthusiasm and hard work, which included repeated visits to communities outside her area affected by the Black Summer bushfires.
She heard that the bushfire-ravaged Drake in far northern New South Wales was in need and drove 730 kilometres to distribute food, water, toiletries and clothing.
Inspired as a result of these visits, she established a bushfire charity initiative which started as a local fundraiser that raised $2,000 for the benefit of Drake and Tenterfield.
She has even gone international, contributing over nine years to Hands Across the Water for vulnerable children in Thailand. This overseas work involved over $55,000 in personal fundraising to date and several renovation work projects at orphanages in Thailand.
LESLEY SMITH – A/Business Officer – Ministerial Services & Committees
Rural fires have many traumas, not just for the victims but for the volunteers rushing to assist. Lesley Smith, a member of the NSW Rural Fire Service for 16 years, and working in a paid capacity as an administration officer, has been quick to respond as a Peer Support Officer, supporting and counselling members suffering emotional and psychological stress.
In 2016, she was appointed to a leadership function as duty officer in the peer support program, performing initial assessments and working out proper responses. Lesley has attended many critical incidents, some involving fatalities and has displayed exceptional skills in handing these incidents in a diligent, respectful and accomplished manner. For her work in the 2019/20 fire season, she was awarded a Premier’s Citation.
State Emergency Service Finalists
MICHAEL HORN – Unit Logistics Co-Ordinator & Trainer – Waverley
Droughts (with their accompanying bushfires) and flooding rains are what Dorothy McKellar lauded, and Michael Horn, a senior operator with the Waverley-Woollahra Unit of the SES, has switched from one to the other.
In the Black Summer of 2019-20, he went to Glenn Innes to work with the NSW RFS providing logistical support. That included delivering water tanks to the airport for aerial bombing. Then he was at Bega, working with the Australian Defence Force in removing burnt trees. This year, he was on the Hawkesbury River in flood, assisting with boat operations, providing food and fuel to isolated residents.
When the big events have come, he has devoted up to 30 hours a week to the SES, juggling that with family and work.
JOHN HUGHES – Unit Commander – Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains, with its terrain and temperatures, require rescuers of special dedication. John Hughes, a police communications officer, has had little difficult meeting that description, starting with the SES at the age of 14 in pursuit of his interest in radio communications. He has stayed with the SES ever since, in 2011 acting as SES controller during the worst windstorm in history and two years later in the worst bushfires.
He has studied the needs of high-risk operations and recruited the first volunteers for intensive Vertical Rescue training. He has also put time into education in schools to enable children to better handle storms, with a special program for snowstorms, called “Snowsafe, which earned John and his unit a Unit Citation for the SES Commissioner.
RAYMOND MERZ – Senior Group Officer & Deputy Unit Commander – Shellharbour City
Raymond Merz, Senior Group Officer and Deputy Unit Commander with the SES at Shellharbour on the NSW south coast, is not just a local hero. In his seven years of emergency service, he has been as far as Tweed Heads, Bega and Lightning Ridge in his dedicated work to deal with catastrophe, earning three Commissioner’s Unit Citations, a Premiers Bushfire Citation and a National Emergency Medal.
He helped after Cyclone Debbie that ravaged the north coast, worked across the state in the2019/20 Black Summer bushfires, did flood rescues in the state’s far west and storm clean-ups in Queensland and Sydney.
Always caring for his fellow volunteers, he saved and resuscitated a member who suffered a seizure during water training and tried to rescue another who suffered a heart attack.
TRACY PROVEST – Unit Commander, Ulladulla
The Black Summer bushfires will linger long in collective emergency service memory, not least with the Ulladulla SES unit on the south coast, which was operational for 67 consecutive days, catering for up to 370 people daily clearing roads, doorknocking and doing welfare checks.
Few could be more qualified than the unit commander than Tracy Provest, an SES volunteer for 48 years, who has qualified in the operation of flood boats, chain saws, general rescue, incident control and planning.
With a service record extending also to the mid-north coast – an SES region taking in Lord Howe Island – this former high school principal has built up the strength of the Ulladulla unit from 40 to 80 members in her four years in the top job.