With the exception of a brief interruption to complete National Service, Bill’s career as a CFA volunteer firefighter has spanned four decades and across two districts - 13 and 8.
Bill was just 18 when he first joined Ferntree Gully Fire Brigade in 1968. After his military service he moved to Wonthaggi where he served as secretary and captain.
Twenty years later he returned to Ferntree Gully and the brigade to which he still belongs today.
The 62-year-old has seen changes to both his community and the organisation over that time but one thing has remained constant – the people that make CFA such a special organisation.
“It’s a bit difficult to express how I feel about it (the AFSM). As much as I really appreciate the award, and it really is a humbling experience, I am part of a team and not one person. I’m part of a jigsaw, putting it together to help make things happen. But it is a great honour and it’s fantastic,” Bill said.
Apart from his extensive firefighting experience Bill has also dedicated himself to the welfare of CFA people across the state in his role as a mentor and personal advisor to young members, in particular.
“We’ve got to make way and encourage the younger generation coming through. We’re a disciplined service and that’s difficult for some people to adapt to, particularly younger people. But a lot of them jump on board and go with it, with relish, they really enjoy that part of it,” he said.
“I think it’s important that the young people embrace the system and use the system for their own work and personal development because people like that are sought after for the work skills CFA can provide now.”
In his role as Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria District Council President, Bill has been encouraged by CFA’s recommitment to its volunteer culture through the establishment of Operational Training and Volunteerism department.
“I really do think the renewed focus on volunteerism at CFA is a step in the right direction and certainly it’s put a lot of pressure on (VFBV) representatives to make sure that they are really engaged with their brigades and the people in it and we’ve become better and better at the business of representing brigades and the volunteers,” he said.
“I think it can always improve but I think we’re more engaged with the top end of CFA over recent months and years and I think that’s the result of the hard work of VFBV.”
While his operational commitment has been exceptional, he has truly made his mark as a networker who has reached out to those volunteer families struggling in the aftermath of fires, drought and floods.
Eastern Metropolitan Regional Director Dave Baker said Bill has made just as great of a contribution away from the fireground as on it.
“Bill is an inspiration to all of us in the Eastern Metro Region. He has personally co-ordinated relief efforts for firefighters impacted by natural disasters such as Black Saturday and the 2011 and 2012 Floods in Victoria and his work is greatly appreciated by our members.”
Bill is again rallying troops to help those suffering after the March floods.
Despite the pace of change at CFA, Bill says he’s confident the organisation will thrive.
“I’ve no doubt CFA will continue and go from strength to strength, but it needs all parties to come on board,” he said.
“We have the integration model, increasing all the time so it’s a matter of all parties taking on board that we have one of the great fire services of the world and it’s not to knock that, but to be part of it and to make it work and grow and for that to spread more and more.”