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CFA Australia Day Awards

Posted by CFA Media
Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Australia Day 2012 Honours were announced by the Governor-General today. The Honours provides national and formal recognition for approximately 690 Australians across the nation who have made a significant difference to their communities.

CFA recipients are as follows:

(see profiles below)

Barry Clugston - Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)

Bruce Vine – Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM)

Alan Rhodes - Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM)

Vin Shelley - Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)

Peter Kueffer – Emergency Services Medal (ESM)

Neil Labbett - Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM)

Trevor Mills - Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM)

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Barry Clugston - Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)

Growing up in a farming family in country Victoria, joining the CFA came naturally for Barry Clugston. At just 12-years-old he signed up to his local brigade in Kenmare where his father was the captain and stayed there until 1981.

Since then, he’s been a member of the Stawell Rural Fire Brigade where he has a tree farm, growing mostly wattles for the seed markets.

“You’re involved in the CFA to be part of the community and part of protection of it and your own assets.”

Mr Clugston said responding to various events in and around the town make up the list of memorable events throughout his time in the CFA. But battling a blaze at his own property in January 2006 during the Deep Lead fire remains the most significant for him.

“I went to the [main] fire and was heading back to my own place and got there in enough time to get things organised and start getting active.”

Along with a friend from the CFA, Mr Clugston was able to save his house and main shed but lost the farm.

Now 65, Mr Clugston said being a recipient of the Order of Australia Medal was a pretty special moment.

“It’s a pretty interesting situation because you don’t expect that sort of award. I’ve had long service awards from the that recognise milestones that you don’t even remember. But this is pretty significant for a boy from Kenmare.”

Mr Clugston was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the community of regional Victoria through a range of water industry and environmental organisations.

Beyond the CFA, he was the Chairman of the Grampians Region Water Authorityfrom 2000-2004, involved in Landcare in the Upper Wimmera since the 1980s, presented a wildlife program on ABC radio to western Victorian audiences for 15 years.

Bruce Vine – Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM)

When Bruce Vine joined the CFA 39 years ago he hit the ground running, elected brigade secretary at an annual general meeting the day he signed up. But it was long before then he knew he wanted to join.

“Being in the fire brigade was in my blood. I remember as an eight-year-old in Lake Boga near Swan Hill the local brigade used to do burns next to our house. One year I was given a job to hold the hose … I was put on the back of a truck and was hooked from then on.”

As a university student in Melbourne during the 1962 fires in the Dandenongs, Mr Vine responded to a call for volunteers and went out to help. About 10 years later he moved to Tawonga and joined the local brigade where he remains a member today.

“When you live in a community everyone needs to contribute,” he said. “If we all do it makes it a much better place. The fire brigade was my choice to help.

“Being able to help if you turn up to big or small job - hopefully you can make a difference. I like to think I’ve made a difference in the community.”

His role in leading the establishment of the CFA Youth Crew program across Mount Beauty, Tallangatta and Corryong provided opportunities for the young people of north east Victoria to contribute to their community through volunteering with CFA.

He has helped battle some major fires during his time in the CFA, including the 2002/03 fires which threatened his own home.

As Deputy Group Officer, Mr Vine led the Kiewa Group through the 2003 Alpine Fires and as Group Officer through the 2006-07 Great Divide Fires, both of which had an impact on his own community of Tawonga.

He is also currently serving as Vice-President of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria where he is a life member, representing the interests of volunteers.

Alan Rhodes - Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM)

Alan Rhodes spent 17 years at the CFA working on improving community education projects.

When he joined in 1994 he was looking for a way to branch out his work in education.

“I was looking for a way to do something with the community. At the time there wasn’t much around the CFA on community education, just a mobile education unit and some school curriculum.

“I started looking at how education could be expended and what the CFA could do.”

Mr Rhodes is credited with substantial improvements in community safety and development of best-practice policy and programs in Victoria.

Through his association with the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council, he has made a significant impact on community safety across Australia and internationally. His specialised expertise in human behaviour and bushfire preparedness has resulted in the delivery of world class community education programs that help save lives and property from the threat of fires.

“Some major fires during my time at the CFA raised issues and brought about change including the 1997 Dandenong Ranges fire, 2003 Great Divide Fire and high country fires in 2006/07 and 2009. Major fires are always a big drive to raise issues and challenges.

“Education was an expanding area with new people coming in to the CFA with a community safety focus and was a great thing and made job really enjoyable.”

Mr Rhodes said it was an honour to receive the Australian Fire Services Medal.

“I think it’s good there’s recognition for the work being done in the education and community safety area. To get the ASFM is recognition of my efforts plus the work we have done. I could only have done what I have with the help of other people working there.”

Last year Mr Rhodes took up a role with the Fire Services Commissioner as the manager of policy and strategic projects looking at bushfire safety policy.

As part of his role he is investigating how best to deliver key messages about bushfire safety to the community in a way they will take on board.

Vin Shelley - Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)

In 60 years of volunteering, Vin Shelley has seen much change and achievement within the Cornishtown Fire Brigade, and more widely, within CFA.

But one of the biggest milestones in the 76-year-old’s time with the Hume Region brigade has been receiving a new fire truck.

“When I first started we had no truck – we’d have a tank, hoses and equipment stationed at the Indigo Post Office and when a fire started, a farm truck was made available so we’d fill the tank up with water, put it on the back of the truck and off we’d go,” Mr Shelley said.

“After that we’d had plenty of hand-me-down trucks but it was very exciting for us about 20 years ago when we got our first brand new truck – a Bedford tanker.”

Mr Shelley joined CFA following the 1952 north-east bushfires, which impacted Barnawartha, Cornishtown and Wodonga.

“I was just dumbfounded by the destruction these fires had caused and I wanted to be able to help,” he said.

“The Cornishtown brigade was first starting up at that time and of course from 1952 to 2012, there has been a lot of change, and change I have had to grow with.”

A Life Member of Cornishtown Fire Brigade, Mr Shelley has also served as a captain and Deputy Group Officer for the Rutherglen area.

But his life as a volunteer extends long beyond CFA with involvement in the Chiltern Football Club and Ovens and King Football League.

“There’s been a lot of work at times but I have enjoyed it all,” Mr Shelley said.

“I’ve seen many people come through the brigade and we’ve been involved in some great things.

“The fire brigade competitions have always been a highlight – Cornishtown won two of the competitions and it was a real feather in the brigades cap.”

For his service to the community of Chiltern, Vin Shelley has been awarded a Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia.

Peter Kueffer – Emergency Services Medal (ESM)

In his almost 20 years’ involvement in emergency services, Peter Kueffer has come to realise that “it’s either in your blood or it isn’t.”

“I like the idea of being of service to my fellow Australians and I am constantly amazed by the work of emergency service volunteers,” he said.

A volunteer of CFA’s Kallista-The Patch Fire Brigade since 1993, Mr Kueffer has also worked as a Clinical Director with the Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) for about 10 years.

Mr Kueffer's innovation in intervention and methodologies in dealing with trauma is leading the way in peer support and chaplaincy, which are helping to implement programs for building resilience in volunteer emergency responders.

In 2003, Mr Kueffer organised and facilitated an effective peer response and ongoing support following the line-of-duty death of a volunteer. These interventions were subsequently published and used as a training tool.

Under his management, VICSES Peer Support has developed and gained a reputation for best practice, innovation and international leadership in the field and is highly regarded by the volunteers.

Mr Kueffer has also been a leader within the CFA as captain of his brigade for seven years and Deputy Group Officer for the Dandenong Ranges.

“There have been many highlights during my time with the CFA including response to the Dandenong Ranges fires of 1997 and forming strike teams for deployment to the Blue Mountains in 2001,” Mr Kueffer said.

“The Dandenong fires in particular, highlighted how dangerous these areas of rural urban interface can be and also that community education and awareness is critical.”

Mr Kueffer is being awarded the Emergency Services Medal in recognition of his distinguished to emergency services.

Neil Labbett - Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM)

Neil Labbett has been a dedicated CFA volunteer for Millbrook Brigade for more than 35 years. During this time he has taken on several roles including Captain for 14 years from 1988.

Mr Labbett has watched CFA grow over the years and is impressed by the amount of change to firefighter training and equipment.

“It’s easy to say, in the good old days, but with the amount of training we now receive, we’re far more equipped and prepared to take on any fire,” Mr Labbett said.

“It’s not just about fighting the fire though, safety is obviously our main priority.”

Mr Labbett has actively participated in promoting the welfare of volunteers by his involvement with Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV).

“I’ve spent a lot of time working with VFBV and CFA to obtain the firefighting gear and equipment we require to attend incidents in the safest way possible.

“The results we’ve achieved are brilliant – our equipment is brilliant,” he said.

Mr Labbett has also been instrumental in developing a younger generation of firefighters and formed a group of junior members within the Brigade.

“Our juniors have managed to win the State Championships on at least two occasions and that was such a satisfying moment.”

One of Mr Labbett’s most vivid memories as a firefighter was travelling to Sydney to assist the NSW fire services with a large fire that started just north of Sydney and travelled up to Queensland over New Years in 2001/02.

Although Neil Labbett spends hours of his time serving the community, he says he couldn’t do any of it without the ongoing encouragment from his family.

“If you have the love and support from your family, you can do anything,” he said.

Mr Labbett has been rewarded the Australian Fire Services Medal at this year’s Australia Day.

Trevor Mills - Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM)

Ouyen Fire Brigade Captain Trevor Mills has served nearly 40 years as a firefighter with CFA – 18 of those years as captain. He began his dedicated service as a volunteer at Horsham brigade in 1972 and moved to Ouyen five years later.

Mr Mills said a lot has changed in his 40 years with CFA, particularly with equipment, resources and training.

“Back in the day we were given a pair of overalls and told to jump on the truck and learn as you go,” Mr Mills said.

“Now you have to be accredited and go through an extensive amount of training. You’re basically now more accountable.

“Firefighters are also more protected with ongoing improvements to turnout gear.”

A large bushfire in the early ‘80s at Patchewollock was a significant incident for Mr Mills, which changed the way he thought about fires and has stuck in his mind ever since.

“I quickly learnt how powerful a fire can be and what it’s capable of. Fire behaviour is something you can only learn by experience,” Mr Mills said.

“There’s not one fire that’s ever the same as the next.”

Mr Mills has also been working closely with the Municipal Fire Prevention Committee to assist with the design of the Wimmera Mallee pipeline in the Ouyen area, specifically with regard to the identification of the sites for hydrants and water tanks.

“It’s really about targeting those remote areas where access to water is more of a challenge. It also assists firefighters with travelling time,” he said.

Mr Mills has also been the leader of the Ouyen Junior Fire Brigade for more than 15 years. His ongoing guidance and leadership has set a high example among the junior members and will have them well prepared as future firefighters for CFA.

Ouyen members recently moved into their new fire station which had been a tin shed for more than 90 years. Mr Mills is very excited about the new station and is looking forward to continuing to serve the community and look after the brigade’s members as their captain.

Mr Mills says he’s honoured to receive the Australian Fire Services Medal at this year’s Australia Day ceremony.

Embargoed until 1.30pm – National Emergency Medal

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