The AFSM citation specifically mentions Don’s exceptional contribution to the safety of the Victorian community through his service as a volunteer firefighter and as an officer and then, ultimately, as a Regional Director in CFA for over 40 years.
The citation adds that Don has been a major innovator in the development of new systems and processes in CFA, and their implementation has made a significant contribution to the safety of the community. These innovations include the use of technology, new strategic planning initiatives, and the use of these developments across the CFA.
Don first started with CFA as a volunteer at Woodend in 1971 where he was Secretary of what were then two separate urban and rural fire brigades. He played a key role in amalgamating the two brigades and is remembered as an outstanding and influential mentor at Woodend.
Don says Ash Wednesday had a profound effect on him and he was involved continuously for more than two weeks when the disastrous bushfires swept across Victoria in February 1983.
In 1984 he joined CFA full-time as a Regional Officer in Region 15 and was appointed to his new position in the Ballarat headquarters following four weeks training at Fiskville.
He was then appointed as the Regional Manager for Region 14 in 1993, based at Melton and coordinated the introduction of new fire brigades at Point Cook and Hoppers Crossing. Don has also been Regional Manager at CFA’s previous Midlands and Western District.
In 2001 he returned to Ballarat, this time as Regional Manager of CFA Midlands Wimmera Region and has since remained in charge of the vast stretch of the Grampians Region, now titled, Regional Director.
Don says over his 40 year career he has probably attended just about every major Victorian bushfire including several interstate deployments. Reflecting on his long service to the organisation, Don says working with CFA volunteers is not only rewarding but gives you a reality check when you’re out in the field. “They are honest, no-nonsense people who want straight answers and just get on with the job of looking after their communities.”
Don says the award of the AFSM reflected a team effort rather than an individual recognition. “Any success that has been achieved has come out of a collaborative approach with volunteers and staff as well as working closely with other agencies, local government, and the community.
“When I joined CFA, I knew what I was getting into in terms of the commitment to the organisation, so working seven days a week and at nights is something that I have always done. In that respect, I could not have continued that commitment without my wife Gabrielle who has given wonderful support to me for more than 35 years.”