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35 years with CFA rewarded
For the past 35 years, CFA volunteer, group officer and former Board member James ‘Don’ Robertson has spent his summers doing two main two things: running a mixed farming operation near Strathkellar in the heart of District 5 and fighting fires across Victoria and NSW.
Now, Don’s long time contribution to CFA and the safety of rural communities – including his work on many Strike and Incident Management Teams – has been recognised with an AFSM.
Don’s CFA journey started 35 years ago when he joined the local Strathkellar Brigade. Since then, he has served as the Brigade’s president, secretary, treasurer and captain.
Previously, Don’s father was Strathkellar Brigade Captain and Don’s two daughters are both current volunteers – Kathryn as 1st Lieutenant and Mary as a firefighter.
“CFA doesn’t work without the backup of families, neighbours and the CFA staff,” says Don.
While Strathkellar is the Robertson’s CFA home, Don has contributed widely to the local Dundas Group and District 5 bodies. It was this contribution to CFA locally – and to rural and farming communities in particular – that eventually saw Don serve on the CFA Board from 2011 to 2014.
However, it is his times leading Strike and Incident Management Teams that Don recalls most vividly.
“It’s a real privilege to take a Strike Team out of your district,” says Don. “It’s good to show strength in numbers and to learn what that patch of land away from home is about. You learn an awful lot.”
In one memorable instance, Don led a Strike Team that included daughter Kathryn on a deployment to NSW.
Black Saturday is also clearly etched in Don’s mind. He started the day running an IMT in Hamilton and finished it in Alexandra (District 12), flown in to relieve the exhausted team tackling the Marysville fire. By 5 March 2009, he had worked continuously on IMTs for 37 days.
Don remains active on Incident Management Teams through his leadership role with the Dundas Group. And after 35 of years with CFA, what advice does he have for the next generation of volunteers? “Grasp opportunities when you can. If you are offered the chance to do something, do it.”
See more stories here.