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Geoffrey Broughton - OAM
Taking a break from drenching sheep to have a chat about receiving a Medal of the Order of Australia on Australia Day, Geoff Broughton simply can’t believe it.
“I’m blown away,” he said. “I didn’t think I was worthy of such an honour. Very chuffed.”
Like many who dedicate their life to serving the community, Geoff is a master at juggling duties to farm, family and firefighting (both paid and voluntary) as well as various other community service roles. But he still sounds amazed at the variety that life throws up.
“At this time of year we don’t know if we’ll be filling sandbags or fighting fires,” he said of his involvement with the Branjee Fire Brigade, of which he is currently captain. Branjee was one of the brigades that fought the recent Creightons Creek fire, and served locally and in Nathalia during the major floods in 2012.
Geoff now works for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) as a seasonal firefighter in summer. But as soon as he gets home and takes off the green overalls, he's on standby for Branjee brigade.
He is also one of Victoria’s 60 fire tower observers, a role he has done for the past 22 years. “That’s a true community role,” he said. “Whether it’s a fire in paddocks, bushland or someone’s house, quite often we’re the ones who see it first and call it in.”
Geoff maintains a friendly rivalry with the observer at Lurg fire tower near Benalla, keeping score of the number of fires they spot. Normally they’ll tally fires in a season – but this summer (which is far from over) they’ve tallied up 50 between them.
The fire brigade has been part of Geoff's life since he was a youngster. He remembers racing siblings to the fire truck whenever they saw it approaching. “Sometimes it was my father or sometimes one of the neighbours,” said Geoff. “Whoever got there first would get to hop into the cabin, then we’d go out to the job.”
A member and captain of Creightons Creek brigade for many years, Geoff moved over to Branjee in the late 1990s. He describes them as a small but dedicated bunch of men and women. Despite lacking in numbers, the brigade more than pulls its weight when it comes to supporting response to large incidents in the area.
“People just kept calling me to say they wanted to go out on the truck to the Creightons Creek fire even thought they’d already gone out a couple of days before,” he said.
Aside from CFA, Geoff has served on committees around Euroa and the Strathbogie Shire, among them the municipal fire prevention committee, primary and secondary school councils, agricultural society and neighbourhood watch.
“For me, community is about helping people. You can help people indirectly or directly, and being a part of CFA is about helping directly on the front-line.”
While there are dozens of people through the emergency services ranks that he looks up to, Geoff said the people who inspire him most are his wife Jane and his three kids.
“I just think how lucky I am that I’ve got a great family. You can’t do the things I’ve done without support from your family.”