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Graham Healy - AFSM
There’s barely a region of Victoria Graham Healy hasn’t served as a CFA member.
More than 50 years of energetic dedication to the organisation as a volunteer and staff member, have culminated in the awarding of an Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) in the 2016 Australia Day Honours.
“I don’t think anyone chases after medals, but it is gratifying,” Graham said.
“It doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to my wife, family and all those I’ve worked with - they contributed to the whole bit and ultimately the award is to the CFA not the individual.
“CFA is nothing without good people and there are plenty of them around and there are more worthy people who deserve it than me.”
In a remarkable career which began in 1956 as a 13-year-old working on the railway’s hazard reduction gang near his hometown of Bungaree, Graham retired after reaching Assistant Chief Officer in the 1990’s.
“At Bungaree we had a tank, a hose and hand pump. Protective clothing was my school trousers, school shirt and school shoes,” he joked.
In between he’s volunteered with brigades from Ferntree Gully to East Gippsland before joining the ranks as a Regional Officer and heading west to Ararat, Colac, Fiskville, Wodonga, Lilydale, Ballarat and back to Fiskville.
Wodonga has been home since the mid 90’s where he’s still on the books at the local brigade.
But it’s his contribution as a level 3 Incident Controller which still excites his passions, most recently around Christmas when he led the team combatting the Barnawartha-Indigo Valley fire.
“I’ll be around till people don’t want me anymore,” he said.
“I really want to keep progressing IC’s and the role of IC. The role of IC 3 is much the same as at level 1 just bigger and more complex and needs skilled people to be mentored and coached to keep up the numbers required.”
He rates the introduction of the Australasian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMS) in 1990, and the introduction of Minimum Skills and volunteer leadership training at Crew Leader Level, as the most positive changes he’s witnessed.
He says giving volunteers opportunities at the highest levels of incident management is vital.
“If you look at the structure for advancement through volunteer ranks it says IC level 3 right at the top so even a volunteer starting today can see that progression.
“The biggest barrier for volunteers gaining Level 3 Controller accreditation is the time commitment many volunteers can’t afford. Somewhere in the system we need to see the content, but not the standard, adjusted to help volunteers and keep that path and opportunity open,” he said.
It’s a role informed by a lifetime of witnessing the impact of fire on the Victorian landscape including Ash Wednesday and the 2003 Alpine fires to name a few.
Graham is in no doubt the constant evolution of the CFA is key to its success in protecting lives and property.
And even after half a century of service, he’s still excited about the future of CFA.
“On my first day as a career officer I met an Assistant Chief Officer who shook my hand and said ‘there’s no better time than now to join CFA’. And it’s still true. There’s still no better time than now to join as a volunteer or make the CFA your career.
“CFA will change, the job will change, equipment will change. If there’s no change we’re standing still and CFA can’t afford to stand still.”
Standing still isn’t something Graham Healy AFSM does much of either.