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North-west firefighters honoured
On 29 June, 141 local firefighters assembled from across the Victorian north-west fire district to receive a National Emergency Medal for offering ‘sustained operational service’ to the community during the fires of early 2009.
By Christopher Simmins
The fires, which included the emergency known as Black Saturday, claimed 173 lives. These fires had traumatised Victorians and displaced many rural residents and their communities.
CFA recipients were from Axe Creek, Campbells Creek, Castlemaine, Cobram, Elphinstone, Fryerstown, Harcourt, Hesket-Kerrie, Kyneton, Lancefield, Langley-Barfold, Maiden Gully, Malmsbury, Metcalfe, Newham, Newstead & District, Pastoria, Redesdale, Riddells Creek, Taradale and Tylden, as well as District 2 personnel.
The recipients were presented in morning and afternoon ceremonies, with a number of NEMs being presented posthumously to representing family members. The National Emergency Medals were presented by Ms Amanda Millar MLC, Member for Northern Victoria Region, and CFA DCO Alan Ellis congratulated each member stating, "Thank you. You can wear your medal with pride".
Various Victorian State Government and CFA officials also attended, while recipients, families and friends proudly looked on. In addition to the 12 Newstead brigade recipients who chose to attend on the day, Newstead brigade volunteer Christopher Simmins decided to create a memorial plaque in recognition of the contribution of his fellow Newstead brigade members.
"The plaque is a tangible and permanent historic reference of our brigade’s contribution during the 2009 fires," said Christopher. "It is also a testament to the volunteers and their families who supported us during that confusing time. It will be mounted in the Newstead Fire Station."
The plaque features a map of Victoria, made from a twisted piece of copper plate that Christopher unearthed from a roadside at Kinglake fireground. He had been searching for victims of the fire at the time. Twenty-two small brass tags are attached to the copper plate and each displays the name of a Newstead brigade member nominated to receive a National Emergency Medal.
Photos: Lisa Simmins and Julie Mitchell