News & Media

Solar Sam judged superstar citizen

  • Captain Dick Johnstone with Sam Mitchell and his bike
  • Sam Mitchell and his bike


Category: People

  9.24 AM 20 March, 2013

Location: District 11 News

Views: 3177

Sam Mitchell was dux of his school last year, East Gippsland Shire’s Young Citizen of the Year and, at the time of writing, he’s just begun a tour of Australia on his home-built solar powered bike.  

“Sam is probably the smartest light bulb around, always thinking of the big picture,” says Orbost Captain Dick Johnstone.

“He’s a very smart boy and well-liked by all. He fits in the Orbost brigade like a finger in a glove – really good. He thinks outside the box.

“He’s a senior now and has been turning out with us – he’s pretty switched on. If you’re doing any courses Sam just whizzes through them. He’s highly educated.

“He’s spending his gap year touring Australia on his solar powered bike and will head to college after that. Orbost is a small country town – it probably won’t be able to offer Sam what he wants at his age,” says Dick.

Sam joined CFA after completing the ‘Advance’ program at Orbost Secondary College.

“I enjoyed it. I liked the challenge of setting up the hoses and gear and seeing how quickly I could do it all. I felt it was a worthwhile thing to be doing,” says Sam.

“I didn’t get out to as many jobs as I would have liked due to schoolwork and also living over the other side of town. Orbost has a really organised group of volunteers that turn out really fast – they’ve got it sorted.

“I had to learn to prioritise my time, but I actually think CFA helped me with my studies. If you just did school you’d get really over it and burn out with no mental capacity for your exams. Doing things like CFA was good, doing something different with a different bunch of people.

“They’re a really good brigade and good bunch of guys and girls – very open and supportive. They really don’t fit the stereotype of older guys resistant to change; they’ve always been interested in what I was doing with the bikes.

“They were really good people to work with. Even when I wasn’t turning out all the time they were really encouraging and helped me to get out and not feel under pressure or anything like that.”

Sam will spend the next year cycling to all the compass points (Wilsons Prom, Cape York, Cape Byron and Shark Bay) and working along the way. He’ll then head to Sydney in 2014 to study renewable energy engineering at the University of New South Wales.

“I wouldn’t rule out coming back to Orbost, but I think it’s good to not live in Orbost forever. I think I could probably contribute more to the area through moving out and coming back, rather than just staying here. If I had time I’d rejoin CFA,” Sam said.

First Lieutenant Dave Taylor says Orbost brigade would have Sam back in a heartbeat.

“I think Sam has real leadership potential. He’s turned out to a few jobs and went through the Tostaree fire at a young age. He’s easy as to train – he takes everything in like a sponge,” says Dave.

“He’s a quiet achiever, doesn’t gripe or moan when given orders. He picked it up really well. He knows his stuff and wanted to learn everything he could.”

Any words of advice for Sam?

“Just keep at it. Learn as much as you can. CFA is a great family. We all look out for each other. You don’t just learn things about CFA – you learn things about life as well, you carry on some of the training into your own life,” says Dave.

Brigade Administrative Support Officer Rob Melville described Sam as a “ripper of a kid” who is “very quiet, very unassuming”. 

Last Updated: 20 March 2013