News & Media

Viv Williams – OAM

  • Viv Williams - left

By: CFA Media

Category: Honours & Awards, People

  12.35 PM 23 January, 2015

Location: District 13 News, General

Views: 2841

“I’m just one of thousands of volunteers who do what I do, so I would say this is one for all the volunteers,” said Viv Williams, one of several CFA members honoured this Australia Day.

Viv has received the Medal of the Order of Australia primarily for her significant contribution to animal welfare and protection. But the Selby Fire Brigade member, who said she was “overwhelmed” by the award, has also been lauded for significant contributions to emergency services through fireground catering and support.

She joined both the Dandenong Ranges Auxilliary and Selby brigade in 2008, with one being dependent on the other. When she enquired about serving with the auxiliary, Viv discovered she first needed to be a signed-up brigade member. The first brigade she approached was not accepting new members but Selby – with its strong contingent of non-operational volunteers – welcomed her with open arms.

The Dandenong Ranges Auxiliary, better known locally as the Feeding Group, is made up of members from 15 brigades and it turns out 50 to 70 times in an average year. They serve and prepare the food which sustains hundreds of personnel through a firefight. It’s a critical and often overlooked role.

“We see them come back absolutely exhausted,” Viv said. “I’ve got so much admiration for the guys that go out on the trucks. They are the ones putting their lives on the line.”

While Viv classes herself as a non-operational member (“the only time I go out on the truck is with Santa”) she has done a range of training qualifications and is one of a designated group who will stay back and defend the fire station from bushfire in the event that all the trucks are out.

Six years down the track, and Viv says the brigade is like family.

Following a diagnosis for cancer three months ago, someone from the brigade comes down the mountain on a daily basis to take her to Peter Mac for treatment

Right up until she became ill Viv, 70, hadn’t slowed down at all. Since moving to Melbourne “for my old age” a year ago she kept on with a plethora of community groups such as Probus and, looking for something to do “instead of the farm”, she started with RSPCA at their adoption centre in Burwood East.

Her fire knowledge makes her the go-to person for questions on fire safety and restrictions.

“I always encourage the animal rescuers to do ‘Maintain Safety’ [basic accreditation course for entry to a fireground],” and a lot of them have actually got it now,” she said. “They go in after a fire to rescue wildlife and to leave food and water.

“And everyone up on the mountain who knows me, and has animals, knows they are welcome to come down on a high-risk day and spend the day with me and bring their animals.

“The welcome mat will always be out for them… and meanwhile I’ll be helping out with the Feeding Group.”

Viv is a former president of the Australian Animal Protection Society and member of numerous other protection and ethics committees including one at the Monash Institute of Medical Research.

Read more about the Dangenong Ranges Feeding Group here

Last Updated: 23 January 2015