News & Media

Walking Off the War Within, recognition and respect

By: Euan Ferguson

  12.08 PM 19 May, 2015

Views: 521

Firefighter Nathan Shanahan – “Walking Off the War Within”

Here is an inspirational story of a journey by one of our career firefighters, Nathan Shanahan, a returned serviceman, who has demonstrated why we are an organisation of great people. SSO Malcolm Hayes of Mildura Brigade writes as follows: 

“You are all aware Nathan set out on 16 April to walk from Mildura to Adelaide carrying a full army pack (25kg). The intention of this walk was to raise funds for ‘Soldier On’ and also lift the stigma for mental health issues. Nathan is a returned serviceman and currently works at Mildura as a firefighter. He has suffered the effects of depression and anxiety for some time and this walk was part of his own personal healing process. Nathan chose to share this personal information and in doing so helped so many others start their own healing process”. 

I ask you:  “How brave is that?” Nathan has recognised his own challenges, and in meeting them head on has created an awareness of many others who are doing it tough after serving our nation.

Mal Hayes further writes that, “As an organisation, I do not think you could find a better role model for a CFA firefighter than Nathan. Over the period of his walk he was featured on social media, print media, visual media and radio. Most of the journalists introduced Nathan as CFA firefighter Nathan Shanahan, going on to endorse what he was doing in the most positive ways”. 

Mal tells us that, “Nathan was asked to speak to a group of Truro CFS volunteers at their training night. I took a seat in the back of the room and watched with interest at how he would go speaking to a group of strangers about such a personal issue. What I witnessed was a person that spoke from real-life experience in the most compassionate way. The room was dead silent for the duration of his presentation. If the question and answer time was what you draw your feedback from, Nathan should have been doing public speaking years ago.” 

Nathan, a fantastic effort. We are all proud of your achievements. Well done!

Remembrance, recognition and respect:

Over the past three weeks, there have been a number of important activities that I have attended with senior CFA people. On Friday 1 May, CFA Deputy Chair John Peberty, CEO Michael Wootten and I attended the inaugural National Memorial Service for Fallen Fire and Emergency Service Personnel in Canberra. The service was held at the (little recognised) fire and emergency services memorial on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. At the ceremony, CFA was also represented by VFBV President Hans Van Hammond and Lt Tracey McVea and Lt Gerard Peeters who drove the Wodonga tanker, which was part of an emergency services vehicle display. 

The following weekend, CFA held our annual memorial service at St Patrick’s Cathedral. At this service, as is the custom, I read the name of every one of our 67 fallen firefighters. As each name is read, a bell is tolled. This memorial service is one of the most significant features on the CFA calendar. It is a time of peace, reflection and support for those who are no longer with us, their families and their fire brigade colleagues.

Last week was National Volunteer Week and there were a number of functions around the state. It is a reminder that of all the things CFA does, one of the most valuable is fostering a culture of volunteering in our community. Selfless service, camaraderie and courage are all part of the spirit of volunteering. We are unique in the volunteering culture in Australia. It is a precious asset. 

Finally, we look forward to the start of the Koori Inclusion Action Plan. CFA has a number of activities planned for the launch of this plan. I want to encourage all of you to listen to the actions that we have committed to with this plan. It is another indication that we are purposely promoting a culture that values inclusion, equality and diversity. As part of the plan launch, I had the opportunity to renew my friendship with Koori elder Uncle Henry. The aboriginal culture is deep and has many lessons for us all.

Last Updated: 10 December 2015