George O’Dwyer is testament to the strength of emergency services working together for the benefit of the community.
George O'Dwyer, pictured with Deputy Public Information Officer Mandy Maglaras, from CFA South West Region, while working as PIO at Bairnsdale ICC in December 2019.
Today, his long-standing contribution to the sector both as a CFA volunteer and DELWP employee was recognised with an Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM) in the 2020 Australian Honours List.
A CFA volunteer firefighter with Barongarook West brigade since 1995, Mr O’Dwyer has also provided 14 years of distinguished emergency service with the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP).
He has undertaken the role of Public Information Officer (PIO) in incident management teams since the roles were established post the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and was the first Victorian officer to achieve the Incident Management Team (IMT) level 3 PIO status.
Since 2005 he has been at the forefront of leading change in Victoria and has actively provided support across the CFA, DELWP and Victoria State Emergency Service to build capability in community engagement, warnings and advice and public information.
He has played significant roles in community fire recovery including after the 2005 Mt Lubra fire, and the 2009 Victorian bushfires. He demonstrated outstanding leadership working with community members in Wye River on Christmas Day 2015, supporting evacuation, relief and early recovery.
He continues to work with communities about the importance of fuel management across the Victorian landscape, particularly the Otway Ranges and Surf Coast.
Mr O'Dwyer's contribution to communities in south west Victoria, and performance during emergencies, is a benchmark for others to aspire to.
“I am extremely humbled by the thought of being nominated for the Australian Fire Service Medal and more so for receiving this prodigious award,” he said.
“The AFSM is a great honour and I wish to give my respects to my fellow firefighters for their commitment to communities, whether it’s on the fire line or as part of an incident management team.
“In accepting this award, I also acknowledge the personal hardship caused through physical demands and mental anguish associated with a bushfire reality, understanding that impacts are endured by many people including firefighters, who never forget, are always reminded, and who just learn to cope at best. This award has much meaning for me personally and professionally.
“On the upside, what keeps me going, are the many relationships that have been developed as part of my CFA and FFMV experiences. These relationships remind me to maintain a clear focus on community aspirations towards safer and stronger communities, with the hope that people will make good decisions because they trust the relationship, something I hope to keep doing for a few more years yet.”
CFA Chief Officer and CEO Steve Warrington said this year’s AFSM recipients, which also included CFA Board member and long-standing volunteer firefighter Peter Shaw, had provided commitment and excellence to the fire services.
“Receiving an AFSM is the highest honour an individual in the fire and emergency services can receive and it is fitting that these individuals are recognised in the Australia Day honours list, a time when we come together to recognise all Australians who have gone above and beyond.
“The work you undertake and the time you devote help ensure that our organisation can uphold its mission of protecting lives and properties in your communities and across the rest of the state.”