Phillip Rees with Acting Deputy Chief Officer Glenn Pröbstl
A north-east Victorian CFA volunteer has been honoured with the Excellence in Community Engagement Award at the recent Spirit of CFA Awards event.
Philip Rees, a deputy group officer at Benalla Group and former captain at Baddaginnie Fire Brigade, was named the 2020 recipient of the prestigious award. The 2020 award event was postponed because of COVID-19 and held in conjunction with the 2022 event this year.
Philip said he was quite emotional when he recently found out he was in the running for the award because the person who nominated him has since passed away.
“Mick Daws worked with CFA in District 23 and when I heard recently that he was the one who nominated me, it seemed almost like Mick was still with us; like he’s still making a difference to this day,” Philip said.
The Excellence in Community Engagement Award recognises CFA members who have worked collaboratively to develop and apply innovative approaches to community engagement.
Philip organised a breakfast club for local children at Baddaginnie Fire Station because of concerns about children being dropped off early at school before teachers arrived.
“Our brigade management team decided to start the breakfast club and got some funding from a few different organisations,” he said. “It ran for about 18 months and was quite successful in dealing with the issues as we were feeding about a dozen kids who would then walk to school from the fire station.
Philip also helped spread a Red Bucket Project throughout District 23 after hearing about Violet Town brigade’s success using it.
“It’s a community engagement project where we knock on doors and drop off a red bucket full of fire safety information to ensure people are thinking about whether a fire truck will fit in the driveway, what they’ll do in case of a fire and other useful information.
“We decided around Baddaginnie that we also wanted to use this to help vulnerable people so when we doorknocked the area we identified properties where people who may need extra help if a fire was heading their way lived.”
While emotional about his nomination, Philip was also humble when speaking about the award.
“In a small town like ours helping out is second nature and you just do it as you’re part of the community and it’s how you’re born and bred.”