Graham and Karen Robinson with Deputy Chief Officer Garry Cook.
Willaura members Karen and Graham Robinson have become the first married couple to receive Outstanding Service Awards for their contribution to CFA.
The pair was presented with the CFA’s most prestigious internal award at a surprise presentation, following decades of service to their community and the organisation.
CFA Deputy Chief Officer, Garry Cook said it was a landmark achievement.
“We’re often talking about one member of the family unit, but here we know the contribution made is so equal.”
Graham has undertaken a broad range of activities over the past 50 plus years within CFA, including being an operational firefighter and Brigade Officer, Deputy Group Officer, Group Training Officer, Strike Team Leader, Mentor and Fire Investigator.
He has deployed to fires and emergencies across the state and continues to be an active member of the brigade today.
Graham’s commitment to training saw an increase in gender diversity, attracting female members by way of dedicated women’s training sessions which gave female members greater confidence, and contributed to the gender diversity in the Willaura brigade and broader Westmere group still reflected today.
While the official records show Karen’s service began in 1997, she had been providing support to CFA long before then, as Graham had joined Willaura Brigade in 1964.
Initially Karen resisted joining the brigade as CFA was Graham’s passion however unbeknown to Karen, Graham ‘dobbed her in’ at a Group meeting that also saw Graham nominated as Communications Officer.
Karen and Graham also had young children at home during their most active years and balanced their CFA commitments with other community and official roles.
Karen she was humbled to be nominated for CFA’s highest honour.
“We often receive calls of thanks at end of fire season but this is pretty humbling, especially as we have been recognised by our peers,” she said.
“We accepted this award on behalf of all the couples in Westmere group, and other couples in CFA who support each other, it’s something we all do!’”
“And giving back to and supporting our community is just what country people do.”
For what many say is unusual for him, Graham was almost speechless upon being presented the most prestigious award within CFA.
“I’m absolutely floored, I still don’t know what to say,” he said.
“Karen and I don’t believe we’ve done any more than anyone else, you just do what you do.”
Former District 16 Operations Manager, Chris Eagle said the pair’s contribution has been invaluable.
“The impact Karen and Graham made with their contribution to training was a great positive within the Westmere Group,” he said.
“Graham invested countless hours over many years developing training plans, while Karen was the administrative rock behind these programs.
“The training couldn’t have happened without Karen in the background providing essential support to Graham and the Group.”
FRV Commander Wayne Rigg, who also received an Outstanding Service Award for his contribution to CFA, organised the surprise, having invited the couple to what they thought was a presentation for Wayne himself.
“They are quintessential CFA people,” he said.
“They’re not looking for praise; just doing their bit for the community. And there are hundreds of couples like them, across so many communities in Victoria in a range of organisations. You won’t find better people anywhere.”
Karen is also no stranger to the significance of CFA’s highest honours, with her father Joe Ryan being the 13th recipient of the CFA Valour Medal for an act of bravery in 1978, when he rescued several small children, their babysitter and the family pet, while their mother was giving birth to another child.
Karen and Graham’s outstanding service nomination demonstrates it’s not always an act of bravery which warrants such a nomination, with many members making significant contributions to CFA, albeit behind the scenes.
- Commander Wayne Rigg (left) with Graham and Karen Robinson and Garry Cook.
- Justine, Mathew, Graham, Karen and Melaine Robinson.
- Forest Fire Management Victoria Deputy Chief Fire Officer Chris Eagle with Graham Robinson.