DCO Garry Cook AFSM has had an exceptional 35-year career in emergency services
Garry Cook AFSM has had an exceptional 35-year career in fire and emergency services.
His dedication to CFA and the broader emergency services and his exceptional strategic leadership has seen him recognised with an Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM) in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours Lists.
Garry has been involved in and around the fire service for all his life.
From a volunteer firefighting family, he joined Edi Fire Brigade in North East Victoria in 1981 at the age of 16. During the 1985 North East fires he did several shifts on the Edi tanker and together with his older brother conducted perimeter reconnaissance on motorbikes to provide vital intelligence to operational commanders on fire spread and track access.
This experience laid the foundations for Garry’s firefighting career.
He joined CFA’s permanent ranks in 1986 as an Assistant Regional Officer based at headquarters, before moving to the training college as a Guest Instructor in early 1987.
In late 1987 he was appointed as the South West Zone Reliever at Ararat (D16) and Colac (D06), gaining the respect of volunteers with his commitment to providing training, compassion and genuine care for their safety and welfare.
In early 1994 he returned to headquarters as a District Officer and was part of CFA’s Strategic Planning Group, a new and dynamic team whose role was to shape the future of the organisation.
In mid-1995 Garry was appointed Operations Manager of District 23. During his time in the role he helped establish the Mount Buller Fire Brigade and led some of the largest multi-agency exercises in the district. He was also heavily involved in the response to the devastating 2002/03 Alpine fires.
In 2005 he was appointed to lead the Integrated Fire Management Planning Project, established to act on recommendations from a report into the Alpine Fires.
The foundations set by Garry through this project influenced change for the betterment of the community and led to the development of programs such as Safer Together where agencies and the community work closely together to manage fire risk and community safety.
Garry - a former Edi volunteer firefighter- officially opened the new Edi station in June 2018
In 2007 Garry left CFA for Rural Ambulance Victoria where he worked as Regional General Manager for the Hume Region. In 2008 he was appointed to the executive of the newly-established Ambulance Victoria. During this time, he continued to volunteer with Tarrawingee Fire Brigade.
He returned to CFA in September 2014 as Assistant Chief Officer for the North East Region. In 2016 he was seconded to the role of Deputy Chief Officer Readiness and Response and was formally appointed to the role in 2018. Later that year Garry was appointed Acting Executive Director People, Safety and Culture, a role he held for almost two years.
Garry’s exceptional strategic leadership skills, operational knowledge and commitment to CFA has seen him entrusted with the role of Acting Chief Officer on several occasions, including in 2020 at the beginning of Fire Services Reform – a critical time for CFA and its people.
He is currently Deputy Chief Officer Specialist Services responsible for areas including operational communications, specialist response, structural fire planning, fire investigation and marine and technical rescue. He also remains active in both State Agency Commander and State Response Controller roles.
Garry said he was honoured and humbled to receive the AFSM.
“I know so many outstanding contributors to the fire service and to be recognised in this way by my peers is a great honour,” Garry said.
“Most of my working life has been spent in the emergency services and no matter what role I have held, my goal has always been to help people do their work as safely and efficiently as possible so they can go home to their families and loved ones.
“I will always be grateful to my family who have made plenty of sacrifices while I was either on deployments or living away from home.”
Garry said that he has been able to do “some pretty special things” over his 35 years as a career officer.
“Sometimes you have to stop and pinch yourself and say: did I really just do that?” Garry said.
“I have seen some wonderful highs and naturally some terrible lows over my time, but the one constant has been that I have had the honour and privilege to work alongside some of the greatest people that have walked this planet.
“Whether they are volunteers or career members - they are all special.”