CFA volunteer Mark Roberts has received the highest award for an Australian firefighter at this year’s Australia Day honours.
The Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) recognises distinguished service from paid or volunteer members, however the modest Cobden Fire Brigade member said he was initially reluctant to accept it.
“I had to process the initial shock and realised there must have been people who had thought long and hard about this nomination,” he said.
“You’d think it’s more for people who’ve been around for 50 or 60 years and have done an exceptional job so that really puts it in context.”
“You don’t do this for the awards or the accolades, but I guess this is recognition of the position I was in after the St Patrick’s Day fires.”
The fires which started on 17 March 2018 burnt through more than 40,00 hectares around Cobden and Terang, with more than 10,00 stock lost across 219 farms.
“The biggest problem was the peat fire which just kept going for up to 10 weeks afterwards.
“I never took over the incident but played a role of constant contact with the local community.
“Such a drawn-out process like that means there are many different Incident Management Team changeovers, so it was important to help keep everyone on track.”
Mark’s leadership skills have developed beyond his own brigade, after taking on Cobden Group Officer role in 2007, as well as many years of coaching juniors throughout the area.
“We’ve got some good lieutenants that I coached 20 years ago who are moving through the ranks and if that helps keep them around then it’s good for the town and good for the brigade.”
CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said the honour bestowed on AFSM recipients reflects their remarkable service to the Victorian community.
“Mark and the other CFA members to receive this award exemplify the organisation’s values of safety, teamwork, adaptability, integrity, and respect.
“They have been integral to saving lives and properties in their own communities and beyond.
“CFA is honoured to have such distinguished members of the community amongst our ranks.”
Despite more than 30 years with CFA including outstanding leadership in the community, the modest volunteer firefighter said he accepted the award to honour those he works with.
“This is really for the brigade, the community, and the people around me.”