Five decorated CFA members have been named as this year’s Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) recipients, in recognition of their dedicated service to CFA and their communities.
The AFSM is the highest award for a member of an Australian fire service and as part of the Australia Day honours list, is awarded to a select group of outstanding fire service members each year.
The five members have more than 265 years of service for CFA between them, and the contributions they’ve made to the Victorian emergency services sector have been revered.
The 2023 CFA Australian Fire Service Medal recipients are:
The recipients have served in some of the most severe disasters in Victoria, interstate and internationally. They have also had positive impacts on their local communities and the wider CFA organisation.
Mark Cartledge started in his volunteer role with Ballarat Fire Brigade in January 1992, after which he carved out a prominent CFA volunteer career. The now Captain, has a passion for road crash rescue capability and training members to ensure a high level of understanding and competency during response to road incidents. For the past 13 years he’s volunteered with Amber Community (formerly Road Trauma Support Services) to encourage disqualified drivers to change their behaviour to reduce road accidents and save lives.
Neil Marshall from Panton Hill Fire Brigade has committed more than 61 years of distinguished service to CFA. He has shown his commitment to CFA through various leadership roles from serving as a firefighter through to Deputy Chair of CFA’s Board. Following the Ash Wednesday fires that took the lives of five Panton Hill Brigade volunteers, Neil joined a group of other brigade members to form a welfare trust to raise money for affected families and arrange support services.
A CFA veteran for more than 55 years, Kenneth Stuart, was inspired to sign up as a volunteer in 1967, just a couple years after 1965 Gippsland fires. He played a key role in 2003 Alpine fires, the 2006-07 Alpine fires and 2019-20 Black Summer fires. He has been a renowned mentor in fuel reduction and back burning – educating many other members to practice safe techniques.
Cape Clear Captain Michael Rowe has made a lasting impact on CFA, particularly through his advocacy and knowledge for preventative burning. He developed a system of burning both sides of the road simultaneously, resulting in a quicker burn that was not only safer for crews and traffic, but better for the environment and communities with less smoke put into the atmosphere. Michael is also strong supporter and advocate for gender equality. In 2018 he introduced women-only burn days to encourage more women to get involved in and experienced in roadside burning.
Robert Small is well known for his exemplary leadership and commitment to firefighter safety. Highly respected by his peers, Robert has held several roles across his 47 years of distinguished service including captain and lieutenant of Ferntree Gully brigade and Deputy Group Officer with Knox Group. Robert is committed to supporting CFA’s training and skills maintenance program and has maintained his Training and Assessing qualification throughout his career to ensure he can facilitate training at the brigade, district and regional level.
CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan congratulated the five CFA AFSM recipients for their invaluable service to CFA and the Victorian community.
“CFA is proud of the contribution our volunteer members make every single day and it is fitting that these select members have been recognised with the highest honour for any Australian firefighter,” he said.
“This year’s recipients have embodied CFA’s values and for decades have committed themselves to achieving our mission to protect lives and property.”
CFA also acknowledges the work of FRV Assistant Chief Fire Officer Interoperability Tony O’Day who received an AFSM in today’s Honours. Tony committed himself to service improvement within emergency services for more than 30 years. Tony was a CFA career firefighter since 1993 before he transitioned to Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) and made significant contributions to CFA during that time.