Four Victorian firefighters awarded Australian Fire Service Medals

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Four highly regarded and dedicated CFA members have been named as this year’s Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) recipients, in recognition of their devoted 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 four firefighters have been recognised for their profound leadership and mentoring contributions which have focused on implementing innovative opportunities to improve resources for volunteers to best serve the community.

The recipients led their regions through major emergencies of fires and floods such as February 2009 bushfires, 2019/20 Black Summer, 2014 Hazelwood Open Cut Mine fire, Delburn 2009 and the 2022/23 floods, while imparting extensive support and expertise towards technology development and training. Their dedication and influence have spanned from the fireground to CFA’s District Headquarters.  

The 2024 CFA Australian Fire Service Medal recipients are:

Throughout his 45-year CFA career Ross Sullivan has exemplified all values of CFA and is well-regarded by volunteers and staff as an assured, knowledgeable, supportive, empathetic and humble leader. He started his career at CFA as a 16-year-old, volunteering for Bolinda and Monegeetta brigade in 1978 and has successfully progressed through the ranks to his current role as Deputy Chief Officer of North East Region. Ross has been commended for his instrumental involvement in enhancing the design and development of CFA tools, vehicles and equipment, strategic fire suppression plans, and rehabilitation and repair processes.

Paula Grosveld has served CFA for 36 years in many leading roles, from strike team leader to the current Captain of Golden Beach Fire Brigade, deputy group officer, treasurer and health and safety officer of Banksia Group, and a Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria executive. She is a local source of expertise for a variety of CFA training courses, a mentor in the well-respected CFA Captain Peer Mentor Program and is highly regarded by other agencies. Paula continues to champion women in CFA and has been influential in organising further training opportunities, including chainsaw and women-only sessions.

Commander John Katakouzinos began his career with CFA as a volunteer at Springvale in 1991 and became a career firefighter in March 1999. He has held a range of operational roles and is currently on secondment to CFA as Commander of Aviation based at CFA Headquarters. Renowned for his passion for standardised training in fire service aviation and rescue, John’s exceptional contribution to improving safety and interoperability extends across state and national levels, including safer rescue equipment and the development of Australia's first mobile fire aviation flight simulator. 

With a fire service career spanning 46 years, Assistant Chief Fire Officer-Regional Commander (ACFO-RC) Bill Johnstone started as a volunteer at Gisborne Fire Brigade in 1977. He served with the Australian Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting Service based in Cairns before returning to Victoria and joining the CFA’s career ranks in 2000. Bill has extensive experience in operational management and has played vital leadership roles during major incidents including the Kerang Rail tragedy in 2007. He was also the inaugural Assistant Chief Fire Officer of CFA District 27 in the wake of the 2014 Hazelwood Open Cut Mine Fire. Bill’s distinguished management and influence in the emergency services sector is exceptional, and he has been integral to the successful response and recovery of Victorian communities.

CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan congratulated the four highly respected AFSM recipients for their admirable achievements and invaluable service to CFA and the Victorian community.

“CFA is incredibly proud of its volunteer firefighters and operational staff, and it is fantastic to see their contributions recognised by their peers with the highest honour for any Australian firefighter,” CO Heffernan said.

“This year’s recipients have dedicated their service to improving and advancing CFA’s training, equipment, and resources for all volunteers, while paving the way in leadership and advocacy. 

“We are fortunate as an organisation to have such outstanding people who devote such a large part of their life to the protection of life and property within our Victorian community.”

CFA would also like to recognise past and present CFA members who have received the prestigious Medal of the Order of Australian (OAM) as part of the 2024 Australia Day honours list. Congratulations to Kaye Blackburn, Brian Keenan, John Nihill, Jeffrey Robinson, Ian Thomson, Maria Cameron, Lindsay Tharle, Lavinia Tharle and Bruce Wilson.


  • Member News image
  • Member News image Ross Sullivan AFSM
  • Member News image Paula Grosveld AFSM
  • Member News image John Katakouzinos AFSM
  • Member News image Bill Johnstone AFSM
Submitted by CFA Media