From ‘bags and bushes’ to AFSM

Nearly sixty years have passed since Graham Petrie first set foot inside the Beazley’s Bridge Fire Brigade in Victoria’s West. 

“So much has changed since I joined CFA in the ‘50s, it’s amazing,” Graham says.

“This was back when we still had beaters and ‘bags and bushes’.”

As a volunteer firefighter, Graham rose through the ranks to become Captain of Beazley’s Bridge in 1977. A few years later, he was unanimously elected Group Officer for the Kara Kara Group, a position he held for nearly 24 years.

Graham served as Incident Controller for many significant fires, and organised the St Arnaud Group's strike teams to support major fires within the area, including Ash Wednesday (1983) and the Maryborough/ Avoca fire (1985).

Today, the Victorian Government recognised the 82-year old’s immense contribution to CFA and the community by awarding him an Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM) at the Australia Day Awards Ceremony.

Graham says receiving the AFSM is a huge honour, and he is grateful for the unwavering support he received over the years from his wife, Margery, and their four children.

“They’ve all helped me balance my CFA commitments with the farm operations,” he says.

“Their support is what allowed me to devote so much time to CFA.”

Graham recognised the importance of diversity within CFA, and over the years became a strong advocate for greater inclusion of women and juniors. One of his initiatives focussed on encouraging higher levels of junior membership and participation in championships.

“The biggest risk we face as an agency is losing our local knowledge,” Graham says.

“These young kids are our future leaders, we need to keep them involved as much as we can.

“There’s a lot of danger out there, and we need to make sure our community are always prepared and aware of the risks.”

Retiring from the Group Officer position in 2005, Graham has continued to serve CFA as a highly respected member and mentor to the Beazley's Bridge Fire Brigade and St Arnaud Group.

“I’ve met a lot of great people over the years, and I’ve always enjoyed working with the community out here,” Graham says. 

“They cooperate with us, and always support us to do the best job that we can.” 

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Author: CFA Media