The late Winsome Morris was the first female CFA member to receive an Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) in 2003. The AFSM for distinguished fire services was just one of many medals and honours she received during her lifetime.
Passionate about the role of group communications Winsome managed communications for operational incidents over many decades. This included management of large incidents across multiple agencies including Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria and Red Cross.
Known by everyone as Win, she was a member of the Callawadda Brigade alongside her husband Neville. Neville was originally the communications officer for Stawell Group but found working the farm and being the communications officer unsustainable, so Win took over the role in 1972.
Sue Honeyman, Winsome’s daughter recalls, “Every day during fire season, just before midday, Mum ran a sked on her fire radio that was installed at home. She would check the availability of people for the day from groups across the area, sharing the air way between 5 different groups on the same channel.”
“As children my brothers, sister and I all knew we weren’t to talk to Mum or make noise during sked time. I remember most days just sitting listening to the chatter and crackle of the radio.”
Always calm under pressure, she’d manage and communicate with available tankers and mobile units to attend fires and made the task look easy.
Sue has countless stories where fire threatened the family home and Winsome was co-ordinating the fire fight behind the scenes.
During the Deep Lead fire on New Year’s Eve in 2005, Winsome was fortunately in Stawell at the time and managed communications from the station. The uncontrollable fire had reached their home and Sue says, “Mum managed the complex task of coordinating aerial bombers and tankers at the same time as she was comforting me about the situation and reassuring me that everything would be okay.”
“I also remember the Campbells Bridge fire one Christmas Day. A lightning strike caused a fire in front of the farm house. Mum was straight to the radio managing communications while my Dad, brothers and boyfriend collected the local tanker and fought to get the fire under control.”
It’s a fitting acknowledgement for the main thoroughfare at VEMTC Central Highlands be named Morris Drive in Winsome’s honour given the critical connecting role it plays at the centre.