Inspirational leader receives firefighting’s highest honour

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Dawn Hartog AFSM is highly regarded within CFA and across the emergency management sector for her dedication, compassion and outstanding leadership.


She has been recognised for her exceptional contribution with an Australian Fire Service Medal in the 2023 King’s Birthday Honours.

“I had to re-read the email three times to make sure it was correct,” Dawn said.

“I then thought of all of the people before me who have been awarded an AFSM - the award that is the highest accolade we can receive in the sector - and I was humbled that I was considered for such an award.

“I still feel like I have so much to give and being recognised for what I have already contributed is a true honour.”

Dawn Hartog’s broad emergency management experience coupled with her compassionate and inclusive nature has established her as a trusted leader and advocate for CFA members.

Joining CFA in 2005 as a Community Development Coordinator, her experience living in Kinglake during the 2009 fires prompted her to join CFA volunteer ranks. She became a member of Toolangi Fire Brigade in 2012 and held several leadership roles before being elected Captain in 2017. Dawn’s volunteer contribution and broad-reaching experience and influence in the emergency and risk management sectors led to her appointment to the CFA Board in 2019, where she supported CFA through a significant period of change with Fire Services Reform.

An active firefighter, Dawn regularly attends fire calls, car accidents, rescues and emergency medical calls. She has led incident control and crews on the frontline for fires, storms and floods and was deployed as part of strike teams to the 2019-20 fires. An accredited Level 3 Public Information Officer, Dawn works in Incident Management Teams in the field, at Incident Control Centres and at the State Control Centre during over the fire season and during major state emergencies. She has also performed the roles of Deputy Group Officer for Yea Group of fire brigades and District 12’s Planning Committee Chair.

Dawn has actively engaged in the education, leadership and training of others within brigades, incident management teams and the community over the course of her time at CFA, making a significant contribution to increasing community safety in Victoria. This has included the development of programs that strengthen the skills and experience of others in emergency management and disaster resilience.

Dawn champions diversity in her brigade, CFA and broader sector through directly supporting and empowering women, youth and diverse members in CFA at events, committees and forums. In addition to captain, Dawn has led her brigade’s Junior volunteers, and is currently still a Junior Leader. She also sits on CFA’s Young Adults Advisory Committee providing her with a direct ability to support the development of young volunteers.

“For CFA to continue to be the backbone of our community, we need to get new generations involved,” Dawn said.

“Along with their membership comes new and diverse ways of thinking, working and responding. This is one of the real strengths of our younger members.

“My daughter has recently signed up as a Junior member, and I hope she gets just as much satisfaction as I do in doing her part for our communities.”

Dawn has directly influenced and advocated for gender equality at CFA. She is a member of CFA's Women's Advisory Committee where she provides advice and expertise on emerging issues and matters that have relevance for members. She has championed the establishment of a forum for women captains which has given a voice to women in CFA brigade leadership roles and also provides support to other women members as a formal and informal mentor.

“I have seen and been a part of some of the change that is occurring as a result of more women joining CFA and the broader emergency services,” Dawn said.

“There is a strength and new ways of looking at things that I think women bring to our sector. You can see this change actually benefiting the entire membership, whether it be through improvements to PPC or the way our vehicles are designed.”    

Across her many years of service to CFA, Dawn said it’s the people that make the experience special.

“I am always in awe that every single one of our members continue to freely give of themselves and their time for the wider communities and environment in Victoria, and across our nation,” Dawn said.

“I have worked with and met so many incredible people and heard so many inspiring stories.

“CFA members come from such a wide variety of sectors, backgrounds and jobs - and yet we all come together to try and keep the homes and communities we love safe.

“And we do this as a team. That is what I truly love.”


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Submitted by CFA Media