Outstanding Service Medal presentation at Newmerella

Member News image GO Ryan Findley, Acting ACFO Don Tomkins, Des Ryan and Captain Jason Griebenow


On 16 March, ex-Captain of Newmerella Fire Brigade, Des Ryan, was awarded an Outstanding Service Medal and honoured by his brigade and peers from the group, district and Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria.


The Outstanding Service Medal is CFA’s most prestigious award that recognises prolonged service, distinguished by exceptional performance.

Group Officer Ryan Findley read out the citation and announced Des as the recipient, which was a lovely surprise to Des.

CFA District 11 Acting Assistant Chief Fire Officer Don Tomkins, who presented the medal, mentioned that this was the first one he had seen awarded. 

“This award is not just about years of service; it’s also about the work that goes alongside that,” Don said.

The nomination was made by the Orbost Group in conjunction with the Newmerella brigade and kept a secret from Des for 4 months. On receiving his award, Des thanked his wife Helen and said that “as any good firefighter knows, it's great to have a great family behind you”.

Stories were told by Orbost Captain Dick Johnstone and Newstead member Lindsay O'Toole of times on strike teams and adventures they had had.

Des Ryan has made a significant contribution to Newmerella brigade, the Newmerella community and the wider Orbost Group of brigades. After the first 14 years of his time with CFA, which included service during Ash Wednesday, Des moved to Orbost and served with Orbost Fire Brigade and later Newmerella.

Before moving to Orbost, Des was a member of Rowville brigade and was a Deputy Group Officer of the Knox Group.

Des was Captain at Newmerella for 20 years and has remained an active member of the brigade, group, and District 11, through group roles, training and assessment (specifically Minimum Skills/General Firefighter and driver training), and volunteering as a strike team leader and Sector Commander.  

Des served as a strike team leader during the 2009 campaign fires near Churchill and at the Hazelwood mine fire.  He received a National Emergency Medal in 2023 for his service during the Black Summer fires.

Des has earned the respect of his peers through his caring leadership as a strike team leader and brigade captain.  He has the ability to make tough choices in difficult situations and communicate them clearly to his crews to keep them safe and help them understand the bigger picture.

Des’s own property was impacted while leading, along with the Wairewa brigade captain, the Tostaree firefight in February 2011. He lost a shed and much of his fencing. He earned widespread respect for his dedication and the huge amount of time he spent at this incident. 

As a trainer/assessor Des has trained more than half the group's current firefighters in general firefighting skills and driving skills.

Des was recently awarded his 50-year service award.

The presentation was followed by a barbecue lunch at the Newmerella Fire Station.


  • Member News imageDon pinning on the award
  • Member News image Desmond Francis Ryan
  • Member News image Lindsay O'Toole speaking & Helen Ryan (Des's wife)
Submitted by Kylie Findley