Panton Hill CFA veteran honoured with AFSM

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Neil Marshall’s long and distinguished service to CFA spans more than 61 years.


The Panton Hill Fire Brigade member has been awarded an Australian Fire Service Medal in the 2023 Australia Day Honours for his exemplary contribution to the emergency services and communities of Victoria.

He has consistently demonstrated commitment to CFA in various emergency management roles including firefighter through to Deputy Chair of CFA’s Board, and his qualifications and experience in depression, stress and anxiety education, equal opportunities and his membership of several CFA welfare and wellbeing committees, is widely recognised and appreciated by brigade members.

“Receiving the AFSM was a bit of a surprise,” Neil said. “I’m pleased that my roles as a staff member and volunteer have been recognised.”

Neil joined Panton Hill Fire Brigade in 1960 just before the devastating 1962 fires that destroyed over 180 homes in the Panton Hill, St Andrews and North Warrandyte area. Since then, Neil has been involved in fighting many local fires as well many other large fires throughout Victoria including the devastating Ash Wednesday fires.

After the Ash Wednesday fires and the loss of five Panton Hill brigade volunteers, a group of brigade members including Neil as secretary, formed the Panton Hill Firefighters Welfare Trust to raise and distribute donations to the affected families. Neil gave significant help to the families by arranging welfare and support services. Even now, Neil continues to provide support to members and their immediate families who are still suffering from the memories of Ash Wednesday.

"I was the secretary of Panton Hill brigade on Ash Wednesday. We lost five members of the brigade and it has always affected me,” Neil said. “Since then, I have been interested in the welfare of our volunteers.”

At a corporate level, Neil was Deputy Chair of the CFA Board for five years, Acting Chair for six months and also chaired many CFA working parties. He also sponsored and supported the first Critical Incident Stress Debriefing training.

“When I was Deputy Chair of the Board, I chaired a working party that developed the first peer support system.”

He also has extensive emergency management experience throughout Australia:

  • In 1988 he was seconded to the position of Director Fire and Emergency Services (now known as Emergency Management Commissioner) with the Ministry of Police and Emergency Services to provide direction for state emergency management control. 
  • Neil was a founding member of the District 14 Headquarters East Brigade and because of his background and experience he provides incident control centre logistics and communications training to other members of the brigade.
  • In 2001 Neil was elected the Group Communications Officer for the Lower Yarra Group of brigades and for the next 12 years was involved in training group radio operators and leading the communications vehicle team in many of the large fires throughout Victoria.
  • While on a trip to the US in 1988, the then Chief Officer Brian Potter was introduced to the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and on return discussed its potential use and development within CFA. Neil investigated the NIMS system in operation at the San Mateo Incident Control Centre in California and on his return worked with the Chief Officer to help develop and champion the introduction of an Australian equivalent now known as the Australian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMS) into the CFA. He played an important role helping to develop and write the initial AIIMS manual.
  • As a result of his involvement in the Lower Yarra Group, and the fact he had witnessed issues with brigade resource tracking, Neil recommended that CFA adopt the Strike Team book that his group had developed to standardise the logging and tracking of strike team resources. This book is still in use today.

“Working on AIIMS was an exciting time. Looking back, I’m really proud to have worked with Brian to introduce AIIMS to Australia,” Neil said.


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Submitted by Duncan Russell