One of the architects of community safety messages and action plans following the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires has been honoured with an Australian Fire Services Medal in the 2019 Australia Day Honours.
Gwynne Brennan, who was most recently CFA’s Executive Manager Community, spent almost two decades dedicated to community bushfire preparedness and resilience with the authority.
Ms Brennan received the medal for her outstanding contribution to the safety of the Victorian community through her leadership, vision, energy, enthusiasm and passion for CFA volunteers, and the safety of the community. Her extensive experience in public information gives her the ability to continually look at improvements that will support timely advice to communities whilst considering activities that communities can participate in before, during, and after a major fire incident.
Following the 2009 bushfires, she led the Community Engagement team in implementing programs to support the recommendations from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, whilst testing new approaches to engage communities in the creation of bushfire action plans.
“The whole rulebook was re-written that day and a core group was established very quickly who brought together our new messages. You could say we were some of the architects of the Fire Danger Ratings system and how we use them to help people make better decisions about their safety,” Ms Brennan said.
“It was a challenging time - a lot of work was put in by a lot of people and I’m honoured to be recognised for leadership and commitment.”
Ms Brennan has served the Country Fire Authority (CFA) in Victoria as a volunteer firefighter, staff member and a key leader in Incident Management Teams for over 19 years. During this period she has been a leader within the Community Safety area with a strong focus on community resilience, engagement and safety. She was responsible for many of the CFA Programs that sat within the Bushfire Preparedness Program.
“I’m particularly honoured as a woman to receive this award for the work I’ve done in prevention and preparedness. Not to take anything away from the firefighters, but honoured that this important work is recognised as well.”
Many years working in Incident Management Teams, has given her the experience required to work in communities during fire events, with an in-depth understanding of how the current emergency situation is impacting communities.
Now Director of Communications and Engagement at the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA), Ms Brennan, spoke fondly of her time at CFA.
“I’m not with CFA anymore but I never stop talking to people about bushfires and safety,” she said.
“My work at EPA is also around emergency management and the protection of health and the environment through preventing harm from pollution and waste, so I haven’t moved too far away from the community safety space.”