Top honour for service to the Seymour community and surrounds

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The long service of CFA volunteer John Clarke to his community has been recognised with the Hilldene resident named amongst the 2022 Australia Day Honours recipients.


The Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM) is the top honour for an Australian firefighter, and John is one of three CFA volunteers to receive the award this year.

With more than 50 years under his belt, John said he still remembers signing up at 16 years of age to fight a significant fire at Longwood in 1965 that would eventually claim seven lives.

“My neighbour there was a lieutenant in the Seymour Rural Fire Brigade and he called my mum and dad to ask if he could take their two young, fit sons to fight the fire.

“We went out there in a 1948 Chev truck that had two nozzles so it was fairly basic.

“The modern equipment now makes firefighting so much easier and gives the crews great protection which is a great step up for crew safety.”

Having started his service with such a significant event, John has since gone on to be involved in many of the Victoria’s largest fires.

“I was over in Macedon fairly early on Ash Wednesday,” he said.

“I remember the communications weren’t great at that time, but the way they have gone now has certainly made fire management a lot easier.”

“I was also the field operations officer at Kilmore during Black Saturday and I had great support from my team down there.”

His roles during Black Saturday including the planning and coordinating of Strike Teams and Air Attack activities which saved lives and properties on the day, while he was also responsible for deploying CFA personnel to the impacted areas in the following weeks and ensuring compassionate support was available throughout.

John has held many leadership positions throughout his long service, including captain of Hilldene and Seymour Rural Fire Brigades, Group Officer of Seymour Group, and President of Hilldene Fire Brigade, as well as supporting in various Deputy Group Officer and Lieutenant capacities.

He has also received the National Medal, National Emergency Medal, and is a Life Member with both CFA and Hilldene Fire Brigade.

Having just turned 75, John has since stepped away from active duties, but remains on the books as a key support person for the Hilldene Fire Brigade.

John Clarke is one of three CFA volunteers receiving the Australian Fire Service Medal as part of this year’s Australia Day Honours, alongside Gillian Metz from Riddles Creek, and Graeme Higgs from Drouin West.

John said he was honoured to even be considered for the award.

“It’s something that I never dreamed I would get and it’s a pinnacle of my career.

“I was over the moon when I heard about it because it’s not only a great a honour for me, but for all the people I’ve worked with. It’s a reward for all my fellow volunteers as well.

John is a passionate advocate for CFA, and said joining a brigade is a great way for young people to learn skills.

“You learn to support each other in the tanker and on the ground, and it’s a great way for younger people to learn to work in a team environment in harsh conditions.

“Step up, give it a go, and enjoy the experience.”



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Submitted by CFA Media