Peter Solly ASM has given more than half a century of his life to CFA and today, his dedication will be rewarded as he receives the prestigious Australian Fire Service medial (AFSM).
Mr Solly is currently an active operational firefighter with the Werrap Fire Brigade and notably, much of his exceptional service to Wimmera communities has been in the role of Group Officer of the Rainbow Group.
“I grew up on a farm and joined the Werrap Fire Brigade because that’s just what everyone did when they were living and working on farms,” said Mr Solly.
“I then went to university and ended up teaching in Lake Bolac in 1977 when the fires went through Streatham so I saw what the impacts could be of a major fire.
“When I moved back to Rainbow a few years later, I was asked to help manage the Group, so I became the Communications Officer and then into the Group Officer’s role.
Since then, Mr Solly was Group Officer of Rainbow Group for 28 years, and has played significant roles in several major incidents, both on the ground and in Incident Management Teams.
“We had a fairly major fire in Big Desert National Park in 2014, which flew under the radar a little bit as there were bigger fires elsewhere in the state, but it was quite challenging.
“I was also the Planning Officer for the first of the big fires on Black Saturday at Horsham, and I remember thinking we’d had a hard day, then we heard the news and realised others had been through even harder days.
“There’s been some big challenges, but it’s very satisfying to work with an amazing team of people including CFA volunteers and staff, and DELWP FFMVic crews in the Horsham ICCs as well.
Mr Solly said he has also been involved in several deployments, including to North East Victoria during the 2003 and 2006 fires where he was part of Strike Teams as well as acting in incident management roles.
“I’ve had some satisfaction in what I’ve done. I’m involved in a wide range of people who are in the CFA.
“I’ve been in a tight spot and have had my own fires and have been helped out, but when you’re in a situation when someone else is in strife, well you get a lot of satisfaction in helping people out.
He is known among his community as an outstanding leader and team builder who is highly respected for his wisdom, his strategic approach and his technical knowledge.
His incident management abilities have been recognised and valued across the emergency services sector both in Victoria and other jurisdictions.
Mr Solly’s commitment has seen him also hold a role as a member of the District Planning Committee (DPC) and has done significant work in developing strategies to address declining populations and the increasing average age of brigade memberships in rural Victoria.
These strategies are contributing to the delivering of reliable, effective services to small country districts.
Mr Solly is one of seven CFA members to receive the AFSM as part of the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
“It’s an honour, and I’m quite humbled by it,” he said.
“There are hundreds, if not thousands of others who deserve this just as much, so this is on behalf of lots of others who are equally deserving but may fly under the radar.”
Mr Solly has provided dedicated and committed service to the CFA, and to rural communities in Victoria, throughout his long volunteer career.