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Fire officers recognised in Queen's Birthday Honours

Published: 12th June 2013

Fire & Rescue NSW Commissioner Greg Mullins today congratulated the five FRNSW fire officers who were awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal, as part of the 2013 Queen's Birthday Honours.

The Australian Fire Service Medal is one of the highest honours an Australian firefighter can receive. The medal is awarded to firefighters who have demonstrated exceptional service, initiative and performance during their careers – well beyond the normal expectations of a person working in their position.

The five FRNSW recipients were:

  • Chief Superintendent Christopher Lewis – Greenacre
  • Station Officer Graham Tait – Alexandria
  • Senior Firefighter Cathryn Dorahy – Wollongong
  • Captain Robert Tinker – Parkes
  • Captain Paul (Billy) Darrell – Canowindra

Commissioner Mullins said the recipients were all dedicated and outstanding fire officers.

"Each of the recipients of this prestigious medal has demonstrated an exceptional level of service and commitment for FRNSW and to the community, some for many years.

"Whether it's contributing to fire safety in their local communities, mentoring young aspiring firefighters or the development of national training packages or legislation, each of these fire officers has made an invaluable contribution to FRNSW and the people of NSW," he said.

'None of our firefighters perform these roles for public recognition but the contribution they make to protect our community deserves our gratitude.

"These awards thank the members of our emergency services for their work and commitment to serving our community and I congratulate all of the FRNSW recipients."

Background on FRNSW Australian Fire Service Medal recipients

Chief Superintendent Christopher Lewis

Chief Superintendent Chris Lewis was appointed to Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) in April 1980 and has served for over 33 years, providing professional service to the people of NSW.

He has played a critical role in new and innovative fire investigation methods at both the state and national level. He led the reconstruction research burns in the aftermath of the tragic Quakers Hill Nursing Home fire which resulted in securing legislative change to mandate the fitting of sprinklers in all residential aged care facilities. He has overseen the state's fire investigation methodologies which has resulted in an almost 50% reduction in arson related fires in NSW since 2001.

Chris is highly regarded amongst his peers and other emergency service personnel throughout Australia and internationally for his immense knowledge, passion and dedication to this highly specialised and demanding field.

Station Officer Graham Tait

Station Officer Graham Tait was appointed to FRNSW in June 1982 and has served for 30 years, providing professional service to the people of NSW.

He has dedicated the last eight years of his service to the specialist field of Operational Communications where he has provided exemplary leadership in the specialist area of emergency communications systems. His skills were put to the full test during his deployment to the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake and Japanese Tsunami disasters.

Graham is highly regarded amongst his peers and other emergency service personnel throughout Australia and internationally for his immense knowledge, passion and dedication to this highly specialised and demanding field.

Senior Firefighter Cathryn Dorahy

Senior Firefighter Cathryn Dorahy has served as a member of FRNSW with distinction for 19 years. During this time she has dedicated herself to improving fire safety outcomes or identified at-risk members of the community, and in particular has worked tirelessly to form links with Islamic women, who were not being reached effectively by traditional fire service education programs. In 2004 she travelled to the UK and Lebanon to research best practice fire safety education programs targeted to the needs of Islamic women, made a series of recommendations to the Commissioner, and helped implement new approaches.

In 2005, Senior Firefighter Dorahy became a foundation member of Women and Firefighting Australia, continuing another of her passions – promoting firefighting to women and girls as an interesting and rewarding career choice. Senior Firefighter Dorahy, in the capacity of National Secretary of WAFFA, helped to build the organization from humble beginnings to one that has members in every state and territory, and she has been the driving force behind the bi-annual national conferences that provide invaluable professional development and networking opportunities for women who work as firefighters in aviation, land management, urban and volunteer rural fire agencies. She has personally mentored dozens of women who have entered the firefighting profession, and has worked with management and in particular the Human Resources Directorate to improve recruitment and retention practices to increase the number of women employed as firefighters.

Senior Firefighter Dorahy has always been prepared to assist a worthy cause, and has readily volunteered to assist over the years with tasks as diverse as a Lifeline Contact Officer, Critical Incident Stress Program peer, speaker at the annual conference of the NSW Government Spokeswomen's Program, interview panel member for the Ambulance Service of NSW, and volunteer at Wollongong University’s Girl’s Career Week. Whilst doing all of this, Senior Firefighter Dorahy has continued to work as a front line firefighter, responding to thousands of fires, accidents, natural disasters and other emergencies. She is an exemplary and highly respected member of the firefighting profession.

Captain Robert John Tinker

Captain Tinker was appointed to FRNSW on 1 November 1968 and has served for 45 years, providing professional service to the people of NSW and particularly the community of Parkes.

As the Captain of the Parkes Brigade, he has been directly responsible for influencing improvements to fire service delivery by working very closely with other emergency services and through effective planning, consultation and team building, has influenced a positive shift in workplace culture and work practices.

He is recognised as a mentor to younger firefighters, not just in Parkes, but across the western regions of the state. His work amongst the Parkes community has enhanced the reputation of FRNSW and particularly the Parkes Brigade as a well respected and vital asset to the community of NSW.

Captain Paul (Billy) Darrell

Captain Paul (Billy) Darrell joined Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) at Canowindra as a retained firefighter on 1 June 1969 and less than 10 years later he was appointed the Captain on 14 April 1979, a position which he continues to hold today.

He is renowned throughout rural NSW as a keen advocator of operational training programmes, particularly the Firefighting Championships held regularly throughout regional NSW. His crew at Canowindra are recognised as a well rehearsed and professional emergency service, able to respond and deal with all types of emergencies and natural disasters.

He is recognised throughout the Canowindra community, not just as a firefighter, but also as a hard working business person with a floor covering/furniture business, three sheep/wheat farms and a dedicated member of numerous sporting and community groups. He is highly respected by his peers in FRNSW and in the other Canowindra emergency services for his dedication to the community and in particular his Brigade.