Eight RFS members awarded Australian Fire Service Medal


Eight RFS members have been recognised for their hard work and dedication to the community as part of the 2024 Australia Day Honours list.

Roberta Colbran, Grose Wold Rural Brigade (Hawkesbury)

Deputy Captain Roberta (Bobbie) Colbran has been a member of the NSW Rural Fire Service for 50 years.

In 1973, Bobbie joined Blacktown District Brigade and become an active firefighter and part of the ‘radio standby group’. Bobbie held the positions of Deputy Captain, as well as Secretary and First Aid Officer.

Deputy Captain Colbran moved to the Hawkesbury District in 1986 and joined the Grose Wold Brigade. She again became part of the after-hours radio group in the early 1990s, a role Bobbie still fulfils to this day. Bobbie held the position of Deputy Captain from 1994 to 2000 and re-elected in 2012 and still holds this position today.

Bobbie has served as Callout Officer, First Aid Officer and Permit Issuing Officer. Bobbie was Secretary of the Grose Wold Brigade for 17 years until she joined as a dual member of the Tennyson Brigade in 2010.

In 1988, Bobbie joined the Hawkesbury Communications Brigade in 1988 and has held the position of Vice President, Secretary and the position of Communications Captain and currently holds the rank of Deputy Captain.

Bobbie maintains her firefighting qualifications to ensure operational readiness. She is a well-respected person in the community and is also highly respected in the RFS, both in the Hawkesbury District and further afield.

Bobbie’s service has been instrumental in building a lasting and effective communications function within the Hawkesbury District. Her leadership, passion and dedication to the service of the community and her brigade has been instrumental in the building of a bright future. Bobbie's service as an after-hours Duty Officer stands as a testament to her readiness to respond to emergencies at all hours. Her duties have ranged from managing motor vehicle accidents to tackling bush and grass fires, pile burns, and structural fires, showcasing her versatility and poise in high-pressure situations.

In this time Bobby has had to remain a calm and effective communications leader during the worst of incidents, including through loss of life and significant loss of property.

In conclusion, Roberta, or Bobbie as she is fondly known, embodies the very essence of commitment, dedication, and selflessness within the NSW Rural Fire Service. Her impressive 50-year journey, marked by outstanding leadership, exceptional qualifications, and an unwavering spirit, undoubtedly merits the highest recognition.

Deputy Captain Bobbie Colbran has provided exemplary and distinguished service to the RFS for 50 years and would be a worthy recipient of the AFSM.

Keith Thomas Driver, Lowanna Rural Fire Brigade (Coffs Harbour)

Group Captain (Retired) Keith Driver joined the Bullaburra Brigade in 1977. Moving to the Coffs Coast District in 1991, he joined Lowanna Brigade and bought with him extensive experience in forest and grassland firefighting.

For more than 40 years, Group Captain (Retired) Driver has demonstrated exceptional leadership, commitment and achievement in many areas. He has been responsible for establishing training programs across brigades and provides positive reinforcement and resolution of issues. He is a supportive mentor to members and readily imparts his extensive knowledge of firefighting and fire behaviour.

He has held the role of Captain, Deputy Group Officer and Group Officer. Since 2008, he has been a member of the Senior Leadership Team and remains an operational member of the Lowanna Brigade.

He has a calming approach in emergency situations, through leadership and liaison between all levels of the RFS. Keith led the chainsaw training duties and is regularly called to use those skills in the District. He also undertook the Heavy Plant Management role to utilise his talents during major fires.

He is well known and respected by his peers in the District, with his advice and assistance regularly sought. He frequently volunteers his service above and beyond that expected and is always willing to assist whenever requested.

Group Captain (Retired) Driver leads by example and promotes personal development and teamwork. He has become a leading example to members through his commitment to operational response, community engagement and training.

He has been integral in creating a specialised all day driver training program along local trails where different skills are required for different stages and all participants are required to drive part of the distance. The program became so popular all brigades in the District are now awaiting opportunity to attend his ‘tag-a-long’ training day. The day teaches 4-wheel driving skills, provides area familiarisation and promotes teamwork and bonding.

Keith also saw the need for a specialised driving skill day for female members, with all who attend find it an exceptional day and extremely beneficial.

Group Captain (Retired) Driver’s devotion to duty, leadership and loyalty and his unselfish performance of duty is beyond question. He would be a worthy recipient of the Australian Fire Service Medal.

Michael Gilder, Gummun Rural Fire Brigade (Upper Hunter)

Group Captain Michael Gilder has been a member of the NSW Rural Fire Service for 45 years. In his teens, he joined the Brindley Park Rural Fire Brigade (now Gummun) and has held Deputy Captain and Captain roles. Over the years, he has also held the roles of Brigade Training Officer, RFSA Brigade Representative, Equipment Officer and Community Engagement Officer.

Group Captain Gilder is an active member of the Liverpool Range Senior Management Team and actively participates in setting the future direction of the District. He is widely respected across the District for his operational management of emergencies, leadership and effective communication across the Service and partner agencies.
Group Captain Gilder’s knowledge, skills and business management have also contributed to the development of the Brigade and

District. He works closely with the ten brigades under his command and control in areas such as recruitment, business management and training/assessment of volunteer members. He is highly regarded for his efforts, leadership and capability by all those who work with him.

In 2019, utilising his management skills, he planned and managed a comprehensive multi-agency District Exercise involving other emergency services, Police and land managers. Organisations combined to undertake a variety of emergency management scenarios. The exercise was deemed a great success by all who attended.

During the 2019/2020 fire season, he demonstrated his extensive skills in local knowledge, communication, leadership and forward planning of the ‘Meads West’ bush fire emergency.

Group Captain Gilder held the roles of Divisional Commander, Fire Ground Management and RFS Liaison Officer for the large Goulburn River Section 44 fire. This required him to face hazardous conditions on the fire-ground leading many fire crews through his area of responsibility.

Group Captain Gilder has provided distinguished service for 45 years making him a worthy recipient of the Australian Fire Service Medal.

Paul William Jones (Lake George)

Superintendent Paul Jones commenced as a retained firefighter with NSW Fire Brigades in Taree in 1984. Four years later he joined the ACT Fire Brigade where he remained for nine years, becoming a specialist in vertical, confined space and road crash rescue and a specialist trainer.

Whilst balancing his salaried roles over the years, he has been an active firefighter with the Williamsdale and North Rothbury Rural Fire Brigades of the NSW RFS.

In 1997, he was appointed Learning and Development Officer in the RFS Cessnock District. Providing quality training across his District, and other areas in recognition of his skills and knowledge as a training coordinator and technical knowledge of structural firefighting. He regularly acted in senior operational roles, developing high level Incident Management skills.

Since 2007, Superintendent Jones has held District Manager roles in the Hunter Valley, Lakes Team and now Lake George District. He has led all three districts through numerous challenging fires, including the unprecedented 2019/20 fire season. He continually displays the highest level of care for members and attends incidents regularly in support of their activities.

As an Incident Controller, he has managed many large challenging fires across NSW and other jurisdictions. He is now recognised as one of the most experienced Incident Controller's in NSW. In 2017, he was deployed to Canada as an Incident Controller.

His training skills have been utilised internationally in Malaysia and Singapore, as part of development and officer exchange programs.

Superintendent Jones has been instrumental in improving and implementing new infrastructure in Districts he has worked, along with developing the capabilities of local members to ensure the highest level of service to the community.

Superintendent Jones has given distinguished service throughout his 39 years as volunteer and salaried officer and would be a worthy recipient of the Australian Fire Service Medal.

Barry William Myers, Kariong Rural Fire Brigade (Central Coast)

Mr Barry Myers joined the Kariong Brigade in 1994 and has held the positions of Deputy Captain, Senior Deputy Captain, and Captain. In 2003, he was elected Deputy Group Captain and Group Captain from 2008 to 2018. Following a short break after moving out of the area, Mr Myers returned to a Group Officer position in 2020 and currently holds the rank of Group Captain (Central Coast District). He is also an active member of the Kingswood Brigade in the Tamworth area.

In addition to operational leadership roles, Mr Myers has held positions of President, Vice President and Brigade Training Officer. Throughout his 28 years of service, Mr Myers has shown exceptional leadership skills in operations, brigade management and mentoring. Within the Central Coast, Mr Myers has undertaken significant operational leadership roles in the 2001, 2002 and 2019 major bush fire events; the 1998 Newcastle Disease outbreak; and the 2007, 2015, 2021 and 2022 East Coast Low and flood events. Out of area deployments include the 2017 and 2022 Northern NSW floods, the 2019-20 black summer bush fires and deployment in 2023 to the Northern Territory to support the first nations people and the community in the Alice Springs area.

Mr Myers’ willingness to travel around NSW, and to other states, supporting communities in need is unwavering and his compassion towards those communities impacted is synonymous with his kind-hearted nature. He supports members through the local Group Officer Mentoring Program to ensure operational leadership capability into the future and is a role model for many members.

For the past three years, Mr Myers has provided significant logistics and maintenance support to the district, often volunteering five days a week in this role. These duties have ensured the fleet and associated firefighting equipment is maintained and operational. The distinguished service and commitment demonstrated by Mr Myers to the NSW Rural Fire Service and the NSW community is outstanding.

George Alfred Nicholson, Grattai Rural Fire Brigade (Cudgegong)

Group Captain George Nicholson joined the Grattai Rural Fire Brigade in 1978 and has been a dedicated and diligent member of the NSW Rural Fire Service for 45 years.

George's pragmatic, unassuming leadership style and ability to 'just get the job done' led him to be elected a Group Officer in 2014, a role he continues to undertake with the utmost integrity and professionalism.

George's extensive local knowledge, advocacy and relatability has been instrumental in supporting brigades in the Cudgegong District with recruitment, training and improving equipment and facilities.

Group Captain Nicholson can be credited with implementing firefighting strategies at a number of major fires, saving countless lives and assets. Notably in 2017, he was Divisional Commander on the day the Kains Flat fire started in catastrophic conditions. He calmly and safely led crews to successfully hold the fire's progression, saving a village, as well as mining and critical electrical infrastructure.

In March 2023, he worked tirelessly during the Alpha Rd fire, when entrusted to lead firefighters in the extreme conditions and difficult terrain for many consecutive days.

Group Captain George Nicholson’s distinguished 45 years of service with the NSW RFS make him a worthy recipient of the Australian Fire Service Medal.

John Thomas Page, Coaldale Rural Fire Brigade (Clarence Valley)

Group Captain John Page joined the Coaldale Brigade in 1973. In 2001, he was elected Captain, a position he held for nine years. His dedication, knowledge and skills in relation to firefighting were then recognised by his appointment in 2010 to the position of Group Captain (Clarence Valley District), a position still held today.

Group Captain Page is a trusted leader and quiet achiever who makes good judgement calls under pressure and shows reliability and commitment, attending many incident callouts in the District over many years.

He has demonstrated a committed approach to membership of the RFS and has been heavily involved in mentoring and training of members. This has been particularly difficult in the remote rural areas under his command, however his perseverance and patience is seeing many brigades in his Group area step up and participate in current training pathways. He has also held the roles of Brigade President, Permit Officer, First Aid Officer and Rural Fire Service Association Representative.

Group Captain Page has been active in many local and out of area fire campaigns, including the most recent 2019/2020 fire season where, as Divisional Commander, he led several Clarence Valley crews working under difficult conditions to protect life and property.

Despite himself and the crews under his command being faced with many scenes of devastation and destruction, his resolute leadership complemented the determination of the crews resulting in several properties and lives being saved in the Coongbar area.

Group Captain John Page’s distinguished service has been of significant benefit to the RFS, the Clarence Valley District and his local community.

For his outstanding contributions as a volunteer over many years as a member of the Coaldale Brigade and Group Captain in the Clarence Valley District, Group Captain John Page would be a worthy recipient of the Australian Fire Service Medal.

Barry Lawrence Richard, Jenolan Caves Rural Fire Brigade (Chifley Lithgow)

Mr Barry Richard joined Blaxland brigade in 1965 and was the Foundation Captain of the Jenolan Caves Rural Fire Brigade in 1979.  He was elected a life member of the brigade in 1998. Being one of the founding members of the brigade in 1979, he was elected Captain and served through to 2002, then Deputy Group Captain and Group Captain for Chifley Lithgow.

During the 2019-20 devastating fire season, Mr Richard was appointed a divisional commander in the Jenolan Caves/Oberon sector, as part of a strike team with other agencies to save Jenolan Caves House, as well as working on the western edge of the Green Wattle Fire. Jenolan Caves House was surrounded by fire and he worked with other fire agencies to ensure the area was protected. He and his team were isolated with no way in or out of the valley and had to shelter in place under the grand arch as the fire swept through.

Mr Richard remains active and responds to remote locations where terrain is difficult to access with large fire trucks. His love and passion for the NSW RFS is evident through his ongoing commitment to the Chifley Lithgow Brigade, making sure that all training is up to date and is currently the First Aid Trainer for the Chifley Lithgow District to ensure the brigades can best support the community in times of need.

Mr Richard continues to be a strong leader for the Chifley Lithgow District, willing to provide mentoring, support and direction in operational and non-operational activities.  He has served the NSW RFS with distinction for over five decades.

Contact Name: State Duty Media Officer

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