Eight RFS members recognised on Queen's Birthday


Eight NSW Rural Fire Service members are receiving the Australian Fire Service Medals (AFSM) in the 2022 Queen's Birthday Honour list. The AFSM was instituted in 1988 and recognises those who have rendered distinguished service as a member of the Australian fire service.

The NSW RFS recipients of the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) are:

  • Louis Cassar – Lower Hunter
  • Scott Crosweller – Northern Beaches
  • Krystall Hinds – Southern Tablelands
  • John Reed – Snowy Monaro
  • John Smith – Murrumbidgee
  • Brett Turner – Macarthur
  • Fred Turner – Hunter Valley
  • Barry Whalan – Orana

Deputy Group Captain Louis Anthony CASSAR - Medowie Brigade, Lower Hunter

Mr Louis Cassar officially joined Medowie Brigade in 1976. After two years he was elected Deputy Captain, before becoming Captain from 1984 to 2015. In 2005, he was appointed Lower Hunter Deputy Group Captain and currently is Group Captain. He has been a member of the local Bush Fire Management Committee since 1985 and has also held terms as President of the Port Stephens branch of the Bush Fire Brigades Association.

Mr Cassar has put his numerous qualifications into practice as a Leader/Controller responding locally, out-of-area and interstate to campaign fires, the Newcastle Earthquake, the '94 fires, storms, floods and other incidents. In all of these, he has displayed dedication, enthusiasm and above all, leadership.

Working tirelessly to promote his group and the Service, Mr Cassar gives his total commitment. He engages with a range of community organisations such as scouts, preschools, primary schools, Rotary, Senior Citizens and others to promote the RFS and fire safety.

In 2009 he was awarded life membership of Medowie Brigade.

As a progressive leader, Mr Cassar accepted and promoted any change that he believed would ultimately be beneficial to the community and has been instrumental in encouraging his fellow volunteers to keep pace with training and technological advances. Having witnessed firefighting techniques evolve from wet hessian bags to the high-tech equipment employed today, he not only appreciates how best to use and harness the benefits of these resources, but also has the ability to pass this knowledge to others.

Leading by example, Mr Cassar expects a professional response from those under his care and is always ready to mentor or assist others, earning great respect. Mr Louis Cassar genuinely makes his commitment for the benefit of the community in which he grew up and raised a family.

Group Captain Scott Andrew CROSWELLER - Warringah Pittwater Headquarters Brigade, Northern Beaches

Mr Scott Crosweller has been a member of the Warringah Pittwater Headquarters Brigade since 1985 and was voted as a Life Member in 2000.

Mr Crosweller has been part of the response to many incidents including the 1988 Morton National Park fires in Nowra, 1994 Eastern Seaboard fires, 1996 Eastern Suburbs hail storm, 2006 Cromer fires, the 2013 West Head fire and the ferocious 2019-2020 bushfires.

As Brigade Captain, Mr Crosweller was instrumental in securing land for a Headquarters station and raising funds for its construction. He was promoted to District Group Officer in 2000, then Group Captain in 2006, a position he still holds.

Mr Crosweller has performed as Strike Team Leader, Divisional Commander and Operations Officer and as part of the Northern Beaches Operations team, he has coordinated major responses to large bushfire events. He represents the District's 17 Brigades on numerous RFS  committees, chairing or participating in meetings of the Northern Beaches Bush Fire Management Committee, Senior Management Team, District Advisory Committee and Group Officers Advisory Committee, many District sub-committees and a volunteer donations fund committee. In addition, he also attends local stations numerous times a year to address the members and guide and mentor officers.

From 2017 until its release in 2020, Mr Crosweller undertook the role as chair of the process to develop the RFS Northern Beaches District Strategic Plan and he has also contributed to positive cultural change, creating an environment of mutual respect and continuous improvement.

Mr Scott Crosweller has made a longstanding effort and commitment to members of the RFS Northern District.

Group Captain Krystaal Meta HINDS - Gunning-Fish River Brigade, Southern Tablelands

Ms Krystaal Hinds has been a volunteer member of the NSW RFS since 1998, when she joined the then Gunning Town Brigade, more recently the Gunning-Fish River Brigade.

Ms Hinds is recognised for her leadership, and as a role model and supportive mentor for her fellow volunteers, particularly young women joining the organisation. Her commitment as a volunteer has long been demonstrated in the numerous operational and administrative roles she has undertaken, including as Brigade Secretary, Training Officer, Deputy Captain and Brigade Captain.

Over the 2019/2020 fire season she was deployed to numerous fires, including the Northern NSW fires as a strike team leader and Divisional Commander on multiple occasions.

After serving as Deputy Group Captain for three years, Ms Hinds is currently a Group Captain in the Southern Tablelands RFS District. During her tenure as the Gunning-Fish River Brigade Captain, Ms Hinds worked diligently with the community and her Brigade members to increase recruitment, with a particular focus on attracting more junior and female volunteers. These efforts resulted in a thirty per cent increase in the number of young members and women in the Brigade, reflecting Ms Hinds' genuine commitment to ensuring the Brigade reflected the community it served.

A driving force in the establishment of a training centre for the Gunning Brigade station, Ms Hinds has been heavily involved in District-level training, delivering Bush Fire Fighter, Village Fire Fighter, Advanced Fire Fighter and Crew Leader courses. In addition to these commitments, Ms Hinds has dedicated significant time as an active member of the NSW Rural Fire Service Association, representing RFS volunteers on a number of committees and projects.

Ms Krystaal Hinds has served her community and the NSW RFS with distinction and dedication for 24 years.

Group Captain John Patrick REED - Craigie Brigade, Snowy Monaro

Mr John Reed has given exceptional service to the Monaro community as a NSW RFS firefighter for the past 45 years.

Mr Reed joined the Craigie Brigade in 1974 and has held positions including Deputy Captain, Captain, Deputy Group Captain and Group Captain. As an active and engaged leader within the Monaro RFS District, he has advocated strongly both for volunteer fire fighters and his community and is widely respected. He has made a significant contribution as Chair of the Bombala and Snowy Monaro Bush Fire Management Committees (BFMC) and has been a member the Bombala Council and RFS Service Agreement Committee, Bombala Fire Control Centre Construction Working Group, BFMC Risk Management Plan Working Group, Eastern Border NSW/Victoria Cross Border Firefighting Committee and Region South Group Captains Forum, among others.

Mr Reed's local knowledge and firefighting experience has been critical in ensuring these forums have made appropriate decisions to benefit the community. His operational roles include Forward Control at Delegate for the Victorian fires (2014), Divisional Commander for the Michelago/Tea-Tree (2009) and Yarrabin (2013) fires and in multiple locations during 2019 and 2020.

Mr Reed is an Instructor and Assessor for First Aid and Bush Fire Fighter training and an Instructor for the RFS Secondary School Cadet Program at Bombala High School, training more than 200 cadets. His commitment to the community also extends to his service as an instructor with the State Emergency Service and Country Fire Authority at Bendoc. He served his country in the Vietnam conflict and until recently was an Australian Army Instructor, joining the WWI re-enactment Men from Snowy River' march from Delegate to Sydney (2016).

Mr John Reed has demonstrated distinguished service through his leadership and commitment, displaying professionalism in the delivery of firefighting resources and services to his fellow volunteers and the Monaro community over more than four decades.

Retired Group Captain John Corneille SMITH - Coleambally Brigade, Murrumbidgee

Mr John Smith joined the Coleambally Brigade in 1976, taking on the Captain's role the following year. He has also held the positions of Permit Officer, OH&S Officer, Secretary/ Treasurer and Training Officer.

In 1999, Mr Smith became a Deputy Group Captain and in 2003, Group Captain. He has led several strike teams to out-of-area incidents, including the Black Saturday fires in 2009, Canberra, Tumbarumba and into Springwood the day after the town was devastated by fire in 2013. He also joined four strike teams in various locations in the 2019-20 fire season.

Since becoming a fire investigator in 2008, Mr Smith has investigated and reported on multiple fires, including being deployed to Cooma for seven days in 2020. He takes a lead role in mentoring younger volunteers within the MIA District and as a member of the District Training Group, he coordinated the Village Firefighter course for a number of years, using his experience as a science teacher to explain the chemical reaction of fire. He organised District exercises in Coleambally and still assists with Basic Firefighter, Village, Crew Leader and Rural Fire Driving courses.

To support the SES in the Murrumbidgee Valley floods of March 2012, Mr Smith took on the role of forward command, liaising with the community, SES and local council. He participates in community engagement activities, assisting with the Secondary Schools Cadet and Kids Firewise programs and coordinates local Santa runs.

Mr Smith has been integral to the annual appliance service and inspection program, ensuring all vehicles are in working condition before each fire season.

Mr John Smith displays the finest attributes of volunteer spirit and commitment.

Senior Deputy Captain Brett Stanley TURNER - Varroville Brigade, Macarthur

Mr Brett Turner continues to serve the community in Greater Sydney's Macarthur District as an active volunteer in the NSW RFS and has done so for more than 32 years. He first joined the Headquarters Brigade, before joining the Varroville Brigade in 1987.

Mr Turner has demonstrated great commitment to delivering the highest quality emergency service to the community and supporting the Service's volunteers. He has always been ready to accept any opportunity to make available his considerable abilities and knowledge, holding senior Brigade positions including President and Captain. He has served as a Group Captain for the Campbelltown and Macarthur districts for more than 20 years, mentoring and developing volunteers at all levels.

His valuable leadership and management abilities, combined with his skill in interpreting fire behaviour and risk, underpin his reputation as an exceptional field commander who consistently demonstrates exceptional ability in organising resources and people to deliver outcomes that exceed expectations.

Since the early 1980s, Mr Turner has managed operations across NSW and on specific deployments to Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. He has also played a significant part during storm and flood responses, both locally and elsewhere in NSW. His operational outcomes have and continue to set standards to which others aspire. Volunteers and management alike value Mr Turner for his integrity, respect and fairness, along with his significant contribution to the development of the local RFS and its members. This stretches to his membership of the local Bush Fire Management Committee, the Senior Management Team, Operations Committee and Communications Committee.

Mr Brett Turner has been recognised with many awards, as evidence of his dedication and distinguished service to the Australian community and as a highly valued member of the NSWRFS.

Group Captain Frederick Allan TURNER - Glennies Creek Brigade, Hunter Valley

Mr Frederick Turner joined the Carrowbrook Brigade in the Hunter Valley in 1983, serving as Deputy Captain from 1994 until 2000 and as Captain from 2001 to 2010, while also taking on the Permit Officer role in 2005.

In 2004, Mr Turner became North East Group Captain, overseeing Albano, Goorangoola, Carrowbrook, Glennies Creek, Mount Royal and Mirannie brigades. In 2010, he was instrumental in the merger of the Carrowbrook and Glennies Creek brigades, working tirelessly towards the construction of a new, centrally located station. With the merger, he relinquished his Captaincy, retaining his Group Officer position, which he still holds.

Mr Turner also made a major contribution to the development of other stations, including the new Goorangoola and Mount Royal facilities, and the planned Mirannie station. He has selflessly participated in Senior Management Teams as a Training Instructor and Assessor, and in all aspects of local, out-of-area and interstate emergency campaigns as a firefighter, Group Officer and Division Commander on the fire ground and in Incident Management Teams.

Mr Turner successfully liaised with the Australian Army to billet out-of-area strike teams in the Hunter Valley at the Lone Pine barracks and he acted as the Liaison Officer for Victorian crews supporting NSW firefighting efforts. Similarly, he has shown excellent leadership to the District and other services. Those who work with him respect his calm, confident and respectful manner. The time and effort Mr Turner devotes to the RFS and the positive support he extends to volunteers and staff alike are far beyond what could reasonably be expected.

In addition to his RFS responsibilities, Mr Frederick Turner is also an integral part of the local Legacy Branch and a valued member of the Singleton community.

Mr Barry WHALAN - Eulomogo Brigade, Orana

Mr Barry Whalan has been an active member of the Eulomogo Brigade since 1975, also spending 10 years in the Mumbil Brigade where he was Secretary. He is currently a member of the Eulomogo Brigade as Senior Deputy Captain, President, Equipment Officer, Permit Officer and Training Officer. He has also served in roles including Deputy Captain, Captain and Vice President. He has been given Life membership of the Eulomogo Brigade. He is also a member of the Orana Support Brigade.

Mr Whalan's commitment to the NSW RFS is unabated. He is involved Rural Fire Service Association at Branch, Division and State Council and was on the RFS Technical Committee for some time. He has help run championship competitions and coordinated local RFS displays to engage with the community. He has served out-of-area and been deployed to areas such as The Snowy Mountains and Blue Mountains, Kempsey, Sydney and Coonabarabran, as well as interstate to Victoria and Tasmania.

During the 2019-2020 bushfire season, he was deployed on three strike teams to the State's south and also played a key logistical role, transporting crews on deployment by bus to Northern NSW on several occasions. He also continued helping recruit and train new brigade members.

Mr Whalan contributes to training activities with his brigade and the district. He has run cadet training at two Dubbo high schools, educating and encouraging students to develop insight into fire safety and prevention, and helping ensure brigades will be able to continue to serve the community in future.

Mr Barry Whalan continues to display the finest attributes of volunteerism and community service in his long-standing dedication to the RFS and the Eulomogo Brigade.