Eight RFS volunteers receive King’s Birthday Honours


Eight NSW Rural Fire Service members are receiving the Australian Fire Service Medals (AFSM) in the 2023 King'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.

2023 King's Birthday Honours

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

  • Group Captain Michael Amos – Far West District
  • Catering Captain Stephanye Holden – Clarence Valley District
  • Senior Deputy Captain Heather Jones – Central Coast District
  • Deputy Captain Victor Judson – Shoalhaven District
  • Group Officer Peter Lugsdin – MIA District
  • Group Officer Andrew Macdonald – Macarthur District
  • Senior Deputy Captain Linda Riley – Namoi-Gwydir District
  • Group Captain Grant Wargren – Hornsby / Ku-ring-gai District

Group Captain Michael John Amos - Far West District

Mr Michael Amos joined North Bourke Bushfire Brigade in 1995, and in 1996 was elected as Captain. Mr Amos continued as Captain in 1997 when the Brigade was renamed Bourke Headquarters Rural Fire Brigade. In 2001 he was elected as Group Captain for the Bourke District.

During his 27 years of service to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service Mr Amos has also been Brigade President for 26 years, Brigade Treasurer for four years, Brigade Secretary for one year, and Brigade Permit Officer from 2015, a position he still holds today.

Since the early 2000's Mr Amos has been a committed member of the Barwon Darling Zone (Far West) Training Committee. He has attended large fires within the Far West Team, and several major fires out-of-area such as the Payless supermarket fire in Bourke in early 1996, the Timmallallie Creek fire in the Pilliga Forest in 1997, and the first ever Section 44 bush fire emergency in Bourke in 2013 when he was the divisional commander. He was also deployed to major fires near Enngonia, Yantabulla and National Parks in the Far West Team area.  He continues to attend fires as a frontline responder.

During the COVID pandemic, Mr Amos coordinated a small team of firefighters who delivered food and care boxes to households in Bourke and all surrounding villages in the Bourke Shire.

Mr Amos has demonstrated excellent leadership in his roles as a trainer, senior liaison delegate, and member of the Senior Management Teams. During the merger between the Barwon Darling Zone and the Far West Team in 2008, he stood up as a leader, showing great commitment to the volunteers involved.

Mr Amos' commitment to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service is far beyond the call of duty.

Catering Captain Stephanye Ann Holden - Calrence Valley District

Mrs Stephanye Holden joined the Ashby Brigade in 2011, and in 2013 was appointed to the position of Brigade Secretary. She continues to perform as an operational member and maintains her competency to enable response to incidents. She is also a member of the Clarence Valley Catering Brigade, and has held the position of catering captain since 2019, having previously held the position of catering senior deputy captain.

Mrs Holden is a well-respected and trusted leader who is a patient and generous mentor. She has demonstrated exceptional reliability and commitment to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) in the Clarence Valley. Her everyday dedication to the RFS is made even more extraordinary when considering all of the other volunteering work that she does in her community, including palliative care work with cancer patients and assisting at her local women's shed. She is known for her friendly, caring nature and committed approach to both providing nutritious meals for the firefighters and supporting the activities of her local brigade and community.

As the community engagement officer for the Ashby Brigade, Mrs Holden has helped build fire awareness and promoting the Brigade. She has been active in Clarence Valley Section 44 campaigns throughout her membership, including the most recent 2019/2020 bush fire season. As catering captain she provided a calming presence and exceptional leadership and unwavering dedication. She worked tirelessly alongside the Catering Brigade team in arduous circumstances over many months, taking all of the many challenges in her stride.

Mrs Holden has given outstanding contributions as a volunteer member of the Ashby Brigade and the Clarence Valley Catering Brigade in the Clarence Valley District. Her contribution has been of significant benefit to the New South Wales RFS, the Clarence Valley District, and her local community.

Senior Deputy Captain Heather Margaret JONES - Central Coast District

Mrs Heather Jones joined the Nords Wharf Rural Fire Brigade in 1999 before its merger with the Wallarah Rural Fire Brigade (RFS) in 2006. She served as a Deputy Captain from 2008 to 2015, before becoming Senior Deputy Captain in 2015, a position she still holds today.

In addition to her operational leadership, Mrs Jones has made a strong contribution to the Brigade's executive leadership in roles including secretary, treasurer, training officer, health and safety officer and community engagement officer.

Keen to encourage greater junior membership, Mrs Jones took on the responsibility of the Lake Macquarie Cadet Brigade in 2015. Under her leadership, the Brigade has maintained a healthy membership and a strong showing in local and Cadet State Championship events. Mrs Jones has also been a driving force in many of the Secondary School Cadet programs supported by the RFS Central Coast District.

Mrs Jones has assisted in numerous local and out-of-area major emergencies, including serious bush fires in 2002, 2013 and 2019, and the East Coast Low storm and floods in 2007, 2015 and 2022. As the community field liaison officer for the Three Mile Fire during the 2019/20 bush fires, her fire knowledge and effective communication was integral in supporting the firefighting effort and ensuring the safety of the community.

A qualified trainer and assessor, Mrs Jones also contributes to the District Training Team, particularly in core firefighting courses, as well as the specialty areas of first aid and advanced resuscitation.
Mrs Jones is an exceptional role model and mentor to many RFS members. Her commitment to operational leadership, training and the development of junior members within the New South Wales Rural Fire Service has been unwavering.

Deputy Captain Victor Charles JUDSON - Shoalhaven District

Mr Victor Judson has been actively involved in firefighting in both a volunteer and professional capacity for more than 53 years. In 1969 he joined both his local Appin Brigade, and also as a firefighter with the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board (MWS&DB).

During his tenure at the MWS&DB, Mr Judson was involved in front line firefighting within the catchment area, and also undertook duties as a fire spotter. After transferring to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), he became more involved with remote area firefighting and the use of heavy plant machinery. He undertook duties as an aerial incendiary and assisted in rescue efforts during the 1997 Thredbo landslide.

At Appin Bushfire Brigade, Mr Judson participated in the development of junior members, became a Deputy Captain, and was appointed Deputy Group Captain “East” in 1982 until 1988. After relocating to Shoalhaven, he joined the Cambewarra Brigade, holding the ranks of Deputy and Senior Deputy Captain. After 11 years at Cambewarra he transferred to the lllaroo Rd Brigade, where he held the positions of Deputy, Senior Deputy and Captain for 10 years. In late 2016, with the closure of the lllaroo Rd Brigade, Mr Judson transferred to West Nowra Brigade, and became one of the foundation members of this new brigade. He currently holds the rank of Deputy Captain and undertakes permit officer duties.

Throughout his tenure Mr Judson has been deployed on major fire campaigns and interstate deployments in just about all the major fire seasons of the past 50 or so years, most recently leading teams during the 2019/2020 Comberton/Currowan fires.

Mr Judson is well known and respected in the Shoalhaven and greater New South Wales firefighting communities. He is admired and revered for his no nonsense approach to firefighting, actively participates in all brigade activities, and is a life member of the West Nowra Brigade.

Group Officer Peter James LUGSDIN - MIA District

Mr Peter Lugsdin joined the Area D Brigade in 1959 at the age of 16. He held the role of Deputy Captain in 1988, before becoming Captain in 1991, a role he held for 12 years. He joined the Hay Headquarters Brigade in 2003, and became a Group Captain in 2004, a position he still holds.

Mr Lugsdin served as a senior volunteer representative on the Bush Fire Management Committee, Liaison Committee and Senior Management Team. Revered by his peers, he is well-respected amongst members and his input is valued. He is always striving to acquire the best equipment for the volunteers, being particularly involved with the station and tanker replacement plans for the Mid-West Team.

Some of Mr Lugsdin's peers' first recollections of him are from a major fire at Uardry back in 1977. Using his fire knowledge and operational experience, he led crews to ultimately control and contain the fire. If not for Mr Lugsdin's leadership and dedication, this fire would have annihilated the township of Carrathool.

Mr Lugsdin attends almost every single incident in the Hay area. He has been deployed on multiple occasions, leading strike teams and generously sharing his expertise with the younger generations across the country. In 2019/20, he led strike teams to both Coffs Harbour and Tumut. Prior to that bush fire season, he led crews to Glen Innes, the Blue Mountains, the South Coast, and the Mallee bush fires in Victoria.

Mr Lugsdin's bush firefighting experience is immeasurable. He has attended many exercises and assessment events in his time, using his passion for the Service to share his knowledge. He assists in the community engagement space wherever he can, attending the Hay Show each year. He provided vital input when the initial Grassland Cat 1 tanker and the Cat 6 tanker were being developed. He also worked alongside engineering services in 2007-2008 evaluating Cat 7 spray bars at real burns that were held in the Hay local government area.

Group Officer Andrew Duncan MACDONALD - Macarthur District

Mr Andrew Macdonald has exhibited outstanding dedication to the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) since he joined in 1981. He is a leader not only within his local Gledswood Brigade and Macarthur District, but across the State. He encourages all members to grow, develop, and be the best they can be while maintaining professionalism and integrity.

As Mr Macdonald's volunteer career has grown over the years, he has taken every opportunity to hold multiple leadership roles within his brigade including deputy captain, senior deputy captain and captain. He has a strong commitment to developing new firefighters, and is a key member of his District's in-training and assessment team.

Mr Macdonald also holds a significant role within the Macarthur District where he has been a Group Captain since 2008. He is a member of the Remote Area Fire Team (RAFT) as well as being an RFS aviation specialist. He has extensive operational experience. He has led strike teams for the fire emergencies around New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria. He has also been deployed interstate for specialist aviation and remote area firefighting roles. In 2013 and 2015 he travelled to Botswana as part of the Botswana Fire Management Program.
RFS operations are not his only passion. He is also a great supporter of the administration of the RFS being a Brigade Treasurer since 1996, Rural Fire Service Association state representative, committee member of the RFS State Championships, and event marshal for the Australia Fire Cadet Championships. In 2013 he was appointed as one of the inaugural trustees of the NSW RFS and Brigades Donations Fund, and in 2019 he was appointed Chair of this Fund, a position he still holds.

In 2017 he was awarded the RFS Commissioner's Commendation for Service, and since then has taken on further responsibilities and commitments demonstrating exceptional work. His commitment to the RFS is considered beyond the realms of duty.

Senior Deputy Captain Linda Mary RILEY - Namoi-Gwydir District

Mrs Linda Riley joined the Mungindi Brigade in 1992, taking on the role of Deputy Captain that same year, and became Captain a few years later. She remained in that position until 2001 when she assumed the role of Senior Deputy Captain which she has held to this day.

In 2022 she shared in the Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner's Unit Citation for Service awarded to the Mungindi Brigade for their efforts during shop fires in Mungindi in September 2020. The fire destroyed the town's supermarket and had a significant impact on business and the community. Mrs Riley was instrumental in supporting her Captain and Brigade through her personal actions which are credited with limiting the spread of fire to adjoining businesses. Her actions and those of the Mungindi Brigade prevented a major loss becoming catastrophic for that community.

In addition to Mrs Riley's long-standing commitment to operational activities and senior leadership roles, she has contributed more broadly to the work of RFS in her roles as a Permit Officer, Brigade Treasurer, Secretary and Training Officer. She helped establish breathing apparatus and rescue capabilities within her Brigade. One of Mrs Riley's most distinguishing and admirable traits is related to her profession as a nurse. She is acknowledged as being a source of calm reassurance and unwavering support for her Captain and the Brigade in all their challenges and endeavours. She is known for being a quiet achiever especially during medical emergencies.

Mrs Riley's commitment to the RFS and the community is clear to all who know her. She is acknowledged by her peers as an excellent ambassador for the organisation and for her distinguished service over many years and in various roles.

Group Captain Grant Stanley WARGREN - Hornsby Ku-ring-gai District

Mr Grant Wargren joined the then Elouera Brigade in 1977 as Deputy Captain and served in the Hornsby Headquarters Brigade as Senior Deputy Captain and Captain of the Berowra Brigade. He served as a Deputy Group Captain until his appointment as a Group Captain in 2011.

As senior Group Captain he has been involved with the training, operational mobilisation and organisation of volunteer firefighters. His ability as a leader and fire tactician has been demonstrated during major wildfire and other incident campaigns, both locally and out-of-area, since the late 1970s.

During the 2019/2020 fire season Mr Wargren had key leadership roles in locations varying from the Mid-North Coast to the Victorian border. He has led strike teams to incidents in Victoria, including the Black Saturday fire, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland.

Mr Wargren has developed training and assessment programs, led training programs as a volunteer training coordinator at a district level, and embraced and promoted positive change management in training curriculum. He also worked with Rural Fire Service (RFS) state training officers in delivering instructor and assessor courses across the State.

He has participated in regional and state level Incident Management Training (IMT) as a mentor and facilitator, and has experience working on Incident Management Teams during large operations. He has held brigade executive positions including Training Officer, Secretary, and Vice-President.

In 2011, Mr Wargren was selected by RFS to deploy to the Republic of Botswana in an operational training leadership role to build fire management capability within Botswana fire agencies. During his time as a field commander, his quick thinking, tactical ability, and task prioritisation skills have contributed to saving many properties and potentially lives by the on-set of fires with crews working under his command.

Mr Wargren is a member of the newly formed Greater Sydney Area, Command and Leadership Group, and is a dedicated volunteer who has given 46 years of exemplary service to the community and to the RFS.

Contact Name: State Duty Media Officer

Contact Phone: (02) 9898 1855