NSW RFS members recognised in 2022 Australia Day honours


Eight NSW Rural Fire Service members have been recognised this year for their commitment to the community as part of the 2022 Australia Day honours list.

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

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

  • David Bosworth, Minore Brigade
  • Donald (Stuart) Farleigh, Mandalong Brigade
  • Jane Hollier, Field Operations and Oakville Brigade
  • Jennifer Lawther, Callala Beach Brigade
  • Brian McKenzie, Lower North Coast Support Brigade
  • Jonathon McKenzie, Tallimba Brigade
  • Christopher Nolan, Illawarra Zone
  • Christopher Petrikas, Hawkesbury Fire Control Centre

Firefighter David Ian Bosworth – Minore Brigade, Orana

Firefighter David Bosworth has been a member of the NSW RFS for more than 55 years. He was one of the first members of the Cobar Central Bushfire Brigade, spending most of his Saturdays back in 1965 at the council depot checking over the fire truck and cleaning the equipment.

He was instrumental in the establishment of the high frequency two-way communication system for the Cobar Shire. David spent countless hours setting up radio equipment and base stations in vehicles, brigade stations, private properties and the council office as well as erecting radio towers. He was appointed the communications officer for the Cobar Shire bush fire area in 1966.

Firefighter Bosworth was Captain of the Cobar Brigade from 1983 to 1986, he was also appointed as the Brigade training officer and Deputy Fire Control Officer (Honorary) for the Cobar Shire.

He has assisted at many large scale fires including the Roto fires (1969–1970) and the massive fires in 1974/75 which burnt out 1,500,000 hectares of the Cobar Shire. He was involved in both field operations as well as the operational management of the Cobar emergency control centre during these fires and the large-scale 1984/85 bush fires.

He has also been involved with other brigades including Glenhaven and Winmalee, is a current member of the Minore brigade and was voted life member of the Megalong Valley Brigade in 2015.

He has held multiple positions in these brigades including Captain, Senior Deputy Captain and Deputy Captain, Equipment Officer and President. He continues to support the NSW RFS and provides invaluable assistance to the Orana Team. Firefighter Bosworth's lifelong service to the NSW RFS and his commitment to ensuring the safety of the community is most noteworthy.

Group Captain Donald (Stuart) Farleigh – Mandalong Brigade, Central Coast

Group Captain Donald (Stuart) Farleigh joined the Bonnells Bay Brigade in 1966 at the age of 15, where in 1972, he became Deputy Captain. After a brief stint with NSW Fire Brigade (NSWFB) in Dubbo, he joined Morisset Brigade and held the position of Captain until 1985 when it transferred over to NSWFB. Stuart was the inaugural Captain until his retirement in 2000.

Group Captain Farleigh rejoined the NSW RFS in 2003 as Captain of Mandalong Brigade, which he held until 2006 when he was elected Group Captain until 2009. He returned to Mandalong Brigade as the Captain until 2011, when he was again elected Group Captain – a position he still holds.

Group Captain Farleigh has a passion for training, having been the Central Coast course coordinator for the village firefighter program for six years, and educates external agencies on bush fire awareness. He has attended many major incidents during his career including the 1989 Newcastle earthquake, the Western Sydney hail storm, the 1994 and 2003 bush fires and the 2015 East Coast low.

He played a significant role in the 2019/20 fire season with both local and out-of-area deployments. He was also first on scene and incident controller for the triple semi-truck disaster on the M1 motorway in Cooranbong in 2018.

He is a certified wildfire and structural fire investigator, having been crucial in bringing many alleged arsonists to justice. He was an afterhours operator for the Central Coast district, responsible for the receipt of triple zero calls and dispatch of trucks to incidents.

Group Captain Farleigh is a dedicated member of the NSW RFS who should be recognised for his service to community safety, education of his peers and his extensive operational experience.

Deputy Captain Jane Hollier – Field Operations and Oakville Brigade, Hawkesbury

Ms Jane Hollier has provided exemplary service to the NSW RFS for 32 years as a salaried officer and volunteer. She has held various roles in the Service including in community engagement, hazard management, professional standards and her current position of Manager Operational Business.

She has a strong understanding of emergency management and has provided support during many operations including most recently during the 2019/20 Black Summer bush fires.

Ms Hollier is well known for her professionalism and knowledge of the Service. This was called upon during the 2019/20 fire season when she was asked to organise for various senior state and federal officials to visit fire-affected communities. Similarly, she played an integral part in arranging the state funerals for three firefighters who were tragically killed in the line of duty.

Ms Hollier has built strong partnerships with key stakeholders and has represented the NSW RFS and at times other land management agencies at state and federal working groups and inquiries. This includes her appointment as a member of secretariat for the Council of Australian Governments National Inquiry on Bushfire Mitigation and Management following the devastating 2002/03 fire season.

For more than 20 years, Ms Hollier has been an active volunteer member and is currently a member of the Oakville Rural Fire Brigade, where she is currently the Deputy Captain and President.

Ms Hollier has demonstrated her commitment to advancing firefighters’ interests through other roles, including filling the role of Director with the Rural Fire Service Association from 2011 to 2015. Ms Hollier is a strong advocate for women in operational roles and is a qualified crew leader. Ms Hollier has been award the NSW RFS long service medal 30 years and in 2020 received the Premier’s Bush Fire Emergency Citation.

Group Captain Jennifer Joy Lawther – Callala Beach Brigade, Shoalhaven

Group Captain Jennifer Lawther joined the Callala Beach Brigade in May 1989, where she progressively undertook the roles of Deputy Captain and Senior Deputy Captain, culminating in her appointment as Captain in 1996. In 2013, she was elected as a Deputy Group Captain and in 2016 Group Captain, a role which she continues to hold.

Group Captain Lawther is a very active member of the NSW RFS, and over the years has contributed to a number of emergencies throughout NSW and interstate, including the Sydney hailstorm (1999), Canberra bush fires (2003), Black Saturday (2009), Tathra bush fire (2018), and the devastating 2019/20 Black Summer bush fires, often undertaking the role of strike team leader or of divisional commander.

She has contributed as a trainer and mentor to NSW RFS members through Brigade, Group and District training since 1991, both as a trainer/assessor and as a member of the training committees. She was one of the inaugural members of the Shoalhaven community education group in 2001, which morphed into the Shoalhaven Community Engagement Brigade in 2011 – of which she is still an active member.

In the early 2000s when the membership of the Callala Beach Brigade seriously declined, Group Captain Lawther personally door knocked throughout the village recruiting new members. Her actions and her leadership ensured the survival of the Brigade.

In 2005, she was awarded the national service medal and was awarded life membership by her Brigade. She is an active member of the Rural Fire Service Association and is a champion for gender equality, participating in a statewide working group examining ways in which women may undertake a range of roles within the service. Group Captain Lawther's exemplary service to both the NSW RFS and the community is of the highest order.

Captain Brian Edwin McKenzie – Lower North Coast Support Brigade, Lower North Coast

Captain Brian McKenzie is the current Captain of the recently formed Lower North Coast Support Brigade. The Support Brigade currently includes the Remote Area Firefighting Team, Catering and Incident Management Team support and undertakes a range of associated functions essential to the efficient running of the District, particularly during major bush fire events.

Captain McKenzie commenced with the NSW RFS at Gosford in 1977. Commensurate with his operational commitment and leadership capacity, he soon became a Group Captain, serving in the position for 15 years until his departure from the District in 2000.

Due to his extensive operational experience, sound leadership and interpersonal skills, he was immediately appointed Group Officer upon his arrival at the Kempsey Fire Control Centre (FCC) in 2000 and undertook this role until 2006. He has since held the positions of Deputy Captain at both Frederickton and Aldavilla Brigades and was instrumental in the establishment of the Lower North Coast Aviation Brigade.

Along with his extensive involvement at the local level, he has also participated in many out-of-area deployments including to NSW, South Australia, Victoria and Canberra. As well as participating in numerous strike teams, Captain McKenzie has also undertaken a range of highly demanding aviation roles during several major fire events.

Captain McKenzie's easy-going nature has greatly assisted his capacity to mentor and train others. His role as an accredited trainer has seen him specialise in the area of pumps and pumping. His capacity in this regard has also seen him help design and develop some of the earlier NSW RFS appliances, including catering units at the Gosford FCC. Captain McKenzie's leadership, operational experience and commitment to his community is second to none.

Group Officer Jonathon Stuart McKenzie – Tallimba Brigade, Bland Temora

Group Officer Jonathon McKenzie joined Weethalle Brigade in 1999 and held the positions of Brigade Secretary and Treasurer. In 2003, he transferred to Bland Headquarters and was an active volunteer with the Brigade, attending complex incidents in Nowra, the Blue Mountains, Oberon, Khancoban, Canberra and the Sydney hailstorm.

In 2004, Bland Headquarters amalgamated with West Wyalong Brigade, where Group Officer McKenzie was elected Captain of the Brigade in 2006. He held the position for two years and was again re-elected Captain in 2014 for an additional two years.

From his commencement with the Service, he has been a dedicated and active volunteer with each of the Brigades he’s been involved with. Group Officer McKenzie has also actively participated in aviation roles and fire investigation.

In 2018, he was nominated by his peers to take on the role of Group Captain for the Bland Temora Zone, which he was elected to alongside seven other colleagues. He is very well respected by his colleagues as a firefighter and mentor. He leads by example and is not afraid to take on roles and responsibilities over and above what is expected of him.

During the Black Summer bush fires of 2019/20, Group Officer McKenzie aptly lead his crews out-of-area as a strike team leader to the Dunns Road fire near Tumbarumba. His commitment in representing volunteers is second to none. His advice and guidance is sought through the zone liaison committee, senior management team and pre-and post-season captain’s meetings.

He is also well regarded for his representation of the NSW RFS with key stakeholders and land managers particularly during difficult times. Group Officer McKenzie is a strong advocate for NSW RFS volunteers and his community.

Group Captain Christopher Ronald Nolan – Oak Flats Brigade, Illawarra

Group Captain Christopher Nolan joined the Oak Flats Rural Fire Brigade in 1986, in the same year taking on the role of Equipment Officer, which he held until 2003. After stepping down as Equipment Officer, he continued to take an active role in the Brigade, fulfilling the roles of Deputy Captain, Senior Deputy Captain, Captain, Brigade Health and Safety Officer and Permit Officer.

Group Captain Nolan is committed to the development of younger members, culminating in the cadet program which he instigated in 2009. The program continues to run, two Sundays a month, taking in cadets as young as 14 years of age. While the Cadet program focuses on training to create better and more skilful firefighters, he ensures the program also embraces cultural and social aspects to help shape younger members into contributing members of society.

At the end of the program, Group Captain Nolan facilitates for these cadets to transition back into the local brigades as well trained firefighters. To ensure the ongoing success of the Cadet program, he has taken on the roles of Brigade Management Member, Brigade President, Cadet Coordinator and Brigade Training Officer. The results achieved through the program are inspiring and their results in both State and National competitions are ever improving.

In 2017, Mr Nolan was elected by his peers to the rank of Group Captain, and in 2018 was awarded life membership to the Oak Flats Brigade. His 34 years of exemplary service to the NSW RFS in the Illawarra has been recognised through the receipt of the 30-year service medal and the National Medal.

Group Captain Christopher Helmut Petrikas – Tennyson Brigade, Hawkesbury

Mr Christopher Petrikas joined the NSW RFS Tennyson Brigade in 1976. He was first seen assisting in firefighting operations when he was just 14 years of age alongside his father. For the following 43 years, he served his Brigade and district in many capacities including positions of Senior Deputy Captain, Captain, Deputy Group Captain and Brigade Training Officer, and currently holds the rank of Group Captain.

During this time, his dedication to the NSW RFS has been recognised through his receipt of the NSW RFS long service medal for 15 years, 25 years, 30 years and 40 years of service. He has also received the National Medal and one clasp in 2005.

Group Captain Petrikas has provided outstanding leadership and encouragement to his brigade members and throughout the district. He has attended numerous fires within the district and on various deployments over his many years of service. He is an integral member of the Hawkesbury District Incident Management Team and has assisted in controlling some of the most challenging campaign fires, including the recent Gospers Mountain fire where he undertook the roles of Operations Officer and Divisional Commander.

He is a dedicated trainer and assessor, renowned for his chainsaw training in the NSW RFS and in other agencies, as well as developing and mentoring frontline firefighters, crew leaders and group leaders.

He is a well-respected volunteer firefighter who has developed strong working relationships throughout the Hawkesbury community, with other emergency services organisations and across all levels of management.

Group Captain Petrikas should be commended on his dedicated and committed service to the NSW RFS and to the Hawkesbury community throughout his 43 years of volunteer service.

Congratulations to these eight worthy recipients of the Australian Fire Service Medal.