Award recipient not resting on his laurels

Maroochy River RFB First Officer Peter Garrett with his DCS Australia Day Achievement Medallion – and in front of three appliances being prepped for last Friday’s deployment to flood-stricken Bundaberg.

Just a week after receiving a Department of Community Services (DCS) Australia Day Achievement Medallion, Rural Firefighter Peter Garrett was busy displaying the outstanding operational leadership that earned him the accolade in the first place.
In his role as First Officer of the Maroochy River RFB as well as the North Maroochy Group Officer (which contains 10 rural brigades), Mr Garrett helped coordinate a team of 14 North Maroochy Firefighters to join the Bundaberg flood clean-up efforts.
The team headed north last Friday aboard 10 firefighting appliances (including the recently commissioned 4000L Caloundra Area tanker on it’s first job), with several of Coolum’s Auxiliary Firefighters and SES volunteers also giving their time to help flood stricken communities in the north.
Australia Day Achievement Medallions are presented annually to DCS staff and volunteers who have performed exceptional work and gone above their normal duties to deliver emergency and correctional services across Queensland.
Peter Garrett was among 12 North Coast region medal recipients who were recognised at a special ceremony in Gympie on 25 January.
As a career volunteer firefighter, Mr Garrett was also awarded a National Service Medal in 2008 (after 19yrs of service) and a prestigious Diligent and Ethical Service Medal. He was also a recipient of the National Emergency Medal, which was established following the 2011 Queensland floods.
But this latest medal came as a complete surprise to Mr Garrett, who is adamant that it is an award for every one of the North Maroochy Group firefighters.
“I got a letter informing me of the award and when I opened it, my first reaction was that I had opened someone else’s mail,” he explained. “Then I wondered, why me? There are plenty of other people who deserve this just as much.
“We are very lucky in this group; we’ve got so much talent to draw on. We’ve got an international Pilot, a Lawyer, ex-bank managers, cattlemen and the like working next to guys who have just left school or are unemployed.
“We all work incredibly hard as a team, so this award is for everyone of them; it’s not just mine. One of the guys who went up to Bundaberg has taken five full days leave from his job to do it – and with his boss’ blessing. That’s the kind of dedication we have here.”
Peter was born and bred on the coast and has carried on his family’s Maroochy River cattle (and ex-cane) farming profession. He has been involved with the Rural Fire Brigade for over 30 years, as was his father before him.
He is joined on this year’s DCS honour roll by Sunshine Coast emergency services workers Erin McDonald (Paramedic), Robert Frey (QFRS), Donald Patterson (SES) and Kevin Devitt (QFRS).
The severe weather of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald shut down most of the Australia Day celebrations across the coast including Coolum, leaving the area’s annual Citizen’s Awards yet to be presented.
But it didn’t stop the council’s annual Australia Day Awards from going ahead at Matthew Flinders Anglican College – on the same day as the DCS Award Ceremony (25 Jan).
Mayor Mark Jamieson was joined by Channel Seven’s Sofie Formica and Australia Day Ambassador, Emeritus Professor Ken Donald to announce the following Sunshine Coast winners:

  • Citizen of the Year – Garry Church (President of Road Trauma Services Qld)
  • Young Citizen of the Year – Adem Crosby (spokesperson for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, Leukaemia Foundation and Bloomhill Cancer Help).
  • Senior Citizen of the Year – (tied) Colin White and Esma Armstrong
  • Community – Supporting Teenagers with Education, Mothering and Mentoring (STEMM)
  • Creative – Jean Sandell (CWA/Kenilworth Arts Council & Arts Festival)
  • Environment – Noosa and District Landcare Group
  • Sports and Recreation – Leanne Hipwood (Caloundra AFL Club).

With the clean-up continuing in the flood affected north, Sunshine Coast residents were again spared the worst of the damaging weather and most of our volunteer crews are due back home over the next few days.
The road to recovery has been given a boost with the Queensland government’s unprecedented move of encouraging Australians to show their support for Queensland tourism by celebrating ‘Australia Day II’ across the State on 23 February.
Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Small Business and the Commonwealth Games, Jann Stuckey launched an advertising campaign over the weekend, saying “Many Queenslanders didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate Australia Day in true Aussie style over the 26 January long weekend.
“Many holiday destinations were untouched and while others are on the road to recovery, this campaign reinforces that the best way you can support the industry is by taking a holiday in Queensland.
The initiative is the first step of the Government’s tourism recovery strategy for flood affected areas. For more information on Australia Day II, or a Queensland holiday deal visit