National Emergency Medals were presented to about 60 East Gippsland Shire Council staff on Wednesday, October 19, recognising the important and sustained contribution made in the response effort during the2019-2020 Black Summer Bushfires.
Local government employees have only recently been eligible to receive the National Emergency Medal and recognised as an important partner during the response to emergencies.
Mayor Cr Mark Reeves said the inclusion of local government appropriately recognises that during any emergency there are many important roles that culminate in the protection and support of our community.
“Council officers have both a legislative and practical role during bushfire events. What I observed was an unwavering goodwill to be front and centre, doing anything that was required to ensure communities were supported during the response,” Cr Reeves said.
Chief Executive Officer Anthony Basford said he was very proud of how Council stood up and contributed.
“It gives me such pride to see the efforts of our people recognised,” Mr Basford said.
“During the response there was a multitude of roles our people played in the community and with our emergency services partners. These roles were many and varied, and in some cases sustained over many months.
“Emergency relief centres, incident control centres, livestock exchange operations to house large animals, provision of supplies, logistics, communications, public and environmental health, waste management, roads and building infrastructure, community support and meetings, donation management, call centre and distribution of information are just some of the roles we performed.
“Our people worked around the clock, and I never heard any grumbles or complaints, only queries on how we could assist. We were in the response from the outset, and we were a key contact point for the community, visitors and our partner agencies.”
Cr Reeves said there is a significant difference in working for a rural Council, or any regionally based service for that matter.
“That’s because we are part of the community and impacted in the same way as other residents. Some of our staff were directly impacted and lost their homes in the fires. Many staff fought the fire front as a property owner or as a volunteer with the CFA. Many others needed to look after properties, friends and family,” Cr Reeves said.
“I also acknowledge the more than 100 staff from other local government areas who put up their hand and assisted East Gippsland. It’s part of a formal resource sharing protocol councils have through the Municipal Association of Victoria, but the sector went above and beyond what they needed to do,” Cr Reeves said.
Governor-General of Australia Mr David Hurley AC was unable to attend the ceremony and Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull and Cr Reeves presented the medals on his behalf.
“A lot of people in our community went over and above in relation to the bushfire response and while many will not receive medals for their incredible efforts, it was a time to acknowledge some of the great work done within the Council and recognise those members of the community who worked so hard and gave so much, often without recognition,” Mr Bull said.