More than 100 VCC Emergencies Ministry volunteer Chaplains and staff were recognised for their unstinting service during the 2019-20 Black Summer Bushfires by being awarded the National Emergency Medal at six venues around the state during October-November 2022.
Some comments and reflections from a few recipients are below:
What an unexpected delight to be acknowledged for our work during the Black Summer Fires.
To be acknowledged for our work during the Black Summer Fires can only be described as an unexpected delight.
On October 26, the Geelong and Surf Coast team members who had made a “significant contribution” during the 2019-2020 fires gathered together with the VCC EM Head Office team to receive their medals and enjoy lunch together.
It seemed like every street around Geelong City Hall was closed that day, as we all arrived having walked kilometres from the few car parking spaces available. But nothing could dampen our spirits.
It was lovely to be together for a celebration, instead of our usual call outs, and it was especially good to host our VCC EM Head Office Team.
My husband had earlier received his medal for service with the CFA, so he came along to support me and pose for a “family photo”.
“Me! A medal for what I did in the 2019/2020 bushfires? Not in a month of Sundays!”
This represented the thoughts of 14 of 15 VCC EM volunteers who turned up to the presentation ceremony. They were chuffed at being recognised for the work they do. Many of them have been members for decades, also serving in other agencies such as Red Cross, Salvation Army, CWA, the Rural Fire Service and SES.
So, it was a surprise that what they thought of as simply their civic duty to help their friends in the towns of Corryong, Tallangatta, Porepunkah, Bright and other Alpine areas would be recognised as something outstanding.
It brought back the memory of choking smoke and masks and the trauma of people who had to be evacuated, especially the old from their nursing homes and those who lost everything, – homes, farms, stock – to the flames.
Many brought along their spouses, families or best friend to the occasion, something special in their lives. A simple service, but with much pride, pinning on of medals and photo shots to remember.
And like all things, the cuppa after was a good time to catch up with those who live further out in a very large region.
Congratulations and well done to those who worked the Black Summer bushfires.
As honoured as I was to receive the National Emergency Medal, it only emphasised to me the importance and value of the Psychological First Aid and Emotional Spiritual Care we, at VCC EM, deliver to affected communities and emergency workers.
I accept this medal on behalf of the families who lost their homes in the 2019/2020 bushfires. The children who will never regain the security of a safe home environment. The many who lost treasured family pets.
I accept this medal on behalf of the farmers who lost their livelihoods, their crops ruined, and the many who lost or had to destroy livestock.
I accept this medal on behalf of the young policeman I met, who was extremely stressed from being away from his family for an unspecified time and for all the other essential workers away from home.
I accept this medal on behalf of the Hermits and Homeless people, who had been forced back into society, with no hope of ever returning to their makeshift homes in the bush.
I accept this medal on behalf of the generosity of the public who donated food and drink and to the many volunteers who prepared and cooked food for everyone.
Most of all, I give thanks to God for giving me the words to say, the gifts of compassion and empathy and the privilege of volunteering through VCC Emergencies Ministry.