2013 Eric Simmons Award for Firefighter of the Year

13 March 2013
The Rotary Club of Darwin North has named Station Officer Craig Slack as the career Firefighter and Auxiliary Captain John O’Shea as the volunteer Firefighter of the Year for 2013.
Career Firefighter of the Year, Station Officer Craig Slack, receives his award from Her Honour the Administrator of the Northern Territory, the Honourable Sally Thomas AM
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The two Officers were presented with their awards by Her Honour the Administrator of the Northern Territory, the Honourable Sally Thomas AM during a special ceremony at the Darwin Fire Station on Monday 4 March.

The ‘Eric Simmons Award for Firefighters’ is named in honour of the former Assistant Director of the Northern Territory Emergency Services, long term member and past President of the Rotary Club of Darwin North.

Pam Robinson OAM, Convenor of the Rotary Club of Darwin North ‘Eric Simmons Firefighter Awards’ said the Fire and Rescue Service had, until last year, no official public recognition of the vital work they do for their local communities.

“The men and women of the fire service are held in high esteem and are often talked about. Suddenly the old saying ‘silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone’ rang true to us as a club and we decided to make a proper public response in the form of this award.”

President of the Rotary Club of Darwin North, Mr Peter Russell, said the decision to award both a career and volunteer Firefighter reflected their different but equally vital contribution to their community.

“This award recognises the skills, dedication, courage and professionalism of both career and volunteer Firefighter alike. We honour two outstanding Firefighters this year, they were selected by the community and by their peers and they should be justifiably proud because that sort of recognition is not afforded lightly.” Mr Russell said.

Eric Simmons Career Firefighter of the Year, Station Officer Craig Slack, is based in Darwin and has been a member of the NTFRS for 13 years. He has greatly contributed to the next generation of Firefighters through his dedication to the training of permanent, auxiliary and volunteer members.

Station Officer Slack was the face behind a public campaign informing road users of the best way to react to emergency vehicles in traffic. He has a keen interest in developing skills and knowledge of road crash rescue and has represented the NT at a national level in road crash rescue competitions. Craig has managed all this while maintaining his professional role an operational Station Officer.

Station Officer Slack said he was honoured and surprised to be named Firefighter of the year and added it would not have been possible without the camaraderie and friendship of his fellow Officers.

“This is an individual award but when you are working together on the frontline to get the job done and trying to turn a negative into a positive the best we possibly can, to share that determination and commitment is very rewarding.”

Auxiliary Captain John O’Shea began as a volunteer before becoming an Auxiliary Officer on the Gove Peninsular. Auxiliary Captain O’Shea joined the private fire service run by the local mine before the changeover to the NTFRS. Over the two decades he has been involved he has displayed a willingness to serve his community with pride in both emergency situations and public awareness events.

With natural leadership qualities, enthusiasm and team effort required to serve and protect the remote community John has been a tremendous asset to the career members serving in Nhulunbuy. His efforts have also resulted in the recruiting of more volunteer members to the unit.

In typical fashion John was honoured by the award but very modest about his own contribution.

“I just love the job and the passion of the Fire Service, we have some excellent people out there, the camaraderie of the men and women I work with and the close-knit community, it just makes it all worthwhile.”

Her Honour the Administrator of the Northern Territory, the Honourable Sally Thomas AM said that the Rotary Club of Darwin North were to be commended for the initiative of recognising the Firefighter of the year.

The Administrator then paid tribute to the award winners and said that when the career and volunteers Firefighters combined they made one resilient force.

“Through your accomplishments and constant dedication to your duty you both have set a high standard for next year. We are very proud and grateful for the commitment and care you demonstrate everyday.”

Chief Fire Officer of the Northern Territory, Steve Rothwell said the recipients clearly stood out as ambassadors for the NTFRS and said it was no wonder they were nominated for this prestigious award.

“Both these individuals have transformed the service with their actions and efforts. Their commitment and knowledge has helped many, many people.”