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Australia Day Honours List 2024

VFBV extends congratulations to four CFA members who were awarded the prestigious Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) on Australia for their service to CFA and the wider Victorian Community.

Paula Grosveld AFSM – Paula has been a CFA volunteer with the Golden Beach brigade since 1987 and has held many roles including Deputy Group Officer, Group Secretary and volunteer trainer and assessor and is currently serving her 18th year as Captain of the Golden Beach Fire Brigade.  As a trusted peer and mentor to fellow captains, group officers and members throughout Victoria, Paula has been recognised for her tenacity and selflessness in driving sustainable growth of young and emerging leaders throughout CFA. You can read more about Paula here

Ross Sullivan AFSM  - Ross has been a CFA member for more than 45 years, first joining the Bolinda and Monegeeta brigade as a member of their Junior running team before officially joining CFA as a volunteer in 1978.  As the current Deputy Chief Officer North East Region Ross has lead the region through major the 2019-20 fires and the October 2022 floods and has been commended for his leadership as well as establishing a process for rehabilitation and repair of areas damaged by firefighting activity. You can read more about Ross here.

Bill Johnstone AFSM – Bill started his service as firefighter as a junior member with the Gisborne brigade in 1977 and since then has spent time as a firefighter with the Australian Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting Service (ARFFS) in Cairns before returning to Victoria and joining CFA’s career ranks in 2000.  During his time with CFA he has worked extensively in operational management in various roles including operations officer, manager and in his current role of Assistant Chief Fire Officer-Regional Commander for the North West Region.  You can read more about Bill here

John Katakouzinos AFSM – John joined CFA as a volunteer firefighter in 1991 with the Springvale brigade before becoming a career firefighter in March 1999 and currently holds the role of CFA Commander - Aviation.  John has been an operational firefighter across many parts of Victoria and has been a leader and mentor who consistently looks for ways to improve firefighting and community safety trough innovation, particularly in the field of fire service aviation and rescue.  He led the research, design, development and delivery of a fire aviation flight simulator for Victorian agencies which was one of the first of its kind in Australia. You can read more about John here.

VFBV also congratulates Kathryn Gosby AFSM and Stephen Grant AFSM from the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) and Costa Katsikis AFSM and Damien O’Toole AFSM who were also awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal on Australia Day.

Also among the 1,033 recipients of awards on Australia Day were a number of past and present CFA members who received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). VFBV congratulates Kaye Blackburn, Brian Keena, John Nihill, Jeffrey Robinson, Ian Thomson, Maria Cameron, Lindsay Tharle, Lavina Tharle and Bruce Wilson.

Nominations for AFSM's

Nominations for AFSM's are accepted at any time through CFA's Honours and Awards Committee. 

The AFSM honours the distinguished service of members of fire services who make an exceptionable contribution to their communities. The AFSM recognises those whose service is above and beyond the normal zealous and faithful discharge of normal or ordinary service, either in the short or long term.

CFA volunteers are often modest and reluctant to seek out recognition for the service they have provided to their community and may not have a realistic appreciation of the impact they have had on CFA, their community, within VFBV or your Brigade or Group. They’re not in it for the honour or glory, but it’s up to each of us to ensure we take the time to say ‘thank-you’ to those people who have stepped up and help inspire us all to do better.

If you know a quiet achiever who has contributed to CFA, who goes above and beyond what could be reasonably expected of someone in a similar position, please consider nominating them for an AFSM.  

The Australian Honours system has been designed to break down artificial barriers and open the Australian Honours to all parts of our society. Any member of the community can nominate any other Australian citizen for an award.

It is also critically important we encourage nominations for groups who are typically under-represented in Australian Honours like the AFSM. In particular we are encouraging a greater gender mix.

Women in particular are under-represented in AFSM’s awarded when we consider the thousands of women within the fire services across the country. And while things are improving, much more can be done.

There are so many exceptional CFA women and men deserving to be recognised, so please consider nominating someone you feel is deserving.

A common misconception is that only those members who have decades worth of service are recognised by the Honours system. The AFSM is not a long-service award, its sole criterion is distinguished service. And while prolonged service forms part of the key criteria, ‘prolonged’ is considered by the honour and awards committee’s to be taken in context as to what is considered ‘longer than usual’ and in context of what is ‘above and beyond’ the normal or ordinary service expected. Exceptional service that is sustained over a period of time can be considered as satisfying the criteria. For example, has the members contribution been in excess of expectations for a ‘normal’ member and over what duration? The Committee will consider the nature of the service or achievement within the context of a member’s service history when weighing up the various criteria.

This is especially important for women within CFA who may have their service overlooked simply because they haven’t been a Captain or Group Officer for 30+ years. While these are important leadership roles – our service is a team environment, and everyone’s contribution is valued.

Nothing should take away from the incredible achievement decade long service is, but the Honours system is designed to recognise those that make a significant contribution, and to represent the things that our communities believe to be deserving of recognition, including from those who are perhaps trailblazers for others to follow. Think of those people who have pushed the boundaries or have been first to reach and hold leadership positions that has been inspirational to those around them. For example, think of members who have overcome additional barriers, like English not being their first language and who have toiled away to learn the language and become masterful communicators designing new innovative community safety engagements to CALD communities and serving as a role model for other community members. Who are the people you look up to? Who are the people who have really made a difference in your Brigade or Group? 

Distinguished service includes service that is above and beyond and can be short-term or prolonged. It is service that can be exemplified by; responsibility for an outstanding event that has proven to be of significant benefit to the fire service or community; development of a new system, procedure or technique that is unique and made a significant contribution to the fire service; or outstanding leadership in the encouragement and development of others, particularly youth within the fire services.

While it can seem daunting to nominate a potential recipient, some guiding principles that could assist in completing a nomination for an AFSM are:

- In what role(s) has the nominee excelled?
- How has the nominee demonstrated service worthy of recognition?
- How has the nominee’s contribution affected a particular field, locality, brigade, group or community at large?
- Over what period has the nominee made a major commitment?
- Has the nominee’s contribution been recognised elsewhere?
- What makes this person stand out from others?
- What specific examples can be provided to show how the nominee’s contribution(s) have been outstanding?

Nominations for awards are strictly confidential. The person being nominated should not be approached for information or advised of the confidential nomination at any stage of the process.


Additional Resources to Assist

Honours and Awards Toolkit

Guide to Preparing Nominations for the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM)

AFSM Nomination Form

Want to discuss a potential nomination or need some more information? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.    

About the Australian Fire Service Medal 

Introduced in 1988, the Australian Fire Service Medal recognised distinguished service by members of Australian fire services and is awarded to both volunteer and paid members. The award recognised the distinguished service by members of a State or Territory Fire Service, a Fire Service of an agency of the Commonwealth, and the Fire Services of the External Territories of Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling Island) and Norfolk Island.

The medal is awarded twice a year as part of the Australia Day award and King's Birthday award announcements.


Criteria for the Australian Fire Service Medal 

To be considered for this award it would be expected that the nominee has given service beyond the norm exemplified by:

  1. Prolonged service distinguished by exceptional performance in a particular area that has proved significant benefit to the fire service; and one or more of the following.
  2. Responsibility for and management of an outstanding/exceptional event that has proven to be of significant benefit to the fire service, a community or community safety generally. 
  3. Development of a new system, or procedure, or technique that is unique and has made a significant contribution to the fire service, a community or community safety generally. 
  4. Outstanding leadership in the encouragement and development of others, particularly youth, within the fire service and the fostering and furthering of the aims of the fire service to the long-term benefit of the fire service and the community. 
  5. Demonstrated creativity in the development and implementation of innovative changes that have made a significant contribution to the fire service, fire/emergency operations, or the interests of community safety.
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CFA Volunteers are the unpaid professionals of our Emergency Services. VFBV is their united voice, and speaks on behalf of Victoria's 60,000 CFA Volunteers.