Smith rewarded for putting hand up
Des Smith, 54, of Diapur has been fighting fires, responding to floods, searching for missing people and dealing with road trauma and just about anything else to do with emergency services since the 1980s.
It is a volunteer service that has become part of life for the fencing contractor, who also runs a small farm with wife Colleen 16 kilometres from Nhill.
During his many years with the State Emergency Service he has accepted a variety of service-recognition awards and now has an Order of Australia Medal, OAM, to add to his collection.
Mr Smith said he was shocked to be among Queen’s Birthday honours recipients on Monday and the realisation started to sink in as he responded to people calling him with congratulations.
“The amount of phone calls and support and thank-you messages from colleagues from right across Australia has really hit me,” he said.
“I’m very humbled to accept the honour.
“It’s a big thing – there are a lot of people who deserve it and I suppose my name has gone into a hat and then come out again. I’m very honoured.”
Mr Smith’s accolade reflects his commitment to Nhill district emergency services.
He has been Nhill unit controller of the Victoria State Emergency Service since 1991 and Dimboola unit controller since 2014.
He has been a volunteer with the service since 1987.
Mr Smith has been a member of an organising committee of Grampian’s Regional Annual General Rescue Weekend for 10 years and has also been a Victoria Country Fire Authority volunteer with various brigades for about 30 years.
His OAM now sits among a 2013 Vic SES Emergency Recovery Award, 10, 15, 20 and 25-year long-service medals, a Life Member medal, a 2007 National Medal and 2014 first clasp.
Mr Smith said more people needed to volunteer services for their communities.
“Without volunteer organisations we wouldn’t survive. While we don’t get any financial reward and it can be a rocky road, it is also very rewarding,” he said.
“There are ups and downs. The downs are obviously dealing with fatalities, often involving people we know, and that can be very hard.
“But there are moments of great reward such as finding missing people, saving lives or being able to help people.
“It can be so rewarding when you receive messages of thanks.
“I suppose the reason why someone put my name into the hat was that I’ve served for a long time and trained a lot of people.
“I’ve created a hell of a lot of friendships across Victoria and interstate.”