Sometimes big ideas start in small places: a memorial recognising emergency service volunteers, who have died as a result of their service, will be constructed in Canberra.
The initiative is the result of work by Maclean men, Peter Watt, John Riggall, Nick Clarke, Mark Carr and Mark Wren, who, last year, formed a committee to lobby the Australian Government and its bureaucrats.
The idea was the brainchild of long-serving volunteer fire fighter Peter Watt, who said the memorial will “bear the names recorded on honour roles provided from each state”.
“The names would reflect such services as volunteer fire brigades, state emergency services, volunteer marine rescues and so on,” Mr Watt said.
Former federal MP John Riggall was a key player, once the application had been lodged through Page MP Kevin Hogan’s office.
“The same day I spoke with John, he rang some very famous names in Canberra, who weren’t aware that volunteers get killed in the line of duty,” Mr Watt said. “That got the ball rolling.”
The Canberra National Memorial Committee has approved the construction and funding of the memorial, which will be located in Kings Park, Canberra, alongside other memorials.
“We will have the same memorial as the professionals that work in emergency services, such as police and fire-fighters,” Mr Watt said.
Mr Watt said that the next step would be the appointment of a larger committee to oversee the creation of a legacy for the families of those affected by the death of a loved one.
“It will become something like ‘The Emergency Volunteers Memorial Trust Project’, he said. “Once it’s registered, people who donate will get tax breaks.
“We’re hoping for corporate sponsorship, too – big companies might say, ‘we support out volunteers’, for example.
“But first the memorial will be built to show the nation that volunteers have served and died in the line of duty and that their names will live forever more, engraved on a memorial.”
Eventually, a permanent fundraising body will be established; similar to charities that raise money for disadvantaged children or cancer research.
Mr Watt said there were “about 70,000 volunteer fire fighters in NSW alone”.
“Between NSW and Victoria, we’ve lost about 150, killed in the line of duty since about 1950: they don’t die a pleasant death, they are burnt to death, a tree falls on them, they’re involved in vehicle rollovers, or succumb to cardiac arrest brought on by heat exhaustion.
“We’ve lost about the same number of volunteers nationally that were killed in the Vietnam War, so it’s worth having their names recorded in Canberra.
“This is an initiative from the Clarence Valley, and will finally give emergency service volunteers real national recognition for their ultimate sacrifice.”