Two Salvation Army members have been awarded a National Emergency Medal in recognition of their service in the Black Saturday Bushfires.
Emergency Services Coordinator, Mr. Warwick Wilson with PM Julia Gillard
Salvation Army Chaplain Major Arthur Ford, was the first Chaplain on the scene in the fire ravaged Kinglake area in the aftermath of the Black Saturday Bushfires in 2009. 'It was pretty horrific,' he recalls. 'There were some horrendous and horrific sights'.
Within hours of receiving a call for assistance in the afternoon of the day the fires began, Major Ford and The Salvation Army’s Emergency Services Team began providing meals, material aid and emotional support for survivors, those that had lost loved ones and the emergency response teams on site.
'I still get phone calls about it,' says Major Ford. Sitting down to coffee one day, Major Ford recalls a man approaching him. 'I remember you Padre,' he said, and the two were able to share stories and continue the recovery process that so many Victorians still journey.
Salvation Army Southern Territory Emergency Services Coordinator, Mr. Warwick Wilson was immediately deployed to Whittlesea when news of the Black Saturday Bushfires spread. Mr. Wilson and The Salvation Army Emergency Services Team provided food for fire fighters, police, military personnel and Whittlesea residents. Mr. Wilson and the team also distributed clothes to those forced from their homes and coordinated the Chaplaincy presence in fire affected areas.
While Mr. Wilson and his wife tirelessly worked to distribute what amounted to be 29,000 meals over nine days, his daughter's home was also threatened by the fires. She and her family were forced to evacuate their home three times to escape the danger.
'It was intense' Mr. Wilson says. 'But we were well equipped by The Salvation Army, I had the support of my family, and the general public were behind us'.
Major Ford received his award in a Canberra ceremony on the 26th of January, with Mr. Wilson's award following the day after on the 27th at Flowerdale in Victoria.
Both Major Ford and Mr. Wilson acknowledge the importance of their teams. 'We were supported by hundreds of others,' Major Ford says. 'There were people behind us all the time. I accept this on behalf of others,' he says.
In recognition of the valuable work of The Salvation Army Emergency Services Team and particularly Mr. Wilson's service, CFA Chief Euan Ferguson commented: 'Put him down as the person the emergency services call when they need help. This is very richly deserved.'
The Salvation Army offers congratulations to all Australians honoured in the Australia Day awards this year.
For more information please contact:
The Salvation Army, Australia Southern Territory
Territorial Communications & Fundraising Department, 95-99 Railway Road, Blackburn VIC 3130
T: 03 8878 2400