By ZAC STANDISH
A dedicated member of the Gippsland community for over 30 years, Traralgon resident Kelly Rash was honoured by the Governor-General on the Queen’s Birthday as a recipient of an Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM).
Ms Rash has performed a number of roles in the emergency management sector and has been key in preparing the Gippsland region for fire and emergency response, leading training, mentoring and accreditation of staff.
“When I was given the award on Monday I think the words overwhelmed and humbled don’t even cut it to be honest, I was pretty taken aback and now that I have had a couple of days to reflect on it I am really proud of my achievements,” Ms Rash told The Express.
“When I received notification that I had been nominated I was just so honoured, but to be actually awarded the medal was beyond humbling, I can’t even find the words to describe it to be honest.”
Ms Rash spoke about the emotion behind being recognised in this way and the sacrifices she has made to get to where she is today.
“I did get a little bit emotional which I don’t usually do so I certainly was not expecting that,” she said.
“I reflect back and sometimes working in this field you do need to sacrifice some things and for me it is always about my family and particularly my children – I think about the first Christmas Day I was not able to be with them and that certainly hit pretty hard, but that is just what you do and all emergency responders go through it.
“I could not have done this without the support of my family and the team at work who have been pivotal in helping me over the years.”
Ms Rash described what it was that drew her into getting involved in the industry.
“The emergency management side of things really appealed to me, an opportunity many years ago when we did respond to fires it was the one time in the organisation where everyone is working towards the same goal in getting that fire out and making sure people are safe,” she said.
“It is ironic to be receiving this award now when we are in the midst of floods, but again all the agencies are in there together responding in the clean-up effort and I just love being able to help people through times such as these.”
Described as a “trailblazer and role model” for women in fire services, she said her work in promoting inclusion in the industry is something she takes extreme pride in.
“I am proud as punch, when I did see that statement I really did feel proud, it is my turn now to give back,” she said.
“I never started off wanting to be a trail blazer, it just fell in my lap and I have been given plenty of opportunities through deployments not just in Victoria but I have been all over the country and it is just so rewarding to get that experience and be able to impart on young girls coming through.
“It was something that was never planned (being a trailblazer) and I just feel like I have been doing my job, there are lots of studies now stating that organisations function a lot better with a 50/50 split of men and women and our department is working really hard to get that ratio right and I am really lucky to be part of that.”
When asked about what makes her the perfect candidate for this award, Ms Rash attributes her success to always being dedicated to her job.
“I have just always tried to do my job and I consider that really important doing the best I possibly can, and in doing that a number of opportunities have opened up to step out of my comfort zone,” she said.
“It is not always an easy thing but as I have got a little bit later in my career, I have understood that stepping out of your comfort zone is a good thing and I find that is where I do my best work.
“I am truly honoured to be given plenty of opportunities and been mentored by plenty of great people who have received this award before me and they have taught me lessons I hope to pass on to the next generation.”