Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks for Pindimar/Tea Gardens RFS Charity Day

Mr Abbott spoke about his time with the Rural Fire Service, of which he is still an active member.

A VOLUNTEER RFS Deputy Captain and former Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott was the special guest speaker at the Pindimar/Tea Gardens RFS Charity Golf Day at Hawks Nest Golf Course on Friday 24 May.

Mr Abbott, who has been an active member with the Rural Fire Service (RFS) Davidson Brigade in northern Sydney for more than 20 years, readily recounted much of his long volunteer firefighting career, alongside tales of Federal Cabinet life.

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“I was first interested in the RFS in the 1994 Eastern Seaboard Fires, when hundreds of homes went down, and I had decided to join, but then found myself pre-selected and elected to Parliament.

“Years later, after the Sydney Olympics, the bushfires hitting Killarney Heights along the Wakehurst Parkway made me revisit that decision, despite being an MP by then.

“I called to ask what I could do, they said ‘maybe help make sandwiches’, because without proper training there’s not much one can do, which was fair enough.

“My first deployment was in the middle of training; they asked me if I could do a 24-hour deployment to the Central Coast.

“I had just been promoted to Cabinet, and had a Cabinet meeting the next day, but I said ‘yes’, and had to tell Cabinet I was unavailable and gone to fight the fires along the outskirts of Wyong.

“When questioned by a Cabinet colleague later on, I said: ‘You’ve got to be a human before you can be a Cabinet Minister.

“My work with the Brigade is at least as important as anything I did with Government, and there is something wholesome, good, and true about doing it for the community.

“I was sent to the 2003 Snowy Mountains fires, then 2005 Grampians fires, completed my Advanced Firefighter, Village Firefighter, chainsaw, Breathing Apparatus, and Crew Leader courses, and am still at Davidson Brigade, 24 years later.”

Mr Abbott recalled the reality-check when his team saved a paddock, wondering why they weren’t saving the farmhouse, and the farmer thanked them, saying the house was insured, but his livelihood was in the land, and its irreplaceable livestock feed.

“In 2007, I was beaten for the Davidson Deputy Captain election, while still a senior Cabinet Minister, by an unemployed motor mechanic, but he turned out to be the right person for the job,” Mr Abbott acknowledged.

“I left Parliament and returned as a Deputy, just in time to serve in the 2019-20 ‘fire apocalypse’ for our state, where I did more days in service than any other year before, and I had never felt prouder, more humble, than when we were applauded by hotel patrons after saving Manana.

“As far as I am concerned, I wish to serve with the RFS for as long as I am physically capable.

“The strength of a country is in its people, which is not counted in money, qualifications or their job, but in his or her character – by what you choose to do, not for money, but for love.

“Community service groups and clubs are doing wonderful things for Australia, they are the spirit of Australia, and I am very proud to have been a small part of it.”

By Thomas O’KEEFE

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