Firefighting teacher wins award for CEO

James McFarlane is a senior teacher whose long service to volunteering has helped win an award for the Catholic Education Office Sydney.

He’s also called on more young people to step up and help others.

He’s been a volunteer with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service for almost 20 years and during that time has been on call for 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year with the team in the Wollondilly District.

“It’s a good group of people,” said Mr McFarlane, who’s Year 11 and 12 Technical and Applied Studies (TAS) Coordinator at All Saints Catholic Senior College, Casula.


The NSW Rural Fire Service has honoured his role by acknowledging the support of his employer,  the Catholic Education Office Sydney.

The CEO Sydney was recently awarded the 2015 Supportive Employer Special Commendation for  its role in the NSW Rural Fire Service “volunteering in the workplace” project.

“The Principal of All Saints, David Fetterplace and the CEO are very supportive and part of the  understanding is that I can be released at a moment’s notice,”

“The family is also understanding and my wife is very tolerant,” said Mr McFarlane.

He’s has seen action in a variety of other parts of Australia, too.

In 2003, he was fighting fires in Canberra, he helped battle the blaze in the Black Saturday fires  Victoria 2009, the 2013 Alpine fires and in the more recent Blue Mountains fires. He can also be called on to help put out local house fires in his district.

“Basically, I’m on call 24 hours a day and most of the calls are local and there’s a lot of false alarms,” he said.

Mr McFarlane has also volunteered for other assignments. During World Youth Day 2008 he was a police volunteer in charge of security.

“We were working with police keeping everyone safe,”

He’s been honoured with the ACT Award for fighting the Canberra fires and the National Medal for his service to volunteer firefighting.

Mr McFarlane encouraged students to take part in the 10-week Secondary Schools Cadet Program for 12-16 year olds run by the NSW Rural Fire Service.

The students don’t fight fires but are trained in fire prevention and safety, helping people with casualties and other practical scenarios, leadership and teamwork.

The course, which takes place during school time, can be tailored into the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) Years 7-10 Syllabus.

He said once students reach 16 they can actively volunteer with their parents’ permission, then they can choose to join themselves once they turn 18.

“We’d like to see more young people volunteer,” said Mr McFarlane.


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