Rotary in Action: Firefighter receives national gong

Award winner: Zone Commander for Fire and Rescue NSW, Tony Waller, during Rotary's recent visit to Wollongong Fire Station.

Award winner: Zone Commander for Fire and Rescue NSW, Tony Waller, during Rotary's recent visit to Wollongong Fire Station.

The Rotary Club of Wollongong, recently held their club meeting at the Wollongong Fire Station as a Vocational Visit. Members were taken on a tour of the station, met the staff and viewed the many specific purpose vehicles, which were explained and demonstrated.

It was also an opportunity to congratulate the Zone Commander for the Illawarra, Tony Waller, on his outstanding achievements in the recent Rotary Emergency Services Community Awards for NSW and the first Rotary National Emergency Services Community Awards, where he won Officer in Paid Capacity on both occasions.

The NSW ceremony was held in Sydney on August 2, 2019 and the second, the national ceremony, was held in the grounds of Government House, Canberra. This coincided with the annual Open Day for Government House, where more than 6500 were expected to attend on the day. This was a real opportunity for others to join with the Vice-Regal couple, the finalists, their families, colleagues and friends to share in this event.

Joint Patrons for the National Awards are Governor-General David Hurley and Mrs Linda Hurley. This was a very special honour for the Rotarians who began this journey just under 10 years ago, hosted by the Illawarra clubs as a pilot before moving to the state level where His Excellency was the project's Patron and hosted the first NSW event in the grounds of Government House, Sydney.

Superintendent Waller provided a very inspiring presentation about his 38 years as a full-time firefighter, from where he began - when firefighters sat on the side of their fire trucks to attend a fire - to today when the highest levels of technology, training and expertise are used. Tony has been a firefighter educator for over 20 years and has also developed the expertise to attend and lead major disasters both at home and overseas.

In his presentation about what qualified him for this award, Rotary's "Service Above Self", he used several hats to demonstrate his lifetime of volunteering, starting as a seven-year-old nipper in Surf Life Saving NSW in the local Coogee Surf Club to becoming a life member of Surf Life Saving NSW. He served 35 years as a rescue crewman with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, completing over 600 missions and received a Bravery Award. He currently holds numerous honours and positions including the current governor, life member and past president of Coogee Surf Life Saving Club, Director of Education on the board of Surf Life Saving NSW where he oversees the education of 75,000 lifesavers in 129 surf clubs.

He is currently an active Scout Leader at 1st Clovelly and has been recognised by the Governor-General with meritorious awards for his service to Scouting in Australia.

For more information about Tony and the other finalists in both the NSW and National Emergency awards, visit, and

For information about Rotary generally, the opportunities is provides to become involved or the Rotary Club of Wollongong, contact Dot Hennessy on 0412 120 314 or