The man who became the face of the fight against bushfires which devastated much of New South Wales last summer claimed the experience, though harrowing, showed him the spirit and resilience of the Australian people.

Head of Resilience NSW Shane Fitzsimmons was the Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service during the bushfires and appeared daily on TV screens and radios across the nation giving updates and warnings during the crisis.

Welcoming guest speaker Shane Fitzsimmons (centre) to the Rotary District conference are Rotarians (from left) Jacquie Roberts, Brian Hunt, Carol Franettovich, Wendy Byron, Mark Norman and Bill Mason.
Welcoming guest speaker Shane Fitzsimmons (centre) to the Rotary District conference are Rotarians (from left) Jacquie Roberts, Brian Hunt, Carol Franettovich, Wendy Byron, Mark Norman and Bill Mason.

“It (bushfires) had a horrendous toll, and families, individuals and communities have been changed forever,” he said.

“But through all that adversity, remembering we had already communities on their knees with drought, we then saw the enormity of the bushfires and all that came with the bushfires, the weather broke and we had storms and floods and erosion and landslides and then very quickly we had COVID and all that came with COVID, we’ve seen humanity, we’ve seen the Australian spirit, we’ve seen communities pulling together and looking out for each other like never before.

Rotary Club of Forest Lake members (from left) Bruce Clark, Bob Briton and Bruce Packlington at the Rotary District 9630 conference at the Empire Theatre.
Rotary Club of Forest Lake members (from left) Bruce Clark, Bob Briton and Bruce Packlington at the Rotary District 9630 conference at the Empire Theatre.

“And, in the face of adversity we’ve seen the very best in Australians and the very best in people from much further afield.

“We should be very proud as Australians.”

Gavin Roberts (left) with Jacquie Roberts and Damian Carroll at the Rotary District 9630 conference at Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre.
Gavin Roberts (left) with Jacquie Roberts and Damian Carroll at the Rotary District 9630 conference at Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre.

Mr Fitzsimmons said various agencies had learnt a lot about dealing with such disasters.

“There’s no doubt going forward we will see more investment in technologies and equipment and infrastructure to help deal with fire and deal with fire suppression,” he said.

Peter Snow and Sheena Liley enjoy a lunch break during the Rotary District 9630 conference at the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba.
Peter Snow and Sheena Liley enjoy a lunch break during the Rotary District 9630 conference at the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba.

“And, also to further enhance and improve the public information and warnings framework and the tools and devices that are available to community members no matter where they are and to help them understand what they’re vulnerable to and more importantly what they can do to help save themselves and their family.”

Geraldine Simpson and Andrew Hurst from Wynnum-Manly Rotary Club at the Empire Theatre hosted conference.
Geraldine Simpson and Andrew Hurst from Wynnum-Manly Rotary Club at the Empire Theatre hosted conference.

Mr Fitzsimmons was the keynote speaker among a list of presenters who spoke on a diverse range of topics to the Rotary District 9630 conference in Toowoomba at the weekend.

The district, which stretches from the Brisbane river west to Charleville and to the South Australian border, has more than 1000 Rotarians among its more than 50 clubs.

Originally published as Bushfire fighter applauds the spirit and resilience of Aussies