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Peter Weeks rewarded with Order of Australia Medal

Published 18/06/2012

Peter Weeks

State Emergency Service (SES) volunteer Peter Weeks has been recognised with an Order of Australia Medal for service to the Upper Goulburn region, particularly during the 2009 Victorian bushfires.

Peter is Communications Officer and Duty Officer for the SES’ Alexandra Unit, where he has served for more than 25 years.

This is not the first recognition for his impressive career. Peter was recognised with a Community Spirit Award in 2010 and was named Murrindi Shire’s Citizen of the Year in 2001. The Community Broadcast Association of Australia presented The Tony Staley Award for Broadcasting Excellence to Upper Goulburn Community Radio (UGFM) – which Peter manages - in 2009 for its work during the bushfires.

Peter was a founding committee member of UGFM in 1993, and has since served as Technical Officer and President as well as Station Manager. In 2010, UGFM was the first community radio station recognised as an emergency broadcaster by the Victorian Minister for Police and Emergency Services.

Peter is an enormously active member of his community and an invaluable resource in the fields of broadcasting and emergency management.

He has served in a range of roles, including:

  • Regional Co-ordinator for the Wireless Institute Civil Engineering Network (WICEN) for 22 years
  • Member, Murrindindi Shire Municipal Emergency Management Planning Committee
  • Member, Seymour Division Emergency Response Committee
  • Member, Mansfield Shire Municipal Emergency Management Planning Committee
  • Member, Strathbogie Shire Municipal Emergency Management Planning Committee
  • Member, Rural City of Benallen Municipal Emergency Management Committee
  • Volunteer firefighter, Acheron Fire Brigade, Country Fire Authority, 1982-1988

Peter started off in the Civil Defences before the organisation became the SES.

When UGFM received its full licence in 1998, Peter approached the local council to set up local broadcasting of emergency messages. During the first major test of this arrangement in 1993, the station interviewed incident controllers and firefighters as they battled blazes in the North East and Alpine areas, some on the boundary of UGFM’s footprint.

This turned out to be an important way of letting firefighters’ families know they were safe.

With the WICEN, Peter co-ordinated deployment of accredited amateur radio operators into the North East during the 2003 fires, training them to disseminate information to the community.

Peter and UGFM also played a key role in keeping the community informed during the Yea fires, and a call out over the radio for a midnight community meeting drew a crowd off 100 people – who came with less than a half hours’ notice.

By this time, ABC had been established as Victoria’s emergency broadcaster but with other fires happening across the state at the time, the value of a broadcaster able to focus in on one local area was apparent.

“In 2009 we were ready as we could be. We had a backup generator for the station and very strong links with CFA and DSE. Unfortunately we did have conflicting information and this came out at the Royal Commission,” Peter said.

“We did what we could on the day. We’ve received a lot of letters from local people saying ‘if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be here.’”

For the last six years Peter has been an advocate for local community broadcasters getting involved as emergency broadcasters. 

“We have these great assets in our own backyards – why don’t we use them? They are volunteer organisations but generally their hearts are in the right place.”

“I’m proud that we’ve led the way.”

When asked how he had managed to sustain the effort over such a period, he said: “When you see a need and a way to fix it, you just want to help.”

Peter comes from a family of volunteers.

His wife Judy is a Deputy Unit Controller with SES. His father was a superintendent in the last voluntary Ambulance service in Alexandra.  Growing up the ambulance radio was always on at home so when the time came as an SES volunteer to be coordinating helicopters, it all seemed to come naturally.