28 December, 2022
Graham hangs his helmet
After 32 years of dedicated service, Graham Bunyan, Gilgandra operations support officer Rural Fire Service (RFS), has officially retired.
“I originally joined as a volunteer at CFS (country
fire service) because I was in a small village in Adelaide
Hills, and I knew no one,” said Mr Bunyan.
“There was no local pub or anything to go to. I was
getting fuel one day and the captain who was down at
the service station asked me what I was doing, whether
I had a truck license, and stupidly enough I said yes. The
next Monday night I was dressed in yellow overalls
driving a fire truck and I thought, this is pretty cool!”
Mr Bunyan has been the backbone of Gilgandra RFS
volunteers for 10 years. Firstly as a temporary, Mr
Bunyan was made permanent two years later and he
couldn’t be prouder of the work that’s been achieved.
“I’ve seen this zone evolve, the equipment's become
much newer and easier, the staff have improved, systems
have improved, it’s all new people,” said Mr
“I’m the last man standing is it were, and I think the
zone is in great hands. Now the job's finished, I really
came in to help stabilise and wait until things improved.
Things have considerably improved, way beyond what I
expected. So now it's time to move on.”
Seeing people improve beyond their expectations is
something Mr Bunyan will forever cherish.
“Watching people come out and being very insure
about themselves, to becoming quite self-determined
and self-reliant. That always amazes me.”
However, the most significant thing Mr Bunyan
learnt in his decades of experience, is realising how hard
the staff and volunteers work, and how dedicated each
of them are.
“Technically, I'm a public servant. I'm a member of
the Public Service Association. But the real public servants
are out there wearing blue and yellow, and working
their guts out. Sometimes during summer, and even
training and training hard. My job, my service, has been
to the volunteers. Without them this organisation is
But working in country towns mean you see
the worst of the worst happen to your neighbours. When
there’s an accident, you hope it's no one you know.
When there’s bushfires, you hope your loved ones aren’t
“We’ve had fires where 100 homes have been lost. A
very treasured colleague of mine who unfortunately
passed away last week, he'd been out there fighting fires
and helping his neighbours, but his own home was lost.
And then in the Sir Ivan fires, the same thing happened
to one of our captains,” said Mr Bunyan.
“And the first I knew about it was when I said, mate
there’s nothing more you can do today, go home, get
some rest, there’s going be a lot of work to do tomorrow.
And he said, yeah, I suppose I better see if I can find
some mates for a place to sleep. So I asked why’s that
and he said he lost his house.
“If somebody walked in the door, hit me right
between the eyes with a sledgehammer, I think I would
have recovered quicker.
“Just realising everything we fought for, and one of
those houses we lost, and wasn't the only one, we had
people out fighting fires come home, their houses are
ruined. That was upsetting.”
Balancing mental health and looking after yourself is
one of the many pieces of advice Mr Bunyan will be
passing onto his successor.
“You do sit back and question yourself, what could
have I done. The answer is usually nothing,” said Mr
“But you need to remember that we do have victories. So although those two fires were terrible, and we lost 100 houses, and people had tremendous losses and stock losses, not one life at all. And that's important.”
Kevin Farraway is the new operations support officer for Gilgandra RFS.