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07 February 2024
By Abby Walter
Forest Fire Management Victoria’s Kathy Gosby, of Horsham, won recognition for more than 35 years of helping keep the state safe during emergencies.
She received an Australian Fire Service Medal, awarded for distinguished service by a member of an Australian fire service.
Ms Gosby was one of two Forest Fire Management staff awarded the medal as part of Australia Day honours, for their work during some of the state’s worst emergencies including fire, flood and the COVID-19 response.
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Ms Gosby said she had worked across the state since starting in the industry in December 1988.
She is now a senior business analyst with Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action, DEECA, in Horsham.
“I started work with Forestry in Noojee, Gippsland, and I worked in Forestry across Victoria up until 2000,” she said.
“I have worked in Cohuna, Beaufort, Cann River and Portland. From there I went to Hume and was running a large reforestation project, which morphed into land management.
“I was there until 2014, which meant I was involved in the ’03, ’06, ’09 and 2012 fires in Hume.
“Since 2014 I have been in Horsham. I initially came here to develop the strategic fire plan and from there it evolved into a senior business analyst role, which is a lot of evaluation of all types of activities and is very varied in the projects I do.”
Ms Gosby’s roles in the Grampians region have also included regional agency commander, incident controller and planning officer.
She was the first woman to achieve level-three incident controller accreditation within Victoria’s emergency management agencies.
Ms Gosby said it had taken time to achieve a level-three accreditation.
“Level three means we can lead responses to large fires and flood,” she said.
“I have done flood work and assisted with Horsham’s 2020 tornado, so it’s moved from just doing fire work to doing all emergencies.
“Even though DEECA is Forest Fire Management, we assist on all emergencies. Some staff even helped with COVID response.” Ms Gosby’s significant work includes the Poolaijelo-Langkoop Powers Creek fire, which burnt nearly 7500 hectares on New Year’s Eve 2021; multiple deployments to Tambo and Snowy Complex fires between Christmas Day, 2019 and February 8, 2020 during the Black Summer bushfires; and managing first response and suppression activities at Little Desert, Desert Discovery Walk and Pumpjack Track fires in November 2020, which were the largest bushfires on Victorian public land that year.
She said one of the major changes she had seen throughout the years was the number of women employed in firefighting, which she hoped would continue to increase. She said another major change was technology.
“When I started, we had one computer in the office and now it’s all computer-driven,” she said.
“There’s so much more information when it comes to fires, rather than just hearing it back through the radio.
“We can even get real-time videos now from helicopters when there is a fire, which is so different.”
Ms Gosby said she enjoyed working to achieve something for the community.
“The best thing about firefighting is the experience of working in a very complex team doing very important work for the community,” she said.
“For many of the community, it’s one of the worst days when a big fire is coming, but working for them in that moment is important.”
Ms Gosby said one of the other joys of working in emergency management was always learning something new.
“I think one of the more unusual experiences I have had was working at floods in Shepparton in about 2012, learning about pig biosecurity,” she said.
“The pig farm was going to be impacted and had very strict biosecurity rules, so we had to understand them to ensure we could help them with managing the farm, and that was a very interesting process.
“There’s always odd things that come up and you have to learn about them really quickly and understand new concepts.”
Ms Gosby said it was humbling to receive an Australian Fire Service Medal.
“I was very proud to receive it – it’s amazing to think about where we started,” she said.
“I was speaking to a woman I started work with in 1988 and we said to each other, ‘imagine if we had been told in the tearoom that we would end up where we are now when there were hardly any women in Forestry, let alone the organisation’ – we wouldn’t have believed it.”
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