In a tribute to their tireless efforts this summer, a group of volunteers from Australia’s recent devastating bushfire and flood emergencies arrived in Sydney in style this morning onboard the Cunard flagship Queen Mary 2.
Sailing from Brisbane as Cunard’s guests were more than 35 volunteers from the NSW Rural Fire Service, Tasmania Fire Service, Victoria Country Fire Authority and the Queensland State Emergency Service – who have been at the forefront of natural disasters this summer.
Cunard President and Managing Director Peter Shanks said Queen Mary 2’s ‘Salute to the Summer Heroes’, which saw the volunteers standing at the bow of the famous ocean liner as she sailed into Sydney early this morning, would allow the community to acknowledge the volunteers as well as the overall contribution of volunteer organisations.
“Queen Mary 2 makes a huge impact wherever she goes and we are delighted she can play a part in marking the service and sacrifice of volunteers who routinely defend and protect their communities,” Mr Shanks said.
“It is humbling to know that emergency services volunteers risk everything to protect their communities in the most extreme conditions and they do it willingly year after year and sometimes at great personal cost.”
Among the volunteers (each sailing with their partner or a travelling companion) were:
- NSW RFS personnel who fought major bushfires in a number of areas of the state including a devastating blaze in the Coonabarabran area
- Firefighters from Tasmania where this summer of natural disasters began with fires in the east of the state that destroyed scores of homes along with Dunalley Primary School
- SES volunteers who protected communities in the flood and extreme weather emergency that stretched from the far north of Queensland to Brisbane in the wake of tropical cyclone Oswald
- Victoria Country Fire Authority volunteers who have also had a busy summer fighting fires in various parts of the state.
With 70,000 active members, the NSW Rural Fire Service is the world’s largest volunteer organisation. RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons paid tribute to his members and their contribution to the community.
“All our volunteers join up to help support and protect their community in times of need,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said. “They work and train hard throughout the year and are always willing to lend a hand, despite the fact this means they’ll be away from their jobs, homes, family and friends. It is great that their work and sacrifices are recognised and applauded by so many in NSW and indeed, throughout Australia.”
A special auction was conducted onboard Queen Mary 2 with more than $30,000 raised for the Australian Red Cross 2013 natural disaster appeals.
Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia, which represents Cunard, said that Australia’s leading cruise operator was pleased to help the community say thank you to the thousands of emergency services volunteers throughout Australia.
“The volunteers and family members invited to sail onboard Queen Mary 2 are representative of the summer heroes that can be found in communities the length and breadth of the country,” Ms Sherry said.
“As a nation we are in awe of these people, who offer their communities unparalleled commitment when nature is at its most dangerous.”