Photo: Richard Kingswood, Mary Waterford, Matthew Waldon, Mayor Mark Greenhill, Judith Finch, Robert Vinzenz, Matthew Waldon and David Crust.

Firefighting personnel and community advocates awarded Freecitizen titles 

28 Nov 2020

Blue Mountains City Council awarded seven people the City’s highest honour, at a ceremony on Saturday, 28 November.

Mayor Mark Greenhill said the City’s new Freecitizens had shown exceptional strength, courage, altruism and an unshakeable commitment to the community in the face of sometimes insurmountable challenges.  They included:

  • Judith Finch and Mary Waterford – Advocates for equity, human rights, dignity and community wellbeing.
  • David Crust – Regional Director, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
  • Richard Kingswood – Director, Conservation Branch, NPWS.
  • Robert Vinzenz – Blue Mountains District Services Coordinator, Rural Fire Service (RFS).
  • Matthew Waldon – Blue Mountains Zone Commander, Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW).
  • Greg Wardle – Blue Mountains RFS Incident Controller.

“People such as these inspire us to bring our best selves to the challenges of our times, and their efforts benefit us all,” Mayor Greenhill said.

About 30 people attended the ceremony at the Council Chambers to honour the seven awardees.

Judith Finch and Mary Waterford have spent their lives advocating for and supporting the most vulnerable members of the community. 

Ms Finch has worked tirelessly for the Blue Mountains community and volunteered on the ground in East Timor, providing much needed support to a developing nation. Meanwhile, Ms Waterford has volunteered in the Women Refuge movement and is a founding member of the Blue Mountains for Reconciliation, ANTaR, East Timor Sisters and Together for Timor. She has been a longstanding advocate for social justice and human rights.

The remaining five awardees received the Freecitizen title for the role they placed in the bushfire emergency faced by the City in the summer of 2019/20.

“With multiple fire fronts threatening the towns and villages of the Blue Mountains, our homes, our communities, our livelihoods – and our lives – were in danger,” Mayor Greenhill said. “And this danger didn’t exist for days or even weeks; by the time Australia’s biggest ever forest fire (Gospers Mountain fire) was extinguished on Jan 12, it had been burning for 79 days.

“Yet incredibly, throughout this extraordinary event, only 22 residential homes in the Blue Mountains local government area were lost, and there was no loss of life. 

“This incredible outcome is an example of the exceptional skill, experience and leadership of our emergency services whose responses to this catastrophic event has been widely recognised as having saved a vast majority of Blue Mountains towns and from the impact of the bush fires.

“We honour all seven of the City’s new Freecitizens. They are all extraordinary people, whose selflessness has benefited the Blue Mountains.”

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