Words of safety and comfort

August 04, 2017

Margot Green held many roles in her time serving the Hilldene Fire Brigade.

She joined as a volunteer in 1987 (she’d been an active member and supporter since 1978) and her voice became famous, as a communications officer for the Mitchell Shire Group CFA.

Mrs Green could be mistaken for an animal whisperer.

‘‘I was in native animal rescue for many years but by the time I reached 75, I thought I’m too old to be getting up at 2am every day to feed baby kangaroos,’’ she said.

‘‘When I left I was lucky enough to be given the sign off the end of the street,’’ she said, pointing to the road sign sitting upright beside her back door.

Three plump magpies sit perched on her back verandah.

‘‘We normally have a couple of kookaburras too,’’ Mrs Green said.

They sat staring in through the rectangular pane of glass at a tangle of two-way radios and a polished wooden plaque studded with shiny medallions.

Mrs Green recently received the plaque as a recognition of her time and service to the CFA.

The wood used for the plaque was donated by volunteers, cut from a tree that had burnt down on Black Saturday inside the Kinglake area fires.

The Hilldene Brigade and Mitchell Shire Group were some of the first responders on Black Saturday.

‘‘I was on the air 16 hours on Black Saturday,’’ she said.

Mrs Green served not only on Black Saturday but on Ash Wednesday as well.

As the fire started, Mrs Green became the eyes and ears of the group, watching over and helping co-ordinate the volunteer firefighters at ground level.

‘‘I think as a radio operator, or as a radio communications officer as they call you, your worst fear is that when you send a truck out, if they are going to come home,’’ Mrs Green said.

‘‘You send them out and you have to check, do you have enough water? Do you have enough food? Do you need me to send someone out?

‘‘You’ve got all these things you need to think about too. Do we need an ambulance? How badly hurt are you? What happens if they do this or do that?’’

As the wind changed direction and the situation worsened, Mrs Green directed auxiliary crews to those on the ground who needed supplies, support and medical attention.

‘‘Put it this way, I’m no hero,’’ Mrs Green said.

‘‘It’s everyone of those persons who gets on the back of a truck.

‘‘They’re the ones who we don’t know whether their coming home or not, I just sat on the radio.’’

Etched into the plaque are the words of a catch-cry Margot Green made famous, ‘‘This is VL3AY Mitchell Shire Fire Brigades Group — Out and Listening.’’

Mrs Green called out those words after every incident.

It was in that cry that many found safety and comfort in the knowledge that Mrs Green was listening.

The plaque represents the communities Mrs Green helped protect in her years as a volunteer.

She said that when she turned 80 in February she wasn’t going to stand for deputy communications officer again.

‘‘I really loved the radio, I really did,’’ she said.

‘‘But it’s not just fires any more, you look at these motor vehicle accidents that they have to go to, there’s things in it like that which are pretty horrific for you.

‘‘My voice was infamous, not famous.

‘‘I don’t know what else to say other than that I talked on the radio.’’

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