Lifetime firefighter humbled by OAM honour
After 50 years of “running toward danger”, Applethorpe rural firefighter Roni Bau has been honoured for tireless efforts in keeping the Granite Belt community safe.
Mr Bau received the Order of Australia in a nomination that left him touched and “emotional”.
“You do this sort of work and don’t get wages because you do it for your community,” he said.
“This sort of honour makes you realise it is worth it, it sticks to your heart.”
Mr Bau began his work in 1970 and hasn’t looked back in five decades, working his way up through the ranks of the Applethorpe Rural Fire Brigade.
“When we started, we had a knapsack and a blanket, fighting a fireline in a t-shirt, stubbies and hat,’’ he said.
“Now we have aerial bombing, truck and radios. The way we’ve changed over the years has meant we’re a lot better equipped.
“But the fires are also getting more intense and a lot more frequent.”
Among those that will stick in the mind of Mr Bau forever are the devastating 2002 fires.
“We didn’t have as much gear back then and it was a fast-moving fire,” he said.
“We lost a few homes and lost one life, which is one of the saddest times of my life.
“But you have to put the bad ones aside and look to how we can improve and save lives in the future. Otherwise you wouldn’t survive in the fire service.”
Over the years, Mr Bau had also been awarded the 2017 QFES Australia Day Achievement Award and National Medal but nothing would compare to the thanks from the Stanthorpe community.
“There’s been people take your heart out; who lose their house and bump into you on the street who thank you for everything you’ve done. Or the students I’ve taught who walk up and thank you for the training,” he said.
“At the time of a fire you don’t take it in, but a day or two later it sinks in and that’s when you sit around a corner and have a cry sometimes.
“It just ties into the nomination, it makes you quite emotional to see the community does appreciate you.
“I think Stanthorpe is that close-knit community that if a neighbour is in trouble, you don’t bat an eyelash, you just look after them straight away.”
Mr Bau also thanked his family and James Massey who nominated him.