Neil Musch has dedicated a lifetime to emergency response and training, a service which was recognised with an OAM on the 2021 Australia Day Honours List.
He was one of 117 Queenslanders to make the list, awarded in the general division “for service to emergency response organisations”.
The humble Moolboolaman man said he was shocked to hear the news just before Christmas.
“It was quite a surprise, I’m thinking to myself by heck!,” Neil said.
“In my opinion there’s a lot of people in the fire brigade in the Bundaberg area who have done at least what I have done if not more.”
The 80-year-old was recently named volunteer of the year in the Brian Prince Awards.
“Within a few months everything was piled on top of one another, it almost seems too much.
“I prefer to be doing the job but not skite about it.”
While modest about his achievements, there is no doubt that Neil possesses a long list of them, with 42 years’ experience in emergency response between first aid, paramedics and the rural fire brigade.
He started with the Red Cross in 1978 as a first aid instructor, first as a volunteer before taking on a position and continuing to volunteer in the evenings.
He then began volunteering with the Beenleigh Ambulance service before securing a position as an ambulance officer in Dysart.
There he continued to run first aid classes in the evenings and, over 18 years, trained more than 1100 people.
In 2008 he retired to Moolboolaman when an advertisement calling for rural fire brigade volunteers caught his eye.
“I said to Sylvia, my wife, ‘I could join that and if nothing else be there first aider’.
“I was silly enough to say to [the first officer] I’d do any job he wanted me to.
“That was a silly thing to say in retrospect.”
Over the years he has served as secretary, community educator and second officer before being voted in as first officer in 2018.
He has continued to deliver first aid courses when needed and has also played a role in major response efforts.
“2013 we spent a lot of time washing out houses in Bundaberg,” Neil said.
“The brigade spent about six days doing that if I remember right.”
Neil was among the local emergency responders to travel to Yeppoon to assist in the recovery from the devastation caused by Severe Tropical Cyclone Marcia in 2015.
“It was quite surprising how the cyclone and the wind stripped all the leaves off the branches,” he said.
“Every roller door was blown in just about.
“It was a mess.
“We spent five days up there.”
The reluctant OAM recipient joked that perhaps “temporary insanity” had something to do with his dedication to volunteering and emergency response.
“No, look, I’m pleased that I can do it.
“I’m helping the community, it’s just something I like to do.”
But his wife Sylvia is on hand to stop him from being too humble about his incredible achievements.
“He just does so much because he loves people and community,” Sylvia said.
“He just likes to get in there and do the job.
“He’s done lots of things over the years and I’m proud of him.”
Neil also instructs at the Gin Gin Judo Club, as a first degree black belt, a skill which has helped to keep him active.
There’s no sign he’ll be slowing down any time soon.
“I’m 80, so far I can still do the job.”
He said he’d love to see more young people come forward to volunteer for rural fire brigade units across the region.
The nomination form for the Order of Australia and the complete Australia Day 2021 Honours List are available on the Governor-General’s website at www.gg.gov.au.