NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian visited Rappville, handing out awards and grants. Picture: Richmond River Independent
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian visited Rappville, handing out awards and grants. Picture: Richmond River Independent

Who are the 4 fire heroes the Premier visited?

FOUR people have been honoured for their work after last summer's bushfires, receiving NSW Government Community Service Awards from Premier Gladys Berejiklian today.

As well as thanking the recipients of the awards, the Premier and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis

gave an update on recovery efforts and offered special grants for local projects.

One year on since the bushfires devastated a number of communities in the region, the Premier took the opportunity to present prestigious NSW Government Community Service Awards to four locals who rose to the challenge going above and beyond in supporting their communities in the aftermath of the catastrophic bushfires.


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian visited Rappville, handing out awards and grants.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian visited Rappville, handing out awards and grants.


The recipients are Georgia Foster-Eyles from Nymboida, Hayley Katzen from Ewingar, Rappville Primary School Principal Kathleen Collis and RFS volunteer Neil Burnett, also from Rappville.

"You have done a tremendous job in supporting, caring and helping your communities rebuild during such challenging times. All of NSW is proud of you," Ms Berejiklian said.

The Premier also paid tribute to Clarence and Richmond Valley councils for their ongoing efforts in the recovery process, and announced some modest grants for community projects in Rappville, Ewingar and Nymboida communities.

The Ewingar Community Hall, where around 100 locals took shelter during the fires, will receive $30,000 for airconditioning and solar panels.

The tennis courts at Rappville are a huge part of the glue that binds the village together and $25,000 will be invested for much needed resurfacing.

$11,000 will be used for a project at bus shelter project at Nymboida which will feature a mural commemorating the bushfires.

Who are the NSW Government Community Service Award Recipients?

Neil Burnett - Captain, Rappville RFS

Neil and his family are Rappville personified. Neil is an unsung hero who volunteers in

many areas including being Captain of the Rappville RFS brigade.

On October 8 2019, Rappville was devastated by the Busbys Flat Road fire which burned through the township and surrounding areas.

Of the 30 homes in the village of Rappville, 11 were destroyed and six damaged by the fire. Neil worked tirelessly fighting the fires for his community and many others fires that followed across the Northern Rivers.

Neil is a quiet achiever with his service to the community being the glue that keeps communities alive.

Kathleen Collis - Principal, Rappville Primary School

Kathleen become a community champion during Rappville's time of need, opening the school up to impacted residents, providing a disaster access point, a place for community meetings and the main conduit for information to the community.

She did this all the while continuing to provide care and a safe place for students, as well as dealing with her own personal challenges as the family farm was impacted by the fires.

Hayley Katzen - Ewingar

Being a member of the local bushfire brigade at Ewingar, Hayley actively fought the bushfires that ripped through the small, isolated community on October 8, where sadly two community members perished and saw extensive property losses.

Hayley went onto become a focal point of contact in her community and become the community spokesperson.

She chaired the community recovery meetings and led the visit by the Governor General and his wife in the aftermath of the fires. She was also involved in organising a benefit concert post bushfires.

It's been an emotional few months for Hayley, a cattle farmer who at the time of the fires was in her final week of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer and dealing with the impacts of the drought. Despite her own challenges, Hayley played an enormous role in supporting the Ewingar community during these difficult times.

Georgia Foster-Eyles - Nymboida

Georgia has been a rock for the Nymboida community, one of the worst affected by the fires that ripped through the village on November 8, destroying around 96 homes and damaging 17 others.

Georgia along with a small team of volunteers helped co-ordinate the immediate recovery. What makes Georgia stand out is she has been there for the long haul and is only now easing out. She is a young mum who turned up day after day with a baby on her hip and became the focal point of contact for Government agencies and NGO's to communicate with the wider community through social media/SMS.

She also co-ordinated the fundraising process and donations and established a tool library from a shipping container in order to provide access to donated tools and equipment for the community to use as part of the clean-up. She is without a doubt very worthy of a community service award.