Greg Mullins – fighting from the front line
Greg Mullins


Greg Mullins – fighting from the front line

November 19, 2019

2019 Alumni Award Winner – Public & Community Service

Master of Management, 2000
Former Commissioner, Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW)

For those who are called to serve, retirement is rarely the end of the job. And for Greg Mullins AO AFSM, former Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW), who at the time of writing had just returned from fighting fires in Grafton and was heading to a burning California to speak about climate change, now is not a time to rest …

During summer as a child, Greg Mullins used to watch his father come home from work, answer a phone call then pull on his firefighting overalls before heading out on the local fire truck. ‘I would stand on top of our old Vauxhall and look at the orange glows in the bush surrounding Terrey Hills, wondering which fire Dad was fighting.

‘I fought my first large fire on 1 October 1971 with Dad – a huge fire was scorching its way from Bobbin Head through to Duffys Forest – and joined the local bushfire brigade the year after, at just 13.’

It was to be a lifelong career; and one that is practically unmatched in FRNSW. When Greg retired in 2017, he was the longest serving Commissioner for more than a century, and the second longest serving since the inception of the organisation in 1884. During his time as Commissioner, he represented Australian fire services nationally and internationally on issues concerning emergency management, managing the consequences of terrorist attacks, and urban search and rescue.

He also implemented a range of operational, governance and cultural reforms in FRNSW, including 50/50 male/female recruitment (FRNSW was the first and only fire service in Australia to take affirmative action); an Indigenous employment pathway; and the introduction of water-saving, compressed-air foam systems, robotics, drones and real-time satellite tracking/dispatch of fire engines.

And none of that experience or knowledge is going to waste. In retirement, Greg is focusing on climate change and the environment. In his words, he is ‘extremely concerned about the major changes to fire danger caused by a heating world.’

To that end, in March this year, Greg acted on his sense of duty to the public. Together with twenty-two former chiefs of Fire, SES, Forestry and National Parks agencies from every state and territory, he formed the group Emergency Leaders for Climate Action to draw attention to the worsening extreme weather that it is driving intensifying heatwaves, bushfires, cyclones and storms, and flooding.

He explains, ‘Based on peer-reviewed, credible scientific papers, there is absolutely no possibility that climate change is being caused by anything other than human activity – specifically the burning of oil, coal and gas. The science is clear. And alarming.

‘Forming Emergency Leaders for Climate Action has taught me that public service does not end when the pay cheque stops – it is a duty and a personal calling based on a deep commitment to the greater good; whatever the personal cost. All of us should seek to make a difference and leave behind a better, safer world.

‘I have noticed there is an innate trust of people who have spent their lives in various areas of public service, and hope our high profile will raise awareness of climate change and contribute to helping people force our government to step up and deeply cut emissions.’

As Greg reflects on these issues in light of his Master of Management from Macquarie University, he can see all the threads coming together. ‘My studies taught me to question and seek evidence, and helped me to understand cultural drivers and blockages, how to plan and direct organisational strategy, and the vital importance of workplace communication and workforce participation.

‘Macquarie definitely helped to shape my thinking and personal philosophy, and in turn, helped me to have a more fulfilling, productive life. I feel very humbled to receive this award because there are so many people doing so many interesting, worthwhile things in many fields of life and endeavour.

‘This award, I believe, recognises not just me, but each and every one of those 7,000 selfless men and women across the state whom I was so privileged to serve and lead. People who are out there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, rushing in to help people, often on the worst day of that person’s life.’

And just like the valiant firefighter he is, he will continue to confront danger head on. Whether it is a fire surrounding his local Terrey Hills or bringing awareness to the greatest threat of our time, climate change, Greg Mullins will be there.

Words by Megan English

Comments (3)

  1. Gary Picken

    “Public service does not end when the pay cheque stops” – so Mr Mullins says he receives no money or benefits from his main backer’s crowd funded organisation ( which is dedicated to climate alarmism)
    I find that difficult to believe.
    Also, I believe the ACT fire service introduced 50/50 male/female recruitment prior to its introduction in FRNSW.

  2. Mark McDonald

    Dear Sir. I too have a long been involved in fire fighting although all my time has been spent on the front line and not in administration roles. I plan to open factual discussions with you and people like yourself as soon as these fires calm down.
    I caution you to start collecting actual facts regarding this fire season as there is a noticeable change in the attitude of the people involved. Buckle up.
    Yours with certainty.
    Mark McDonald

  3. Pingback: Introducing Greg Mullins AO AFSM former Commissioner, Fire and Rescue NSW | Climate & Peace Forum

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