Reverend Neil Percival receives OAM for volunteer firefighting

Neil Percival, pictured at the Australia Day ceremony at Young's Carrington Park, has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia.
Neil Percival, pictured at the Australia Day ceremony at Young's Carrington Park, has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia.

Reverend Neil Percival has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the community through the NSW Rural Fire Service.

The achievement was recognised at the Young Australia Day ceremony, however the official presentation will happen at a later date at Government House in Sydney.

Mr Percival moved to Young last year and has joined the Boara Rural Fire Brigade, continuing an almost 40 year career as a volunteer firefighter.

He grew up in Normanhurst, Sydney and joined the Westleigh Brigade with a mate from school at 16 years of age in 1980.

He transferred to Beacon Hill Brigade before moving to the Shoalhaven District in 2003 where he spent 15 years in the Berry Brigade, most recently as Captain.

He applied his work as a minister in the Anglican Church to the Rural Fire Service by volunteering to become the Chaplain for the Shoalhaven District, as well as being an active firefighter.

“I became a minister in the Anglican Church in the mid 1990s and it made sense to take that training and use it in the RFS,” Mr Percival said.

“It’s about looking after the well-being of the people who go out and put out fires. I been doing that in the Shoalhaven District for 15 years and now I’ve become the Chaplain for the South West Slopes Zone.”

Mr Percival says he gets a “buzz” out of attending a fire and controlling it. He also believes it’s important to contribute to the community you live in.

“This is something I really enjoy doing, and I’m pretty good at it too. I enjoy the adventure and excitement, you never get too old for flashing lights and sirens,” he said.

“If you’re part of a community, you need to put something into the community. This is is my contribution. As long as I’m fit and healthy, I imagine I’ll keep doing it.”

He said volunteering in the RFS has changed a lot over the years and said firefighters do a lot more than people might think.

“It’s a lot more diverse than it used to be. The RFS doesn’t just put out bush fires. We do structure fires and motor vehicle accidents. I’ve attended helicopter and fixed wing aircraft crashes and a couple of search and rescue operations.” he said.

Outside the Rural Fire Service, Mr Percival works at St John’s Anglican Church in Young and the Anglican churches in Quandialla, Wombat, and Hampstead.

He’s also completing a PhD on the effects of trauma on emergency services personnel through Newcastle University.

This is something I can say is my contribution to the community.

Neil Percival