Camden RFS volunteer earns Meritorious Award

Harrington Park's Paul Sweeney has spent the past 32 years saving lives across the Macarthur region, and now he is being rewarded for his efforts.

Mr Sweeney has been named a recipient of a Meritorious Award in the 2021 Queen's Birthday Honours.

The worthy recipient was chosen for his work with the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

"It's unbelievably humbling," Mr Sweeney said.

"To be awarded at this level after 32 years of work is very humbling.

"I didn't expect it - I was totally gobsmacked."

Mr Sweeney commenced his service with the RFS in 1989 at the Leppington Brigade where he has held the positions of Firefighter, Brigade Training Officer, Brigade Secretary, Brigade Treasurer, Deputy Captain, Senior Deputy Captain, Captain; and also achieving Deputy Group Captain in the Camden District.

He became a Peer Support Officer with the Critical Incident Support Services (CISS) in 2002 and then a Critical Incident Support Services (CISS) Duty officer in 2008. He currently serves in that role.

"I always loved the interaction with the wide variety of people that join us as volunteers," he said.

"The community has given so much to me, so I wanted to give back to them.

"When people approach me and ask how I do it, 'how do I get up at 3am to answer the call?', I always say that I am more than happy to do it.

"I have always loved helping people."

Mr Sweeney's career with the RFS has taken him interstate to fight fires, including Black Saturday.

He deployed in 2009 to Queensland Fire and Rescue Service for fire investigations in Rockhampton and also assisted in training Korean wildfire investigators in 2014.

But Mr Sweeney said he most enjoyed working with up and coming volunteers.

"I wanted to use the skillset I had been given and developed to help other volunteers, so I became an instructor and assessor," he said.

"It's a good way to mentor the younger firies.

"I also work in the Peer Support Program because often we find crews who go out to accident scenes or fires. They often know the victims, especially in the smaller country areas.

"And we support our people, we want to help them too."

Mr Sweeney and his wife Kerry have called the Camden region home for many years.

They have four children and five great-grandchildren.

Mrs Sweeney is also an RFS volunteer.

Mr Sweeney said he loved that Camden residents were proud of their community.

"What I love most about Camden is that people actually want to be here," he said.

"We could have built anywhere, but we chose to live here.

"We have lovely neighbours, and Camden Council has done amazing things for the community."

Several Macarthur residents and community representatives received Queen's Birthday Honours today, including: