For 35 years, Leo op den Brouw has been an active volunteer with the Mallacoota State Emergency Service. He’s served as its unit controller since 2017.
Leo’s dedication and inspirational leadership were on display during and after the 2019–20 bushfires, when the Mallacoota community faced one of its greatest challenges. On New Year’s Eve 2019, a huge out-of-control bushfire devastated the Mallacoota township and surrounding region. The fire brought down 123 homes and burnt 83 per cent of the land.
It also destroyed businesses, farms and livelihoods, while decimating recreation facilities, wilderness areas and wildlife. Ongoing road closures and fire threats meant Mallacoota and its nearby communities were cut off for around five weeks.
Following the bushfire, Leo continues to be an integral part of ensuring local collaborative solutions are at the heart of the Mallacoota community’s response and recovery.