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A Look Back at 2023 with the Museum of Fire Chairman

Considering the turbulent environmental issues experienced over the previous two Financial Years (FY), it is pleasing to report that this 2022-2023 FY we were blessed with some clear air and were able to get on with building, technological and collection improvements. This is not to say that challenges didn’t arise, but our staff and volunteers guided by our CEO Belinda McMartin we were able to efficiently and effectively deal with them. I think all that have visited the Museum recently would agree that we are slowly developing the Museum into a facility with cultural and educational significance and a facility that the whole family can enjoy.

The couple of significant achievement’s that I will note are firstly, the laying of a memorial stone dedicated to the tireless work of our previous CEO and Executive Chairman Mr Mark White AFSM, OAM who passed away whilst on duty with Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW), in May 2020. This memorial has been laid to the left of the main entrance to the Museum and I would like to make note of the individual donations that were received to make this monument possible.

Museum of Fire Building, 2022
Museum of Fire Building, 2022

My second significant event to note is the renewal of the lease for the Museum premises, with FRNSW. This long-term lease makes it possible for the Board to make medium and long-term plans for the stability, development, and maintenance of the Museum of Fire. This stability allows us to engage major stakeholders, be it local community or industry wide, in our strategic planning process. For this renewal we must thank Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell for his tireless support as well as the Properties section of FRNSW.

At the time of writing the Minister for Emergency Services, the Honourable Jihad Dib appointed a new Commissioner for FRNSW, and I would like to congratulate Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell AFSM on his appointment. Jeremy is into his third decade as a career firefighter with FRNSW and has come through the ranks and witnessed many changes in the emergency management space. Jeremy has been a long-term supporter of the Museum of Fire, and we take this opportunity to wish him a long and fruitful career as Commissioner.

The Museums heritage partnership with FRNSW goes back to our humble beginnings in 1975 and I would like to acknowledge their unwavering support in assisting us to build a heritage facility of integrity and stature.

Last year, I advised of the Boards decision to introduce new members to better reflect the contemporary environment in which we operate. These included two local identities and three new FRNSW’s representatives. The significant contributions of these new members have vindicated the decision of the Board to appoint them. This current reporting year the Board has added another new member, Gabrielle Benkovich who has a local accountancy practice in the Penrith area and joined the Board in November 2022, when she was also elected as Treasurer.

Museum of Fire Board of Directors (L to R: Cheryl Steer, Marcus Baker AFSM, Gina Field, Peter Stathis, Belinda McMartin, Greg Houston, Gabbie Benkovich, Ben Dickson, Helen Stone)
Museum of Fire Board of Directors (L to R: Cheryl Steer, Marcus Baker, Gina Field, Peter Stathis, Belinda McMartin, Greg Houston, Gabbie Benkovich, Ben Dickson, Helen Stone)

Considering the headwinds that we have experienced over the last couple of years a pleasing aspect this year is the growth in stature of the Museum with cultural and educational significance. The Museum has broadened its responsibility to the public as well as enhancing its ethical and professional standing within the industry. This can be directly contributed to our CEO Miss Belinda McMartin, staff and volunteers. The team have also grown in alignment with the Museum and have really taken ownership for making the publics experience while visiting the Museum, a memorable one. The collection management, research, restoration, and heritage services as well as ground maintenance of the Museum continued to seamlessly improve, and this must be put down to the dedication and willingness of all staff and volunteers. This able team was led by Miss McMartin whose creativity and endurance knows no bounds.

I would also like to acknowledge our Local, State and Federal Government representatives for their support. In recent State and Federal elections there has been a change in political persuasion, but the underlying support has never changed. Their assistance in obtaining funding grants allows us to keep developing the Museum into a modern facility for the benefit of the community.

As in previous years the Board of Directors never hesitated in making difficult but strategic decisions to ensure the longevity of the Museum and for this, I owe them my sincere gratitude. It is with a heavy heart that I report that I will be standing down as Chair at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), I will however stay on as an active Board member and provide any support required to whomever the Board elects as the new Chair.

It has been my honour and privilege to be Chair of the Museum and to work with the staff and volunteers who all have unbridled commitment and enthusiasm for their respective roles. I have enjoyed the banter of the work shed and always managed to “seagull” a BBQ sausage whilst there. I have learnt so much from the front of house and curatorial staff and it’s been my reward to witness them develop and grow.

The Museum of Fire Staff, 2023
The Museum of Fire Staff, 2023

In speaking of developing and growth, I consider the decision of the Board at the 2020 AGM to appoint Miss Belinda McMartin as CEO as the best decision we ever made. I have been fortunate to work with some amazing people during my career with FRNSW and I consider Belinda to be of their equivalent. We have had some challenging times, but Belinda never came to me with a problem without a solid solution to solve it. Belinda has been an enormous support to me as Chairman and for that I will be eternally grateful. The future is bright for the Museum with Belinda at the helm.

In signing off as Chair of the Museum of Fire I am proud to report that due to all the hard work of all the people and stakeholders afore mentioned in this report, the Museum of Fire is in a solid and stable position which will allow for expansion and improvement in years to come.

- Marcus Baker AFSM, Museum of Fire Chairman


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