Emu reels in big bushfire donations

Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author), CPOIS Cameron Martin (photographer)

Location(s): Sussex Inlet, NSW

Topic(s): Charities, Fundraising & Community, Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST

Petty Officer Aircrewman Liam 'Emu' Carruthers hands Garry Brown, Deputy Captain of the Sussex Inlet Rural Fire Brigade, a cheque for $9000, the proceeds of the charity auction he organised. L-R: Terry Davies, Debbie Simpson, Wally Cook, Garry Brown, Petty Officer Aircrewman Liam Carruthers, Manfred Simpson, Terry Davies, Jim Denchem and Mandy Cropper. (photo: CPOIS Cameron Martin)
Petty Officer Aircrewman Liam 'Emu' Carruthers hands Garry Brown, Deputy Captain of the Sussex Inlet Rural Fire Brigade, a cheque for $9000, the proceeds of the charity auction he organised. L-R: Terry Davies, Debbie Simpson, Wally Cook, Garry Brown, Petty Officer Aircrewman Liam Carruthers, Manfred Simpson, Terry Davies, Jim Denchem and Mandy Cropper.

Outside of working hours, 725 Squadron’s Petty Officer Aircrewman Liam ‘Emu’ Carruthers is a keen angler, who regularly competes in and wins fishing tournaments around Australia.

Liam has been crowned Australian Fishing Champion (AFC) for the last three years and has attracted significant mainstream and social media interest, a range of sponsors and many fans in the fishing community.

When confronted with the impact of the recent bushfires, Liam decided to use this profile to raise money for the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

Liam was involved in bushfire relief efforts on many fronts.

“As a Tomerong resident, I witnessed firsthand how close the fires came, and the sheer devastation of multiple fire fronts during the Christmas period,” he said.

“After learning that direct access had been cut off in and out of Sussex Inlet, it was evident there was a great deal of people who were isolated. So, I reached out on social media.”

Liam posted this message. “Anyone stuck at Sussex who needs to get to the western side of the basin message me and I’ll come over in the boat and grab you. I’m happy to ferry anyone through to last light.”

Liam was able to reunite several families and also delivered water and fuel.

Posts made by thankful members of the public on Liam’s Facebook page tell a dramatic story.

One man wrote: “Thanks for getting my son out mate. Legend”

Liam replied: “No worries mate. Your face told the story when you saw him. Stay safe.

Liam also had to relocate his own family when there was risk of the fire front approaching his suburb, and then he was then recalled to 816 Squadron to support Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20.

“Our task was performing welfare checks on heavily affected townships across the state, predominantly in the Eden area, which was when the true scale of this disaster became evident,” he said.

“I felt I had more to contribute in addition to my Defence work, and I made myself a promise that I would endeavour to perform any type of assistance within my ability.

“My Facebook page was such a successful communication tool when I was evacuating people that I decided to try to use it to raise money for bushfire relief.

“I approached the various sponsors who support my tournament fishing throughout the season.

“Without hesitation, these companies donated new products and, with my colleague Petty Officer Arthur Amies, I arranged a live auction on Facebook.”

The auction took place Saturday, 11 January 2020, with the intent to raise funds for the Sussex Inlet Rural Fire Brigade.

“Sussex Inlet has quite a stronghold on the Tournament angling fraternity,” Liam said.

Many Australians travel far distances for the opportunity to fish there, due to its trophy fishing characteristics.

“I had no doubt that individuals would dig deep for the cause, but I was overwhelmed when we raised $9000, which we presented to the Sussex Inlet Rural Fire Service.

“Who would’ve thought that a bunch of fishing fanatics could jump on social media for a Saturday night and raise a heap of money for some well-deserved heroes!?” Liam said.

The auction included Liam’s own Australian Fishing Championship shirt and a day’s fishing for $1800.

Liam’s friends clearly appreciated the extent of his selflessness, with one posting on Facebook: “Is there a group out there that would like to get together and bid on Emu’s AFC shirt and give it back to him? It is something irreplaceable to him and his generosity knows no limits.”

Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery:
https://images.defence.gov.au/S20192970.