Australia’s Governor-General David Hurley and his wife Linda revisited Binna Burra on Tuesday 25 May 2021. Acknowledging Suzanne Noakes and Mark Ayers as representatives of the Beechmont Rural Fire Brigade, Governor General led the official unveiling of the Local Heroes sculpture – a three panel tribute, acknowledging Australian resilience and spirit. The sculpture is located at the front of the Binna Burra Tea House.
Awarded by the Governor-General, the National Medal was created by the Australian Honours and Awards Directorate to recognise long and diligent service with government and voluntary organisations whose members risk their lives or safety to protect or assist the community in enforcement of the law or in times of emergency or natural disaster.
Nominations for the National Medal are made by the chief officer of the nominee’s organisation – in this case, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES).
In 2022 a long term Binna Burra supporter and local fire-fighter, Suzanne Noakes, became a recipient of the National Medal, Australia’s most awarded civilian medal.
QFES Assistant Commissioner Tony Johnstone, said: ‘The National Medal recognises your commitment to ethical standards, personal integrity and diligent service over a prolonged period within the emergency services.’ As a volunteer firefighter with the Beechmont Rural Fire Brigade Suzanne has ‘… risked your life or safety to protect and assist the community in times of emergency or natural disaster.’
Tony Groom, son of the co-founder in 1933 Binna Burra Lodge (Arthur Groom) and a former Chairman of the Board of Directors at Binna Burra recalled after the bushfire devastation at Beechmont and Binna Burra in September 2019 …
‘My daughter Lisa’s house would definitely have burned, with the seven other houses in her street, but Suzanne Noakes … a member of the Rural Fire Service, spent a whole night at the house with a hose and fire retardant and saved it from a torching tree beside the house.’
Speaking in the first session of the 56th Queensland Parliament on Tuesday 17 September 2019, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk commented on the confronting scenes when she visited the bush fire-ravaged Beechmont a few days before her Parliamentary comments. “To walk along Timbarra Drive in Beechmont where 11 homes were lost is a devastating experience,” she said. “It was here that I met Liz and Melissa whose homes were miraculously spared, and Lisa whose house was also saved thanks to the efforts of people like Suzanne (Noakes) from the rural fire brigade.’
One year after the bushfire devastation in an ABC news interview titled ‘Where there’s smoke, there are memories’, Suzanne said that returning to firefighting since that blaze has been difficult.
“It still catches you; the look of smoke, the smell of smoke in the air,” she said.
“The amount of extra calls that we’ve had even months on from the fire [with] people wanting to know, ‘I can smell smoke, what’s that? Is there a fire? Is there something we need to be worried about?’
“They’re certainly on edge.
“There’s a moment … it takes a little bit of gumption to get back out on a fire field and smell that smoke again.”
Suzanne @ Beechmont + Binna Burra
Suzanne first became involved with Binna Burra Lodge in 1999 in the Sales and Marketing section of the business. Over more than two decades she has contributed much to the local Beechmont community as a life member of the Beechmont State School P&C, as Secretary and an active rural fire volunteer of the Beechmont Rural Fire Service and contributing to the Beechmont ANZAC Day Committee. As a volunteer in the Visitor Information Centre at Binna Burra side of the Lamington National Park she also runs the volunteer booth for the Lamington Natural History Association (LNHA) at the monthly Beechmont community markets at the Old School site as well as numerous volunteer contributions on the Binna Burra Cultural Landscape.
Nowadays, she remains the Vice Chair of the Lamington Natural History Association and Secretary/Administer of the Beaudesert Group of local volunteer rural fire services in the Scenic Rim Regional Council area.
Suzanne is also an active casual staff member at Binna Burra Lodge where on various days or nights you will find her helping out in reception, in food & beverage services, in reservations, as overnight Duty Manager, as naturalist guide, creator of kids activities and general all-round helping hand around Binna Burra when the extra pair of hands is needed at short notice.
From October 2020. Source: Beaudesert Times
From October 2013. Source: Hinterlander newspaper.
Beechmont Rural Fire Brigade representatives and long term Binna Burra shareholders, Barry Davies and Suzanne Noakes, visited Jenny Pearce’s In-Home Day Care (Beaucare) in Beechmont. The theme for the week for the children attending the day care was ‘all things to do with fire awareness’.
The National Medal is a circular bronze medal ensigned with the Crown of St Edward. The front of the medal features the Commonwealth Coat of Arms in a recessed circle. The rim of the medal carries the inscription ‘The National Medal’. The back of the medal is plain. The ribbon features 15 alternating gold and blue vertical stripes.
Binna Burra Lodge will always be indebted to all the volunteers at the Beechmont Rural Fire Service who for more than half a century have protected our local community.