Lake Macquarie History

Wyee Ladies Bush Fire Brigade - Gwen Deaves

Gwen Deaves joined Wyee Bushfire Brigade in January 1967 as a member of the first documented all women operational brigade in Australia. Gwen held the position of Captain until the brigade was disbanded in 1977.

This oral history was recorded with Gwen at her home in Wyee in November 2021.

Along with countless local fire incidents Gwen has been part of deployed teams to major incident fires in Sydney, Mangrove Mountain, Cessnock, Newcastle, Gosford and Wyong areas. Gwen attended missing person searches in Watagan Mountains and surrounds. Gwen attended motor vehicle accidents, assisted the SES and other agencies to support the community following major storm and flood incidents. Gwen helped with removing trees, debris and supporting families. As the Team Leader on the Lake Macquarie Catering van Gwen, and her team, attended Newcastle Earthquake supporting the emergency agencies for an extended period.

photo: wyee ladies bush fire brigade c1968

Gwen has assisted with training, maintained the archival records, provided historical information to media, Council, Fire Control and in later years continued her service by supporting the fire fighters with catering, fundraising, Public Relations and mentoring youth. Gwen was a long time Field Day participant – Lake Macquarie, Wyong, Gosford, Sutherland, Terry Hills. Gwen assisted at Brigade fundraising events such as Bunnings BBQs, Wyee Markets, School Fetes etc. To support Westpac Helicopter, in 2007, 2008 Gwen was a member of the Dragon Boat team and in 2009 was oldest rower at age 70. Gwen presents to local schools and preschools explaining Home Fire Safety Plans to the children.

Roles held

Wyee Brigade volunteer supporter1960 to 1967
Captain Women’s Brigade 1967 to 1977
Member Wyee Bushfire Brigade/RFS 1967 to current – 54 consecutive years.
Deputy Captain Full Brigade 1969 to 2009
Fire Truck driver 1979 to 2010
Catering Officer 1968 to 2016
President Social Committee1984
Assistant Secretary 1984 to 1986
Welfare Officer 1985 to 2000
Secretary/Treasurer 1986 to 2012
Crew coordinator – callouts 1986 to 2012
Manager Lake Macquarie Canteen Van 1989 to 1995
Lake Macquarie Radio – Brigade Callouts 1980 to 1998
Active firefighter 1967 to 2011
Crew Leader 1990 to 2010
Executive Committee Wyee 2010 to 2017


National Medal and 3 clasps
RFS Medal and 3 clasps
Life Member Wyee RFS 1991
Hunter Valley Emergency Services Volunteer of the Year 2011
Premier’s Award for Outstanding Service to Wyee Brigade and RFS.Alongside husband Russell Deaves AFSM 2017

Other Community involvements:

  • Wyee Hall Committee 1970 to current
  • Wyee Neighbourhood Watch
  • Wyee P & C Association 1966 to 1972
  • Australia Day committee
  • Australian Canal Jump events

Acknowledgement of Country

We remember and respect the Ancestors who cared for and nurtured this Country. It is in their footsteps that we travel these lands and waters. Lake Macquarie City Council acknowledges the Awabakal people and Elders past, present and future.

Council acknowledges traditional custodians throughout Australia. We commit to listening deeply to and collaborating with First Peoples in our work.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website and Council's cultural collections may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material.

This website may contain place names, opinions and terms that reflect authors' views or those of the period in which the item was written or recorded. These may not be considered appropriate today.

If you experience any issues with the website or its content please contact us [email protected]