Serving the Melton community is a way of life for Stephen Hirt.
The long-time Country Fire Authority captain was awarded a medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday honours for his service spanning more than 50 years.
He’s been a volunteer firefighter since 1962 and served as group deputy officer based at the Mount Cottrell brigade from 1972 to 2012.
His love and support of local sports has earned him a life membership at Melton Football Club and he still sits on a number of community boards.
Not a lot of Mr Hirt’s community service goes unnoticed either.
He’s received Melton council’s Citizen of the Year, an Australian Fire Service medal, a CFA outstanding service medal and numerous national emergency service medals.
Mr Hirt was born and raised in Melton and said helping out a neighbour in need was “just something that people did”.
“I lived in Melton 76 years,” he said.
“I went to Melton South Primary School and went on to Sunshine tech from there.
“In those days, the whole shire had a population of 500 – so we knew everyone.
“When you had to help someone who needed a hand you just rolled up your sleeves.”
But he says those times have changed.
“When I was in the footy club as a young man, you used to get there early and mow the footy oval before the game, you wouldn’t see that now,” Mr Hirt said.
“There was once a time when you’d drive through Melton and if you blinked you’d miss it. There were only three street lights in Melton in those days … and you’d have to be home before they turned off.
“We never used to lock our doors and the swaggies used to come over and ask for a billy of water … now doors are locked.”
He said that while he was “thrilled” to receive a Queen’s Birthday honour, his love of the community is what drives his passion.
“When you start doing these things, you don’t do it to be recognised,” Mr Hirt said.
“You do it because there’s a job to be done. I’ll be proud to wear the honour because there were a lot of hard yards done to get here.
“I love Melton and I’ll continue helping out as long as I can.”