Who we are

Foundation Members.

Are a group of experienced land and fire management practitioners; scientists, foresters, anthropologists, historians, past and current stake-holders who all share one passion – caring for country.

Current committee:

President: Geoff Burrowes, B. Econ & Pol (Monash)
Film maker (The Man From Snowy River 1 & 2ANZACS). Farmer at urban/bush interface (Merrijig, 1982 – present). Family association & experience with alpine grazing. Persistent interest & observation over 44 years of the culture, history and acquired knowledge of people of the bush, particularly in relation to caring for country. Member of Victorian Gov’t’s Alpine Advisory Committee 2013-17. Attended indigenous fire workshop in Northern Queensland 2017.   

Vice President: Chris Commins
Farmer and Contractor. Practicing environmentalist. A lifetime living and working with fire in the High Country of Eastern Victoria.
President of Mountain Cattlemen’s Association Victoria 2010 – 2011
Alpine Advisory Committee Member 2013 – 2017

Secretary: Garry Squires, AFSM, BSc (For) Melb Uni, Dip For (Cres)
former Area Manager Gippsland for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment with over 40 years’ experience in forest and fire management.  Extensive operational experience in both high intensity slash burning and low intensity fuel reduction burning and in fire control operations as well as fire policy.

Treasurer: John Nicholson, AFSM, Graduate Member Institution of Fire Engineers is a consulting fire safety engineer specialising in bushfire protection, having retired from the CFA as a deputy chief officer and Director Risk Management in early 1999 after 34 years as a volunteer firefighter and career operational officer. His major contribution to fire management was in “prevention” – he is acknowledged as having led the introduction of the wildfire “stay and defend or leave early” policy that he continues to strongly advocate as a significant contributor to minimising loss from wildfire.


Ewan Waller, AFSM, Dip.For (Cres 1974)  B.For.Sci (Melb 1977)  M.Sci (Aberdeen 1991)
Raised on a farm near Bairnsdale in East Gippsland, Ewan was selected to study forestry in Victoria and has worked in all the state’s forests. He later moved into land use planning and managed all the crown land and coasts across Gippsland. He studied sustainable development, rural and regional planning at Aberdeen University in Scotland before returning to Gippsland as Regional Manager for the state owned forest company, VicForests.
Appointed Chief Fire Officer for Victoria’s Environment Department in 2005, Ewan was responsible for fire management for a third of the state’s land area. He was the leader when the state experienced some of its most severe fire years, including the Grampians, Great Divide and Black Saturday fires. He set up and led the development of the increased preventative burning program and the enhanced community engagement program. During this time he chaired COAG’s Forest Fire Management Group and was Board Director for the Bushfire CRC and Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities (AFAC).
Since leaving the public service, Ewan has chaired the Victorian Alpine Advisory Committee to provide advice to the state Environment Minister on the management of the Victorian high country. He is also a board member for the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority and the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation as a non-executive director.
Ewan has continued as a professional in land, forest and bushfire management with work involving review of the NSW Regional Forest Agreements, the fuel management program for the Tasmanian Government, consolidation of fire management for the plantation companies in the Green Triangle, review of fire preparedness for the NSW Forestry Corporation, reports on national capability, and training and delivery for prescribed burning for the National Burning Program.
He now farms near Bairnsdale in East Gippsland and is involved as a CFA volunteer and Landcare.

Rick Cooper
Carpenter/builder and farmer south of Braidwood, Southern Tablelands NSW for nearly 30 years, during which time also a member (Deputy Captain) of local RFS brigade, seasonal fire tower observer for a number of years followed by three years full time with Forests NSW on silviculture and firefighting. Moving to Mallacoota in 2007 led initially to three years seasonal firefighting with DELWP ‘summer crew’  and later membership of the local CFA brigade, instigating co-operation between CFA and DELWP for fuel reduction and a community education campaign to promote the benefits and minimise objections. Between all agencies, Forests NSW, NSW RFS, CFA and DELWP a total of nearly 40 years of firefighting experience.

John Mulligan
Born and raised in Mallacoota in his early days. He experienced life on the land and was a former owner of the now non-existent Gipsy Point hotel during which time he conducted tours of the local area and has a wealth of knowledge of the ‘old timers’ and their stories.  He brings valuable first-hand historical knowledge to the Howitt Society, having observed changes to the bush of East Gippsland, particularly concerning life and bushfire over many years.

Peter Flinn, M.Sc. (Aberdeen)
Life Member CFA, worked in agricultural research for 48 years, specialising in ruminant feed evaluation and near infrared spectroscopy.  He was Secretary of Dunkeld Fire Brigade for 44 years and Group Communications Officer of Serra Group for 25 years.  He has been Secretary of the Grampians Asset Protection Group (GAP) since its inception in 2006, and has been involved in lobbying efforts to ensure adequate fire prevention measures in the Grampians since 1979.

Tony Lovick, AFSM BAppSci; Adv. Dip. Conservation and Land Management
35 years’ experience with former Dept Primary Industries and DELWP, which included roles as Program Manager Invasive Species, Hume Regional Fire Controller and Incident Controller of many major fires, State-wide Planned Burning Coordinator following 2009 Bushfire Royal Commission, Member of Australian Fire Task Forces to USA 2000 and 2003.  Lifetime association with Victoria’s mountains through family, work and recreation. Currently Beef Cattle Producer at Merrijig.

Jim Armstrong
A dairy farmer from Cann Valley, East Gippsland, Jim has spent 55 years of his life as a volunteer member of the CFA in various brigade positions.  The first 41 years in the CFA were with the Cann Valley Fire Brigade and then a further 14 years in the Longwarry and District Fire Brigade after he retired from dairy farming and moved home.
He has also been a Land Care member for 30 years with a lot of emphasis on fire and looking after our country.
Up until 2004 when he moved to Labertouche he was a member of the East Gippsland Wildfire Taskforce.

Sarah Commins