“It is the story of our today. A story of perseverance and struggle and overcoming, a story of pain and loss and seeming failure at times and, yet at the same time, a story of courage, perseverance and willingness to fight until the sun rises,” he said.
Detailed eligibility criteria for the medal will be developed when the bushfire crisis is over.
The National Emergency Medal was established in 2011. More than 15,000 medals have been awarded to responders and volunteers for their service in natural disasters, including the 2009 Victorian bushfires and the Queensland floods in 2010-2011 after Cyclone Yasi.
Mr Morrison said Australia’s “spirit of the volunteer” delivers a “sum greater than its parts” when he heralded examples of heroism this summer.
“The captain of the Wingello Brigade described the night the fire swept through. The crews moved from house to house. In his words, it was, ‘run, run, run!’ He said near night’s end, he felt like we were losing, but when the sun rose, he realised their efforts and those of other brigades had saved the town,” Mr Morrison said.
“Fourteen houses, yes, were lost that night. Painful for a small town. Excruciating for the families, but 80 homes were saved. The general store was saved as well. That is the story of this summer.”
Mr Morrison praised the “all-Indigenous, all female” firefighting crew from Lake Tyres Brigade who fought “to protect family, community and sacred land”.
He said while many stories “would never be known”, like that of Malua Bay pharmacist Raj Gupta who kept his store open during the fires after he lost his home, the bonds of “autonomy, self-expression and sovereignty of local people” characterised the nation.
“The spirit of the volunteer understands that our nation as greatest lies not in the great buildings behind me here, but in the strength and vitality of the thousands of local communities that together make up our incredible nation,” Mr Morrison said.