10th of August 2019
There will be many who knew of Mick Miller and knew the esteem with which he was held but perhaps wonder why so many of us held him with such high regard.
I could think of no greater mark of respect than to honour his memory by us telling his story so that others may share what we were privileged to experience.
In 1983 as a result of the devastating Ash Wednesday Fires, emergency services resources of the State were criticised along with Displan.
A project called Operation Emergency was developed in 1985 with the intention of providing a significant display to showcase, all emergency services demonstrating the capacity of them to work together.
A project team was assembled from the major services, and a sponsor was recruited to underwrite the $40k budget we had established.
The sponsor allocated a senior corporate executive and provided the service of a Marketing expert who had recently arrived from their parent company in the UK to help with the project.
As the planning progressed we were assured, on multiple occasions including assurance to the Chief Commissioner that funding was not a problem. The assurances came from the most senior people in the company, including the Managing Director.
For a number of reasons, mostly out of the control of the project team, the major event held at Calder Park was poorly patronised. Weather, competition from other 150th celebrations, poor promotion and overreach caused a massive shortfall in income.
The wash-up saw a debt of $1.2M albeit that Operation Emergency was arguably the best ever display of its type never to be equalled.
Creditors were starting to circle and focusing on me. I was being pursued for $1.2M because the sponsor had reneged on the underwriting.
To say I was stressed, would be an understatement; I hated answering the phone, answering my front door or opening the mail. Neither I nor any of the project team had ever been involved in these financial arrangements or commitments.
My scheduled course at Airlie Officers College had been postponed because of this project, until shortly after Operation Emergency. This is a critical three months course of intense study.
I was doing it tough at Airlie and a few weeks into my course, I was called out of a lecture to the Directors Office, the Chief Commissioner wanted to see me.
I approached the Office with dread and foreboding, not knowing what to expect, but it couldn’t be good if the Chief had come down to Airlie specifically to confront me.
I went in, and SIM was sitting down and appeared pleased to see me which confused me more. He asked the Director to leave us alone as he needed to discuss with me something of great importance. My immediate thought was, there goes Airlie and my Commission at the very least.
The upshot was that he had come down to tell me that the financial matters which he knew had placed substantial pressure on me had been resolved and most importantly that the Emergency Service Foundation money we had raised was secure and that organisation would survive and still does.
He knew I was being harassed by creditors, and he reassured me, to my great relief, that I and nobody on the project team was responsible for what happened and would not be held accountable.
His words “You and your team did a magnificent job; it was then for me to do mine, it’s all over”. “I will ensure that you are not disadvantaged here (Airlie)”.
Words that are etched in my memory forever.
It still took quite some time after Airlie for me to recover, such was the significance of the issue, but I am ever indebted to SIM for not only solving the problem but the way he delivered the news.
For those that never met him that is the calibre of the man and why he is held in such high esteem.