Darren John McLean Churchill 1982 Darren McLean was an extraordinary young man. His energy and enthusiasm could have taken him anywhere in his life. But from an early age he set his heart on one ambition – to work in the media. And there’s little doubt that he would have achieved great success in that field had his life not been cut short at such an early age. Darren’s life began in Mount Beauty where he and his parents Barry and Val lived and worked, Barry for the SEC and Val as a nurse. Ever on-the-go, Darrell was riding horses by the age of four. By the time the family left Mount Beauty when Darren was eleven, he was already leading groups of riders across Mount Bogon and the high plains. Or he was competing, and winning, at horse shows. Or if not that, swimming every morning in the freezing cold with mates for fun and laughter. Darren embraced life with open arms. Then to Churchill, in the La Trobe Valley, where the family moved for work. Darren quickly made friends and immersed himself in the local life, including the local fire brigade which he loved from Day One. The sound of the siren caused immense excitement for Darren and would require an immediate trip to the station - just a humble building on those days but conveniently located at the end of his street. Never one to be held back, Darren managed to insinuate himself into the brigade at a very young age – 16 years old and he was IN. And in his first year at the CFA he was nominated “Rookie of the Year”. A precedent was set. That rookie award became an annual award to remember Darren and to encourage other first year brigade members. At the age of 17, Darren was in his final year at St Paul’s College in Traralgon. But his future was already shaping up. The world of the media was opening up for him and Darren wasn’t wasting any time getting into it. His school holidays were spent working on a voluntary basis for Channel 10 in Traralgon. Meanwhile, he formed relationships with local media personnel, he set up his own newsgathering network with CFA and police stations around Gippsland, and even at the local air base in Sale. And with the help of local news and sports reporter Peter Eustace, “The Voice of Gippsland”, he was creating stories for ABC Radio Sale. A typical Sunday evening would see Darren on the news trail, ringing around, recording and editing stories which, by 7am the following morning would be fed through to the local ABC. Darren even had his own business cards printed up - with a little help from his Dad. He had his own tape deck and editing machine and to this day, his Super 8 camera and 50,000 feet of film remain with Barry and Val in Churchill. And then Darren would be off on location – calling his parents from Albury, Swan Hill, anywhere where a good story was happening. Or he would be working away on his own short feature films, his editing skills making sure plenty hit the cutting room floor. The Managing Director at the time of Channel 10 Traralgon had already earmarked Darren for a job with Channel 7 in Melbourne. Darren was heading for the big city. He was 17 and a half when he died, a tragic firefighting incident on the 14 th February 1982. His death was devastating for Barry, Val and for all who knew him. As he was brought back to Traralgon for burial, his school came out in force and the streets were lined with many hundreds of other people, from all walks of life, as they paid their respects to this remarkable young man. In special final acknowledgement, the Brigade honoured Darren with a fireman’s funeral service. Darren was cherished and always supported by his parents, in everything he did. As a young fireman with the CFA, with such a bright future ahead, he will always be remembered for his love of family, of the CFA, of the media, and of life.

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