Uncle Norman Clarke

Uncle Norm Clarke was Queensland's first fulltime Indigenous firefighter. He decided to join up in 1976, when Aboriginals just didn't do that sort of thing, but had to work on his maths and English just to be considered.

"I made that decision and then I had to step out of my little comfort zone and become a fireman," he said. "I was working and then after work I'd come home and have my tea and then go to (a) teacher and we'd do an hour of maths and English.

"I wanted to get in, for one, and I didn't want to go and sit the exam and fail. Because in those days, that was typical (to say) 'there's another Aboriginal couldn't meet the criteria'.

"I wanted to achieve it for our people. Now I look back and say my god, did I do that? Because around in the '70s, there was a lot of racial stuff happening.

"Dad said: Don't bring up bad baggage; move on. Live your life caring, sharing and respecting.

"I must have been one of the first Aboriginals to get the Australian Fire Service Medal, back in 2004. That is the highest award any fireman can get in Australia. Deep down, I'm very proud to get it because it's from the organisation to say it's for the work he's done for Indigenous people."

Uncle Norm lives in Cleveland. "This is not my country but the local Aboriginal people have shown me a lot of respect, putting me up as one of their uncles. It's just unbelievable where your life can go."

DESCRIPTION: Firefighter