Black Saturday survivors get Aus Day nod

Benita Kolovos
Peter Crook and Tony Thompson helped rebuild towns following Victoria's Black Saturday bushfires

Eleven years after fires ripped through Victoria's picturesque high country on Black Saturday, two survivors have been honoured for their leadership as they watch the country burn again.

Marysville businessman Tony Thompson and Kinglake church warden Peter Crook have both been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day honours for their work rebuilding their communities.

But Mr Thompson says the honour is bittersweet as the current bushfires engulf the country.

"You can feel and know what these people are going through and what they are going to go through," he told AAP.

"The empathy is huge from one community to another."

Mr Thompson's home was one of about 30 left standing in Marysville after the fires devastated the region on February 7 2009, claiming 173 lives.

He has spent the past decade heading up the effort to rebuild his battered town and has been honoured for his work with an OAM.

While his mission as chairman of the Marysville and Triangle Community Foundation and the region's Community Recovery Committee continues, he can see parallels with the massive rebuild ahead in fire-ravaged parts of eastern Victoria and southern NSW.

While trees have grown back and the rebuild continues in his region, it has been difficult reviving the economy, which relies heavily on tourism.

"I'm aware it was never going to be a 10-year project, it was always going to be 10 to 20-years to get back to where we were," Mr Thompson said.

One positive from Black Saturday is the forced change in attitude which has saved lives in the current fires, he says.

"It's a whole different world now. In 10 years emergency services have changed, there's better communication about fires, fire danger and weather to the public and on social media," he says.

Mr Thompson said the Victorian government's response to the latest bushfires could not be further removed from the "stay or go" advice given in 2009.

"I've been saying for some time now that you need to be tough on people. They can take it, they just need to know where they stand and I think the messaging in the last few years has been gutsy," he said.

Mr Crook has been honoured for his work rebuilding Kinglake's destroyed St Peter's Memorial Anglican Church, along with his decades of service to fire fighting and the RSL in three states.

He says the mental scars from Black Saturday remain as the physical scars fade from the land around Kinglake where 38 people were killed.

But he agrees with Mr Thompson that at least some good has come from the disaster.

"I do think lessons have been learnt from all of this," he says.

"Just take a look at the death toll (from the current fires), compared with the amount of land that's burnt, it's nothing like what had happened here," he said.