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Weekly cartoonist wins firefighting medal

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Cartoon entitles 'Holy Smoke' by NSW firefighter and cartoonist for The Catholic Weekly Paul Dorin.
Cartoon entitles ‘Holy Smoke’ by NSW firefighter and cartoonist for The Catholic Weekly Paul Dorin.

Holy smoke might conjure up an image of incense at a pontifical high Mass but for Paul Dorin it has a far more personal meaning.

The resident cartoonist for The Catholic Weekly is also a senior NSW firefighter and has just been presented with the prestigious National Emergency Medal for bravery and service during the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020.

Celebrating 30 years in the service, he says the incredible teamwork that comes with being a firefighter is the ideal complement to the loneliness that goes with being a cartoonist.

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Affectionately known as Captain Scribbles, the Station Commander of 269 Corrimal said having the opportunity to combine his two burning passions has been a real blessing.

Not surprisingly, his favourite saint to draw has always been St Florian, the patron saint of firefighters, which was on a holy card his mum gave him as a teenager when he became a volunteer with the NSW Rural Fire Service.

“Cartooning can be isolating as l work alone, whereas firefighting is all about teamwork …”

He kept the picture tucked inside his helmet for “a little extra protection.”

His cartoons about religion, sport and politics appear around the world and help him stay creative and lighthearted in the midst of the devastation he faces in his day job.

“They are both very different careers but actually also complement each other,” he said.

“Cartooning can be isolating as l work alone, whereas firefighting is all about teamwork and incredible camaraderie.

“Drawing is very satisfying. Completing a task and seeing it published is great but then it’s also very special helping someone during some of the worst times in their life.

Paul Dorin, resident cartoonist for The Catholic Weekly, is also a senior NSW firefighter and recipient of the National Emergency Medal for bravery and service for his servce during the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020. Photo: Supplied
Paul Dorin, resident cartoonist for The Catholic Weekly, is also a senior NSW firefighter and recipient of the National Emergency Medal for bravery and service for his servce during the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020. Photo: Supplied

“I knew as a teenager drawing cartoons would be a lonely career, so I volunteered with the NSW Rural Fire Service which was something that had always interested me and then became an on-call firefighter when I turned 16 a few years later.

“Being responsible for not only the public but also my crew is a huge responsibility, and I always ask for them to be kept safe each week at Mass.”

A self-confessed old school cartoonist, each one takes about five hours to complete, with the concept often the hardest part.

He doesn’t use any technology, instead relying on a simple pad and pencil.

Inspired by his late older brother who also used to draw, his first cartoon with published in the now defunct Bulletin magazine and has appeared in everything from The Australian Women’s Weekly to The Irish Catholic.

“Receiving mail about a cartoon is rewarding because you know your cartoons are making an impact …”

“Sometimes, the hardest part is coming up with an idea, but once I’ve got that I’m home and hosed,” he said.

“I used to sleep with a pad and pencil next to my bed in case I woke up with an idea in the middle of the night, but these days I am far more relaxed about it.

“Receiving mail about a cartoon is rewarding because you know your cartoons are making an impact, or it’s great going into a shop and seeing one of my cartoons cut out and taped to the wall.

“I am so fortunate to be able to do both careers and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

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