CFA’s South West region stretches from the Greater Geelong area, through the Otways, along the Surf Coast and Great Ocean Road, through to Warrnambool and right to the South Australian border.
Covering this vast region are the firefighters of the south-west. This National Volunteer Week, CFA is recognising the efforts of our 54,000-plus volunteers.
Our South West volunteers come from all backgrounds and walks of life, from tiny towns to major tourist hubs and semi-urban centres.
The one thing all these volunteers have in common is a commitment to their communities – and beyond.
Inspired by her Dad, CFA Group Training Officer Hannah Morris started volunteering as a junior firefighter with Hawkesdale Fire Brigade back in high school in 2008. After finishing her training with the juniors, Hannah joined her Dad as a volunteer at Spring Creek for 12 months, before moving to Kirkstall fire brigade.
Today Hannah is a Group Training Officer for Belfast Group, known for her enthusiasm to deliver meaningful training to the troops.
“I think the amount of support and encouragement you get from members, management and staff is incredible,” she said.
“If there’s a particular path you really want to go down, to finesse a particular skill, they’ll encourage you and provide opportunities to do that.
“In my case I found it was training. I spent about two years as a brigade training officer and then took on the Group Training Officer role.
“While it is challenging at times it is also very rewarding. When you organise a training day, and people not only show up but get something meaningful in terms of skills out of it, that’s really rewarding.”
Since 1992 North Balmoral Fire Brigade’s Jeff Piera has been giving back. Now in his sixties, Jeff is an experienced fighter who has worked with numerous strike teams in Victoria and interstate. This past season alone he undertook four deployments to NSW – including Kempsey, Bendock and Batemans Bay.
His passion is looking after people, his colleagues and the public.
“You do think about the safety of your crew and the public first and foremost though, that’s always in the back of your mind. I think one of the biggest challenges for crews can be dealing with fatigue. Crews get can spend two hours or so on a bus to a staging point before getting sent out on a shift – it’s long day, driving odd hours, in your yellows and their weight all day.”
Portarlington Fire Brigade member Darren Nisbet has seen many changes over the 30 years he has volunteered with the CFA.
“For one thing the training requirements, I believe these have trained for the better, the response system is better,” he said.
“We’ve also seen where we work change significantly to a semi-urban environment, with big population growth but an elderly population so we have to attract more younger members, and keep them involved and part of the organisation.
“These days safety is first and foremost as it should be. And that’s one of the biggest changes – that we’re not scared to address safety issues, that problems are acknowledged, and worked out together through the brigade.
“The peer support is amazing. Once it used to be that you had a beer, and walked it off, but these days everyone is much more aware of providing support to each other. The more experienced members provide support to newer members, particularly when they have to deal with things like fatalities for the first time,” he said.