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400 attend State Forum
Last weekend, 400 CFA volunteers, staff and guests gathered in Preston for the fourth annual CFA Community Engagement and Fire Awareness State Forum.
This event unites brigade leaders from across the state to build networks and share their local fire safety initiatives.
What started out in 2011 as a bunch of like-minded volunteers getting together for a chat, the State Forum has grown significantly over the past four years to become one of the key events on the CFA calendar. Four years ago, 70 brigades were represented. This year delegates came from 185 brigades.
The highly-entertaining Trida brigade Captain Peter King was the MC for the event, which is organised by the Member Engagement Volunteer Reference Group and, for the first time, included support from corporate partner A & L Windows.
This year’s theme was working together to prepare our communities. It reflects the need for traditional operational and community safety minded members to support one another to demonstrate that both fire prevention and suppression activities are core CFA business.
Robert Harris of Bellbrae brigade attended for the first time and was blown away by the positive energy being generated. “Not only were the networking opportunities fantastic, but guest speakers were thought-provoking and stimulating at the same time,” he said. “The breakout sessions allow you to pick and choose sessions based on your interest and what you want to know more about.”
For Rosalie Dows, who was representing District 24 HQ brigade, the main benefit was connecting with members from across the state who are sharing similar experiences. “I think all who attended would have returned to their homes realising they were part of a much bigger team of focused and enthusiastic people."
The online and digital arm of the State Forum was taken to a new level this year with CFA’s Digital Media members teaming up with Daniel Eshuis from Warragul brigade to give comprehensive social media coverage throughout the event. This was combined with a trial of a State Forum App, as well as online video streaming of sessions across the weekend – video can be viewed here.
Keynote speaker Peter Kenyon, the Director of Bank of IDEAS, was one of the highlights on the first day, giving a passionate address titled ‘building fire smart communities from the inside out’. His talk included his 10 keys to greater community participation and engagement.
Jim McLennan from La Trobe University shared his confronting research on what the community will actually do during a bushfire, following introductions from CEO Mick Bourke and Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley.
CFA band The Red Austins then pushed the tables back to provide the Saturday night entertainment.
On the second day, Chief Officer Euan Ferguson teamed up with Executive Manager of Community Capability Terry Hayes for a popular Q&A session that included questions and comments being addressed from the live SMS wall. The only wish from delegates was for this session to have gone for much longer.
Former Lifeline and Beyondblue CEO Dawn O’Neil then rounded off the event with her story about change, referencing Spencer Johnson’s motivational book Who moved my cheese? which deals
with change in people’s work and personal life.
Breakout sessions included brigade-led presentations by Emerald, Gellibrand, Tawonga, Chiltern and Corio. For the first time, there was a breakout room dedicated to learning from other agencies, which included the popular Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. Its presentation about how Queensland uses volunteer community educators was standing room only, and followed sessions led by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, SES, MFB, Ambulance Victoria and St John Ambulance.
Photos by Diane Lawson