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A Peer Apart
Violet Town’s Karen Dunn isn’t your typical image of a firefighter: modest, unassuming, mother, teacher, new grandmother.
Karen, one of the CFA members being profiled this week as part of our Celebrating CFA Women series, has been a volunteer firefighter for 15 years and a peer in CFA’s Peer Support Program for 13 years, while raising four children and teaching full-time at the local primary school.
Like many who provide outstanding service, Karen is also deeply modest. When approached to share her story, she would do so only on the understanding that it may provide something to others.
Karen was destined to be part of CFA. Her husband has been a member since he was a teenager, and when first married, they lived with the fire bell in their home at Warragul. Her CFA journey started when she went along to help out on the radios.
Then the brigade needed people to take trucks to the fireground so she learnt how to drive the fire truck; she’s been a firefighter ever since. Her husband has continued his involvement, three of her children are firefighters and the fourth is preparing to rejoin.
Colleague Paul Verbeek said, “Karen is one of the most balanced people I know. I think of her commitment and that of her family. I know my own wife won’t sleep until she knows I’m home from the fire, and I imagine Karen deals with that too.”
In addition to fighting fires, Karen performs the role of a peer. The Peer Support Program was established after the Linton fires in 1998. Among those caught in the fire were CFA firefighters.
Afterwards, she said, “People associated with the fire were hurting.” As a peer, Karen spends time with members who are affected as a result of attending an incident, or concerns in their personal life. “We are the watchers and listeners of CFA,” she said. “We listen to people as they talk through problems and help them get support.”
And here she is: the calm, still centre of the team, providing extraordinary service to her community for 15 years.
In the lead-up to International Women’s Day this Friday 7 March, CFA is profiling women who represent the many and varied roles that CFA members play in their communities.
All the stories featured this week will be published in a special booklet titled Celebrating CFA Women which will be launched on Friday.
More stories from this series:
4. A Peer Apart