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An open letter about inclusion
I joined CFA when a friend of mine lost her childcare centre in a fire. This friend knew I had a strong interest in the emergency services field and advised me to attend Scoresby Fire Brigade’s open day.
Story by Brodie Van Vugt
I arrived at the station filled with nerves. We were taken on a tour and given a rundown on the day to day operations of the brigade. After listening to the things they do and the incidents they attend I found myself eagerly wanting to join up. So with a push from my friend I signed my name to be a volunteer firefighter.
I got home that night and told my family that I had signed up. They couldn’t believe it, but they were also so happy for me.
I thought that firefighting was such a 'boys' club' that I questioned whether I'd be good enough to even fit in the slightest bit, but I knew I wanted to stick with it.
In February 2014 my recruit course started. The first session I attended was quite daunting; I felt so out of place. Because at this stage of my life I had not found out who I truly was.
After six months of hard work, dedication and training I was finally able to say “I am a firefighter”.
While getting to know my fellow firefighters over the months that followed, I still felt like I didn’t quite fit in.
One morning in January 2015, I woke up feeling like my stomach had been ripped out of me. I felt so sick and started to cry. This feeling had been building up for a while, but I didn't have the guts to say, "I am gay".
I walked downstairs to see my mum and sister. I immediately burst into tears. Mum kept asking me what was wrong but I couldn’t get the words out.
I first said “I’m not well,” and at this point my mum thought I was dying. Finally I said, “I’m gay”.
I instantly felt as though the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders, I could finally be free.
My mum and sister were very understanding and gave me the support I needed.
With this new realisation I decided to take time away from CFA as I still felt numb.
When I finally returned to my brigade I told a fellow member that I was gay and that I was ready for other members to know too.
It took less than a week before members began to message me and approach me at training to tell me they were here for me.
I encourage anyone who is gay, lesbian or transgender to join CFA. The support I have received from my fellow firefighters will be something I will never forget.
Not only has CFA been great journey so far, but the friendships I’ve made have played a vital part in my personal journey.
Now, as an openly gay firefighter, I feel like I play an important role in CFA and I hope to encourage others to join up and have the same positive experience that I have had.
I thought CFA was going to be a boys' club, but I was wrong; they're my second family.