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Corio programs enter third year
What started as a conversation between five Corio firefighters about stepping outside the norm with engaging the community, has seen the brigade enter its third year of community programs.
With a grassroots and place-based approach, completely outside the spectrum of CFA programs of the past, Corio have developed and initiated programs to engage with marginalised groups within their community that are not only sustainable now but into the future.
Global economic downturn has seen a decrease in manufacturing in Corio/Norlane creating high unemployment. More than ever before, the area has a larger degree of disadvantaged and vulnerable people living in its community along with higher numbers of disengaged youth. The last decade has seen an increase in crime and the area sits highest with amount of structure fires in the state.
Added to this, Corio and Norlane now, as a direct result of federal policy, has one of the largest refugee settlements in Victoria creating an ever changing multicultural landscape.
The Brigade driven by ‘A’ Shift has actively sought out community partnerships and built strong relationships and are now a key stakeholder within Greater Geelong. Through their principles they have developed a range of programs to support the Community.
The three main streams of programs support;
- People from a refugee background
- Disengaged Youth
- Vulnerable and the resourced challenged
The team run monthly educational fire sessions that capture all new arrivals into the area, support and attend multicultural ceremonies and events and last year Corio hosted the Ramadan festival in their meeting room for the local Hazaran Afghani community.
They have launched ‘Youth Prospects’ programs that seeks to build confidence and self-esteem for ‘at risk’ youth, long term unemployed and team members have individually mentored youth from a refugee background.
Diversitat Community development manager Sarah Murray said “The working relationship with Corio CFA over the last three years has been invaluable at empowering our clients. The fire awareness and safety information presented to the newly arrived humanitarian refugees by the Corio CFA is always done with great enthusiasm and cultural sensitivity and pitched perfectly to be effectively absorbed by the newly arrived as a part of their settlement orientation program”.
“We appreciate the Corio’s staff dedication,” she said… “It’s wonderful to see our clients smiling and having fun whilst learning such important information that helps keep them safe in their new community!”
It is evident that these firefighters go above and beyond their roles to engage with the community and young people. They have gained the respect of the elders within these multicultural communities and the admiration of the young people. They have consistently demonstrated positive role modelling through their mentoring role with young people at Diversitat. They have also managed to break down the barrier and fear felt by many of the multicultural communities towards people in positions of authority. They have spent a lot of time with many of the young Muslim women, showing them the experience of firefighters for themselves, to ask questions about safety and to develop trustful relationships.
Corio’s ’A’ Shift received national recognition and a Unit Citation, and as mentioned in their Chief Officer’s Unit Citation;
‘The achievements of Corio ‘A’ Shift Team are exemplary. Through their initiative and careful nurturing of targeted individuals in the local community they serve, they are leading the way in re-stitching the torn fabric of this society. They have developed trusting relationships to enable the Corio community to begin to care for itself and increase its resilience in the face of adversity.’