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Good bloke on the water
CFA volunteer John Cujic, profiled as part of our National Volunteer Week series, describes his job as like the RACV on water. In his line of work he helps people when they’ve had a breakdown; when he turns out as a volunteer firefighter, he helps people in more serious emergencies.
In either case it’s all about working with people and seeing the reaction of people after you’ve helped them in a bad situation.
As well as providing a ‘roadside assist’ service on the lake, John’s work at Eildon Outboard Services sees him fixing boat engines, jet skis, houseboats and generators, but he still says the biggest satisfaction comes from going out to breakdowns.
“The best thing is going out to a family on holiday, and you get them going. Just to see the big smiles on their faces is the best, you might have rescued that holiday they’ve been waiting and saving up for.”
The Eildon brigade is different from most in that part of its response is out on the water, so John’s knowledge of watercraft is an asset to the brigade and what it does – as is his proximity to the station (Eildon Outboard Services, the company he works for, is located five minutes away).
John credits his boss for the fact that he can fit it all of it in. And it’s not a bad thing that his boss is in the brigade too.
When things get busy – which they do most of the year but especially in summer when the holiday makers come in – the two juggle the requirements of the business with the brigade’s business of protecting lives and property.
“As leader at the brigade when a call comes in I’ll go to the station to make sure there’s a crew. Then if they need me, I’ll go. If the brigade vessel is required, either myself or my employer, Tony, both being part of a group of qualified coxswains, will make ourselves available to drive or crew the vessel. My employer and I have been involved in the maintenance and upkeep of the Eildon Fire Boat since day one.”
Firefighting is in John’s blood. His father, a firefighter in a tiny Snowy Mountains (NSW) community got him into it for a few years, then John moved down to Victoria for work and joined the CFA. He has been a member for around 18 years.
John has an impressive track record with CFA – he was the Eildon Fire Brigade Captain in 2009 during the 2009 February bushfires, and has contributed 8 years as a lieutenant. He believes that as with many volunteers, John stepped up to fill those leadership positions out of need but on later reflection has realised the personal benefits it has given him.
“Being a leader makes you deal with things better, so you can’t help being a better person. That makes you cope better when things go wrong,” he said.
And things did go wrong for John in November 2009 when he was involved himself in a road accident.
“Fortunately I was not badly hurt myself, and somehow my CFA training and instinct kicked in, and I was able to start CPR to assist the victim until the emergency services arrived,” he said.
“I think my experience with CFA also helped me to cope better with the incident and get on with things a bit quicker,’ he said.
“Being in that position as a leader makes you deal with things better. You can’t help being a better person than you would have otherwise and cope better when things go wrong.”
John Cujik is being profiled as part of a special series focusing on volunteers during National Volunteer Week May 12-18.
Story written together with Eiranne Lawson.