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Graincorp donation helps sustain brigades
A project focussing on the sustainability and capability of rural CFA brigades has got the green light following a donation from Australia’s largest agribusiness, Graincorp.
The $20,500 Brigade Strengthening Program will support brigades facing rural decline, aging populations, rapid growth and those in transient communities.
CFA Brigade Support Team State Manager Ali Martin said volunteer sustainability was a real issue for many brigades.
“This generous contribution by GrainCorp will allow the Brigade Support Team (BST) to effectively work with brigades at a ‘grass roots’ level to identify crucial sustainability issues and encourage our members to look at innovative ways to ensure our organisation remains sustainable and volunteering continues to grow,” Ali said.
“Quite simply….it has allowed our brigades to be their own champions of sustainability.”
In addition to the Brigade Strengthening Program, Graincorp’s donation also included $3500 to support CFA Open Days, with 14 brigades receiving $250 to boost their events.
Pomonal, Yarra Glen, Panton Hill, Otway, Geelong West, Upper Ferntree Gully, Anglesea, Greendale, Upwey, Yackandandah, Smythesdale, Wallan, Mt Buninyong and Warracknabeal all benefitted from the donation, which was distributed as part of an early registration promotion.
Ali spoke at Graincorp’s recent Victorian Conference, where she accepted a $24,000 cheque from Graincorp Regional Manager Peter Johnston, who said the company was proud to be supporting CFA.
"CFA is a vital service in our rural communities, where not only our sites benefit from the great work CFA volunteers do, but also the majority of our staff depend on these services,” Peter said.
“Many of our staff also volunteer with CFA and this donation will go a long way to ensuring updated resources are made available to them."
Ali said it was important to support brigades who identified as vulnerable and at risk of not being viable into the future. As well as direct support, workshops will be held covering a wide range of key viability issues.
Some of the key viability issues are being tackled by Regional BSTs include:
North West Region
Rural decline and leadership are the two critical challenges facing the Region, with 55 brigades identified as having serious viability issues, particularly in areas around Kerang and Swan Hill.
Our focus in these districts is on developing flexible models and assisting with brigade mergers.
Our challenge is to develop innovative service delivery models that are more agile in supporting brigades in areas suffering rural decline, whilst also helping brigades in Melton and surrounding areas to plan for growth.
Although rural decline has been identified in many areas of the Wimmera, membership number trending shows a slight increase.
We need a better understanding of what rural decline looks like and what impact this will have on our brigades.
It is likely that aging rural population is a greater risk and this is where volunteering options that are more attractive to younger people and those who are time poor need to be explored further.
South East Region
Expanding on the work of the Brigade Risk Identification process, comprehensive catchment profiles are being prepared for each District to not only assist in determining brigade (and Group) viability but to help guide and tailor treatments within the context of their community.
Community respect and recognition is a huge factor in being a viable brigade, particularly in the more rural areas. Rebuilding brigade profiles and reconnecting with community to renew membership bases has been identified as one of the challenges.
Rural decline and conversely ‘tree changers’ have also impacted on brigades in these areas. Other challenges include supporting brigades through mergers, strengthening groups, establishing women’s networks and working with younger members.
South West Region
Wide spread community decline is occurring across South West Victoria. This is caused by land use changes such as farms being turned into plantations or small farms being amalgamated and managed by corporations, leading to families moving to regional centres and away from smaller communities.
The BST is working with numerous brigades and Groups faced with this viability issue. We are working on flexible models, brigade mergers, hub and spoke/satellite options and also developing a viability paper looking at Brigade Viability at a District wide level.
The critical challenges in the North East Region are very similar to those identified around the State.
The BST have being working with key stakeholders and identified succession planning, leadership development, rural decline and member re-engagement as key priority areas.
In addition, the BST members have identified a growing trend of brigades who may need to consider flexible models of volunteering and a move to satellite station type arrangements to ensure their viability into the future.