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Inspired by Community Engagement Forum

As the newly-appointed Community Safety Coordinator for St Andrews Fire Brigade, I attended the CFA/SES Community Engagement Forum held at Creswick earlier this year.

Story by Quentin Addison

I listened to a very interesting range of people on what has been, can be and needs to be done before, during and after major disasters. I was particularly inspired by the ‘Community Resilience Journey in Violet Town’ presentation by Sue Sheldrick and Robbie Rae and a conversation with former Chief Officer Euan Ferguson.

I came away wondering how I could – in the words of Deputy Chief Officer Steve Warrington – ‘do something’.

Discussions with our Captain Laurie Steel and local primary school headmaster Dean Simpson led me to approach Jamie Devenish from Member Engagement. He accepted my proposal to use the online community sharing tool Engagement HQ to take a ground-up inclusive community based approach.

Via Facebook, the school newsletter and numerous mail networks including local CFA, I invited locals to a series of meetings with me and Laurie.

The invitation read, in part:

In addition to our normal emergency response activities, CFA needs to support local people to solve local problems to protect lives and property.

St Andrews CFA has a strong belief in and a commitment to the concept of Community Fireguard Groups (CFGs). There are approximately 16 CFGs operating in St Andrews. Ideally, we would like to see an integrated series of CFGs which cover the whole brigade area. 

To further promote community involvement in fire preparedness we propose developing a plan called ‘St Andrews - Living with the Environment’. 

Our objective is to:

  •          develop an online living document that identifies the risks and exposures of living in St Andrews and to implement practices and processes to resolve or mitigate their impact;
  •          create a community of practice in which individuals, groups and organisations take leading roles to identify the issues that arise from living in one of the  most bushfire-prone areas in the world;
  •          hold online and face to face meetings with all interested parties and document the outcomes;
  •          actively encourage the engagement of special interest groups such as primary school parents, horse owners, Mens Shed, etc;
  •          work creatively to identify workable solutions to these issues using local, CFA and other agency resources.

With technical support from CFA’s Online Communications Advisor Melissa Lim and Joe Waller, Engagement Manager from Bang the Table which supports Engagement HQ, the project was launched on 16 November.

Dean Simpson will continue to spread the word in the school newsletter and several interested parents plan to arrange a coffee session so we can reach more of the newer residents.

The future

This is just the beginning of what will be an organic process. With nurturing, we aim to develop a sustainable environment for the growth of new ideas. With effective engagement, the right amount of watering at appropriate times and little or no fertiliser, I’m confident that our ability to live with our environment will only improve.

Last Updated: 10 December 2015