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Jamie’s volunteer career
***Jamie Simpson, a CFA volunteer, is being profiled as part of a special series focusing on volunteers to celebrate National Volunteer Week May 12-18.
Jamie Simpson is Berriwillock born and bred. He joined the local fire brigade at 17 years of age and was captain by 19. Since then he’s taken on other vital CFA leadership roles and has a thriving volunteer ‘career’ in the midst of his farming life.
“I’ve been in CFA’s peer support program for about 15 years,” says Jamie, describing it as a health and wellbeing initiative that places trusted volunteers in a support and referral role.
CFA members and their relatives can access the free service if they’re going through tough times in the family, on the farm or through being exposed to a traumatic event as a fire brigade member.
“Families are our natural support but sometimes we just need to talk to someone outside our everyday lives,” says Jamie.
“My role is as a go-between, putting people together with services based on their needs. It’s all confidential.
“Fire brigade volunteers do something valuable for the community and this is one way that CFA gives back.
“I’m supportive of the program because I’ve seen the need for it in the brigade. Now we talk as a group straight after a major incident – we call if coffee time. Emergency response can be a distorting experience so we get together at the fire station and discuss what each crew did and work out the facts.
“The aim is to help firefighters and their families get back to normal as soon as possible. I’ve found that people remember the discussions and even a few years later they might see me around and reiterate the benefits of it.”
In January alone, CFA peers in the Loddon Mallee area from Bendigo through Charlton and up to Mildura were called out 142 times.
“As peers, we’re supporting the natural resilience of small communities,” continues Jamie. “It’s a satisfying role and seeing people respond is the reward.
“Self-awareness is a very important part of the role. If I was having a hard time, I would talk to one of the other peers. I’m learning to play bowls which gives me the chance to switch off and do something different. I also really enjoy farming. It’s flexible and I can take days off.”
But being a peer is not the end of Jamie’s CFA volunteer commitment. For 20 years he has also served as an officer in the Juvenile Fire Awareness and Intervention Program.
This joint program with Melbourne’s metropolitan fire service is a home fire safety program for families with children who display risky behaviour around fire.
“A family will be referred to me,” explains Jamie, “and I’ll visit them in uniform three times at home. It’s a positive single-issue program. We’ll build a rapport and do a home safety check, testing the fire alarms and talking about safety in the kitchen and with heaters. We try to guide them to a greater respect for fire and its consequences and the kids enjoy the positive attention.”
The benefits of fire are also explained and the young person is taught that fire is a tool, not a toy. The program then finishes with a reward – a visit to the fire station.
“I see very few cases now,” continues Jamie, “and I put it down to general fire awareness programs in schools.”
Jamie is one of 50 members at Berriwillock brigade which is called out to an average of 20 incidents a year.
Their new fire station is co-located with the community centre which means plenty of room for the fire truck and brigade training but also a comfortable venue for coffee time, weddings, 21sts or playgroup.
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