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Neil Brock looks back
Volunteers are innovators by nature and by necessity, according to District 23’s Neil Brock, who took some time to reflect on the changes he’s seen within CFA.
Neil, who has worked with hundreds, if not thousands of volunteers across a thirty-year career spanning three regions, is now preparing to farewell CFA.
As operational procedures become more and more standardised and demands on brigades increase, Neil observes that we don’t always stop to consider the sheer number of initiatives that have come from volunteers, resulting from an entreprenerial drive to "just make things happen."
“That’s how the fire services developed – by brigades seeing a necessity and then just finding a way; and that self-help spirit is still very self-evident today,” he said.
“One good example was two-way radio being used by brigades.
“Lots of the radios were kicking around after the Second World War, and our volunteers saw a need to coordinate themselves in the same way to those troops on the battlefield.
“Those radios were the size of a kitchen cabinet and used huge amounts of power. People in the community with the know-how produced them specifically for the emergency services, and brigades then bought them.
“This was happening from the 1940s but it was only later that CFA as an organisation started using them, I believe from the late 60s. And this was the way with many such things, even before that the move to put tanks and pumps on to the back of vehicles.
Neil’s involvement with the fire services began at the age of 16, with Hurstbridge Brigade. Like many boys in the area he was at a loose end and was recruited in to the brigade by a forward-thinking captain who saw the value in building the brigade from the ground up through youth members and the running club.
Fire Brigade quickly became a passion for the young Neil who – according to his father – devoted so much time to it he was at risk of neglecting his paid employment.
“My father once gave me a bit of advice – you’ve got to give more priority to your job and less to your interest,” said Neil.
“Well it was funny, because it very quickly became my job.”
Upon entering CFA as a staff member in 1967, Neil was instated as a trainee regional officer (learning on the job) then promoted to fully-fledged “RO”, which meant operating the equivalent of today’s district offices entirely solo (the only assistance coming from his wife, who - in between family duties - helped out by answering the phone or typing letters).
“No matter how much things have changed, my motivation is and always has been the volunteers I was working with.
“The demands and expectations on brigades really have increased over the years. To meet requirements for OH&S, reporting and incident control standards is a huge undertaking. And they just do it .
“I always hope the community appreciates what is done on their behalf, day in and day out, 24 hours a day.
“It’s quite inspiring stuff”.
Neil Brock currently works in stores and procurement at the District 23 Office, and is now approaching his second ‘retirement’ following a period of part time work between 2003 and 2013.