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No challenge too great
Fiona Macken was introduced to CFA’s peer support program as a member of Diamond Creek Fire Brigade in the wake of Black Saturday.
This triggered her interest to become involved in the program and she now holds the role of District 14 Peer Support Deputy Co-ordinator.
Fiona is one of about 150 peer support officers in CFA – of which 50 per cent are women – who help other members and their families through critical incident and welfare support needs.
“It really opened up my eyes to what was available to CFA members, and it made me want to contribute to the program,” she said.
It’s a role that sometimes can be challenging, Fiona says.
“It's also a long training process, taking a year to complete. It’s certainly not a box-ticking exercise. As most people who go into this role have a high degree of empathy, a good deal of self-care is vital,” she said.
“It’s a fantastic service that is available to all members and their families. In addition to providing peer support, we can also make appropriate referrals to other services, so we’re a great conduit to those other services.”
Fiona has been an operational firefighter for eight years and for the last seven she has worked casually for CFA as a community educator; a huge area of interest.
She travels around the state as a community educator, working on Mobile Education Units, and facilitating Community Fireguard meetings.
“I absolutely love empowering people with knowledge, helping them to understand their personal risk and preparations for fire.”
For the past three years Fiona has also been Community Safety Co-ordinator for her Brigade. She is also a practitioner for the Juvenile Fire Awareness and Intervention Program, run jointly with MFB.
“The program focuses on young people aged five to 17 years old who exhibit fire lighting behaviour, having been referred by a range of sources including the court system, police, school staff or parents. It teaches them about the potential of fire. It is a very challenging, yet rewarding program to be involved with.”
On being female in CFA, Fiona said that CFA was a wonderful organisation to be involved with.
“No matter your age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity or any other variable you can think of, there is a role for you in CFA whether you want to be a firefighter or not. Not only will you have lots of fun, you will meet your second family, help your community, learn new skills and make lifelong friends.”
For other stories celebrating International Women’s Day click here.