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Norm's Huntly vision still humming
A new breathing apparatus facility at the Huntly Campus has been called after well-known CFA member Norm Bowen, but as Norm tells it, the training ground was a labour of love for the whole community.
Set on solid foundations, the ground just keeps getting better.
Read more here about last night’s official opening of the Victorian Emergency Management Training Centre – Huntly, part of a government project to upgrade seven campuses statewide.
In the early 1990’s Norm – in his capacity as Group Officer – led local volunteers to realise his vision to establish a dedicated training ground for the Bendigo area. In 1996 the ground opened – under budget and ahead of schedule.
And even today, Norm is proud as punch and is still marvelling at the way not just CFA but the whole community came together with time, money and skills. The site was purchased by volunteers and developed with developed with ‘in kind’ contributions from local people and local businesses.
Norm said that before the ground came into existence CFA had been using an old mud brick house donated by a farmer. “We wanted to go one better,” he recalls.
What’s most remarkable is that the work done in those early days was of such a high standard that eighteen years later the ground still requires minimal maintenance.
The building project was managed by a retired builder called Ken Smith. “He put us on the right track, and was very insistent on things being done properly. And eighteen years later we are seeing the benefit of that,” says Norm, who likes to refer to Huntly as the ‘jewell in the crown’ of CFA’s training grounds. More than 3000 members come through the facility each year, including both volunteers and career firefighters based at Bendigo.
“In the beginning we established the basics, then it was added to with a 4WD track and confined search and rescue facility. So we have everything here that they have at Fiskville, just on a smaller scale. And the boys out here that run it keep it looking lovely.”
The presence of SES buildings on the site (mainly used for flood mitigation and roof or rope rescue training) means that the two agencies have enjoyed mutual use of each other’s facilities. Prison officers also use the building for training.
And with the Huntly campus one of the seven facilities now under the Emergency Management Victoria banner the only way forward is onwards and upwards.
“I reckon it’ll grow and other services will be more inclined to use it now,” says Norm.
“It’s the old adage of one in all in. It will build relationships with other services and we’ll get to know them better. We see them out in the field and we say g’day to them but now we’ll be doing some training together and that’s marvellous.
“I can see DEPI coming in in the future to practice burn offs together. In the early days they put some work into it, and helped us with earth moving equipment."
Norm says it has been great to see the reactions of people – especially those from other agencies like DEPI – when they came back to the ground several years after having helped with the building. “They’ll come in and say ‘how about that, look how that’s grown’ or ‘gee we planted those trees.’”
Having state of the art facility at locations greatly reduces the need for volunteers to travel to the state training college at Fiskville. Following the upgrade Huntly can accommodate larger groups, specialist training and even three or more groups doing different training exercises concurrently.
“The thing now is that we expect volunteers to be so highly trained, but to do that training it all takes time,” says Norm.
“If we can limit the time they are away from their families, but still get them trained to the level they need to be, to me that’s a great benefit.”
"We’ve good a good ground – a great ground, which I’m really proud of."
The new Norm Bowen breathing apparatus facilities at the Huntly Training campus include a training room, fill room, compressor room, first aid room and dirty mess area.