How long have you been a CFA member?
I have been a CFA member for 14 years and in the role of career firefighter for seven years.
Were you a volunteer before becoming a career firefighter?
I started with CFA as a junior member at Newbridge in 1997, a small rural town located 35 km west of Bendigo. At that point I had no intention of making a career out of firefighting, in fact I was more interested in farming. My dad and grandfather were members at Newbridge - it was just what was done as part of the local community.
I finished VCE in 2000 and moved to Melbourne to study a Bachelor of Nursing. During that time I commenced some volunteer work with St John Ambulance where I met Laurie McQuade, who introduced me to Yarrambat brigade and CFA.
I still don’t think that was the turning point in looking at changing careers. I completed the Bachelor of Nursing in 2003 and commenced nursing at Austin Health, still with the intention of becoming a paramedic. It was Lex de Man, Region 14 General Manager at the time, who steered me towards becoming a career firefighter and I graduated in November 2005.
I was initially stationed at Eltham, before spending six months at Bendigo. After moving around and spending three years as a firefighter at Hoppers Crossing and leading firefighter at Point Cook, I completed a Recruit Instructor Course in January 2011. This August I successfully passed the Station Officer Assessment and obtained a Station Officer position at Eltham.
As an instructor, what are the sorts of skills you believe are important to pass onto recruit firefighters?
The general skills of firemanship are important to pass on, but these skills will be further taught and developed when recruits commence on station. You have to remember that becoming a career firefighter can ultimately be seen as a 3 year apprenticeship. You have to complete further modules and on-station training and enhance your experience, knowledge, skills and abilities to become a qualified firefighter.
The development of simple skills and behaviour is fundamental to recruit firefighters at the commencement of their career with CFA - skills such as listening, participation, team work and camaraderie, self-evaluation, self-improvement, receiving feedback and actively seeking to improve, attention to detail, motivation and dedication.
How challenging was it studying a Masters degree while working full time?
I always knew it was going to be challenging, it was never going to be a walk in the park. The challenge however was not so much the type of work, the study, the reading and writing of cases, but the ability to prioritise everything and manage time effectively. My wife, Sarah, was working full time and we had no children at the start, so time was readily available. However in the final 18 months of study, my life changed and we welcomed into the world our daughter Liza.
I was working at Fiskville as an Instructor, which involved days and nights away from home and lots of travelling back and forth from home to Fiskville. The final 18 months also involved writing a thesis for a research project I undertook to complete the MBA, titled ‘Improving Emergency Management: The impacts on effective emergency management and command and control.’
What skills have you learnt through your tertiary experience that you can bring to your role at CFA?
I started the MBA in 2007 and was able to develop my time management, analysis, writing and presentation skills, leadership and team work. I was easily able to apply those skills into my role as a firefighter through the daily routines on station, training, undertaking small projects. It probably wasn’t until I was a Leading Firefighter and Instructor, and now Station Officer that I can identify certain personal attributes, skills, knowledge and experience that I gained from the MBA.
I have a real keen interest in Incident Management and command and control, much of which was further realised by undertaking the research project. I believe the MBA has assisted in improving my knowledge, skills and abilities as an incident controller. And I hope to be able to further apply the MBA body of knowledge and experience in future roles I undertake at CFA.