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Steven Barling AFSM
CFA volunteer Steven Barling is one of those rare individuals who is as handy with an operational strategy as he is a fire hose – and has been honoured this Queen's Birthday for a remarkable contribution over nearly 30 years.
The Churchill Captain and Merton Group Officer, also a grandfather of three, has worked tirelessly preparing his teams for large incidents.
“In an emergency nothing can be left to chance,” he said.
“We need people to be on the other end of a radio, so that if you need more people, or more water, or whatever it is you need, you can get those things on the ground
“In the past we’ve had all people in leadership roles jumping on a truck,” he said. ”So it’s about finding people who are willing to forgo that to fill other critical roles.
“I want us to be the best we can be, and part of that is planning things, and making sure we have all levels of command in place.”
Steven said that he was excited and humbled to receive the news about his Queen's Birthday honour.
“These things aren’t things you aim for,” he said.
“If someone thinks the contribution I’ve made has made me worthy then that is humbling. There are a lot of people at CFA doing amazing things, so for me to be picked out, that is really special.”
20 of Steven’s 27 years of service have been spent in officer roles, and experience has taught him that understanding people and leading by example are at the heart of leadership.
“We are all volunteers, so it’s not the same as when you go to work. People have different reasons and motivations for being there. And I wouldn’t expect people to do something I wouldn’t do myself,” he said.
The Delburn Fire of January 2009 destroyed 17 homes and Steven said the size and ferocity of the fire, and the pressure he felt, were beyond his experience.
“I’ve never felt so much pressure in my life. There were so many people wanting so many things, everyone needing more resources.
“One of the things I learnt from that was the importance of having good people under me – the three officers under me did so much to make things easier, though none of it was easy.”
About eight years ago, Steven began rebuilding his Group (a CFA leadership structure that works to help nearby brigades support each other) from the ground up, and remains passionate about driving improvement and change. Other groups and districts are now starting to pick up and adapt many of the plans and strategies he had a hand in developing.
“I think that knowing that I can make a difference and that I can actually influence my patch gives me a lot of satisfaction,” he said.