News & Media

Success of Youth Crew continues

By: Leith Hillard

Category: Youth & Juniors

  12.00 PM 12 February, 2013

Location: General

Views: 4587

The Youth Crew concept originated in 1996 as part of the Victorian State Government’s Youth Development Program (VYDP) and whilst the name of the program may have changed to Advance, it continues to be an extremely successful program.

Story by Gordon King, first published in The Fireman

The VYDP program was developed in order to encourage young people in years 9 and 10 to engage with emergency services organisations such as CFA, St Johns, Red Cross, SES and surf live saving, to learn about what volunteers do and to gain essential life, practical and employability skills. One of the other outcomes of the program also saw an engagement with young people that lead to many of them joining their local branch or brigade.

Originally three crews were formed to trial the concept over two years with leaders instilled at each. Pakenham (Carolyn Layton), Maffra (David Montague - Valencia Creek) and a cluster from Tallangatta, Corryong and MountBeauty (Bruce Vine - Tawonga Brigade).

The trial was so successful that an expanded program was put in place only 12 months later and by 2001 CFA Youth Crew was a state wide program encompassing 40 secondary colleges with many more applying for consideration of inclusion.

‘The Fireman’ recently had the opportunity to speak with Bruce Vine about the history and success of the program in the north east.

“Three colleges – MountBeauty, Tallangatta and Corryong – formed a cluster as an administrative strategy to attract attention from the Education Department . . . a single identity with a total of more than 700 students attracted far more attention than the colleges would individually.

“With support from the Regional Planning Committee an application was made to be part of the pilot Youth Crew program. This support was, and still is, critical to the success to the program.

“A Youth Crew totalling 45 participants (which was soon after expanded to 60) was formed to meet and train together at the one location for a whole day of activities on a total of six days annually. Additionally, there was a day at Wangaratta Training Ground and a three day end of year camp. The hosting College would arrange support from the local CFA Group for appliances and volunteers and also to provide catering.

“The 60 members (30 of whom graduate each year) are placed in a Youth Crew Brigade with each containing 10 members from different colleges. Interested students must apply to join the Crew and are interviewed to provide an opportunity to justify their involvement. Each College still has more applicants than can be catered for.

“Considerable support was given by the then Region, Groups, Brigades and individual volunteers - this continues today. Over the course of one year as many as 16-17 different brigades have been involved.  

"From day one considerable doubt was expressed. Many in the Education Department particularly felt that the program should have been built into the day to day College timetable. It was not understood that bringing students from three Colleges to work and train together could possibly work. Well it continues to work to this day! 

“From day 1 all crew members work through the Minimum Skills program and the Level 2 First Aid program.  Almost all graduate at the end of two years with certificates of completion for both programs.  Whilst it initially took a while for brigades to accept graduates the situation has now turned completely.

“Initially all costs of the program were met from the grant received through the program, however over the years this grant has not kept pace with expenses and students entering the program now contribute $100 annually. More disturbing is that the program can no longer afford the opportunity of hot fire training at the Wangaratta training ground.

'”There have been many instances of graduates performing extraordinary feats - a young man who resuscitated a baby and maintained it until an ambulance arrived, a young lady at a brigade training exercise who solved a draughting problem when the brigade ‘guns’ were stumped and a young man given the task of operating a quick fill in a safe location was un-expectedly overrun by fire and sheltered under the trailer and used a fog branch to protect both himself and the unit.”

“Many brigades have also expressed concern over the amount of time invested in training up these young people when many of them don’t join their local brigade or if they do, they are off for work or tertiary studies a year or so into their membership. On face value this may seem the case, but we should never underestimate the impact this relationship has on young people, and if this early engagement sets them up for membership or careers in emergency services in the future. Recently a former Youth Crew participant took unpaid leave from his lucrative mining career in Western Australia to return to the North East to assist with current operations. Although not an active member on a regular basis or a resident in the community, the connection and dedication to CFA has remained strong.

“All and all a most successful partnership between the Education Department, CFA and three remote communities.”

The cluster Youth Crew model is just one of the many ways that brigades can develop partnerships with their local schools. Advance and Advance Funding is a program initiated and managed by individual schools, rather than a program run by CFA. However if any brigade has been approached by schools to be part of the program or have an interest in exploring this avenue for engaging young people in their community please contact Sherri McKerley in OT&V at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last Updated: 12 February 2013