Victorian Youth Week is a celebration of people aged 12–25, shining a light on the enormous talent, creativity and community spirit of young Victorians.
Youth Week 2020 (3-12 April 2020) has been postponed to later in the year as part of widespread measures to combat coronavirus (COVID-19). More information on the postponement of events can be found on the Youth Central website.
Even with the postponement of official Youth Week celebrations, we think it’s important to continue to celebrate the enormous contribution of youth in our organisation.
Birregurra Brigade is located in the Beeac Group, approximately 15 minutes out of Colac in District 6, South West Region. The Brigade currently has 2 members under the age of 25*, out of a total membership of 39. This means that 5% of the Brigade membership is made up of youth (those aged 12-24).
*at time of writing
We spoke to Danny Leeson from Birregurra Brigade to talk about his experience, his Mum Subi and to Captain David Bentley on the value of youth in CFA.
"I did my Min Skills training with another younger member of the Brigade and have been turning out ever since I finished my training.
"It’s been a good experience, learning new things that I never would have if I hadn’t joined. I’ve been to local community events as well and it’s great to get feedback from them.
"The Brigade members have been really supportive - I’m treated really well and I’m able to be involved in different things."
Danny’s Mum Subi said that she initially had reservations about Danny joining the Brigade at the age of 16, due to what he may be potentially exposed to as part of his CFA duties.
"We went to the station and met the Captain and I told him about my reservations. He reassured me that every effort would be taken to look after Danny and keep him safe and that the Brigade was a supportive environment.
"He said there were plenty of support arrangements in place, such as CFA wellbeing services if they were needed.
"And now we’re up at all hours of the morning when the pager goes off to get him to the station. If only there was such an alarm that got him out of bed as quickly to get to school in the morning!"
"I’m really lucky to have parents who are very supportive of my involvement in the Brigade" said Danny.
On speaking about the value that young people bring to Brigades, Danny was quick to mention that they bring different perspectives, represent different pockets of the community – and can keep some of the older members on their toes! Another advantage was that they bring new people in to the Brigade.
"I’ve got mates who have joined Brigades in neighbouring towns/ communities. It’ll be great to see and work with them on the fireground at jobs, if the time comes." said Danny.
Danny has had some interesting operational experiences in the Brigade.
"My first turnout was to a fuel tanker that had rolled over in a neighbouring Brigades area. We were there at 5am in the morning and didn’t get home til 6pm that night!
There was another job I went to, where I knew the person who was involved. Luckily they weren’t too badly injured. It was really good to have had a debrief at the station afterwards. The Captain always makes sure we debrief after incidents.
"I’m really keen to get my BA and structural firefighting tickets next.
"Down the track I’m also hoping to be a lieutenant in the Brigade here, and I don’t think there are any barriers to achieve this.
"I’ve been given opportunities to do training and gain experience through turnouts and working with other members of the Brigade."
"He’s just a natural. A natural leader and firefighter. We’ve got to remind ourselves that he is a young bloke" said Captain David Bentley.
David highlighted the benefits of having young people in Brigades.
"It makes a massive difference. The membership (age) profile is changing.
"We’ve now got eight people under 35 in the Brigade, and at least three of them are likely to be taking on leadership roles soon.
"This gives some of the older members a chance to pass the baton on, whilst sharing their knowledge and experience to build these younger ones up.
"We keep the young ones involved and encourage them to perform roles that are within their skill and ability.
We treat them as equals, and make sure they know they are valued and needed.
"Sometimes I sit in the back seat when coming back from jobs, and I look around and think how great is it that there are these new faces being a part of the Brigade and doing their bit." said David.
When asked what he would say to young people who were thinking about joining CFA, Danny had this to say –
"Give it a shot. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences you can get. It’d be my favourite type of volunteering, and it’s great to get the support and feedback from the community for the job you do."