When Catherine McAllister first joined Avenel CFA, she had no intention of jumping on a truck, now just six years later she has become the brigade’s first woman to sit in the captain’s seat.
“It’s exciting and a little nerve-racking, but I’ve got a great brigade and they all support me in what I do, so it’s going to be fun.” she said.
Having grown up with her dad volunteering for the New South Wales and Victorian fire services, Catherine has proudly adopted his giving outlook.
“I always grew up with the notion that if you can help by volunteering, you should give it a go.
“Small country communities like ours thrive off volunteer groups. If everyone does their own little bit, it makes for a great community.
When starting out, Catherine was at a stage in her life where her kids where under five and she wasn’t working, so the opportunity to connect with the brigade seemed like a natural fit.
“They were looking for a secretary, so I thought I would just join as a brigade member, and it evolved from there.
“The Minimum Skills course came up at our brigade, and they thought I may as well give it a go to build up my knowledge of the fundamentals.
“They thought even if I didn’t go out on the truck often, I’d be able to fill in when we had big fires and required a second crew.
“I then went on to turn out a couple of times, and now I’m there all the time.”
While Catherine praises the efforts of the brigade as it stands, she is hoping to recruit a few more younger brigade members into the mix and boost community engagement.
“We are an ageing brigade, with many hoping to hang up the boots soon, so it would be fantastic to get a few more up and coming members.
“We’re trying to get a bit more involved with local markets and events around the region. We’re also engaging more with the football and netball club too. “
Now a single mum of two and working full-time as an administrative assistant in Occupational Health and Safety, Catherine has found her CFA and work skills are interchangeable, reflecting fondly on her learnings while away on a strike team at Batemans Bay in 2019/2020.
“You really learn the different ways people do things and how to work together when you’re on a truck with those you don’t usually respond with. It didn’t matter what brigade you were from, we were all there to do a job and we had fun along the way.”