Ballarat City elects first Captain in 70 years

Ballarat City Fire Brigade has elected Nicole McGrath as its first Captain in 70 years.


Following the integration of career and volunteer firefighters at the station in 1950, the position of Captain has not formed part of the volunteer rank structure. 

However with fire services reform coming into effect in July, the position of Captain was made available and Nicole was successfully elected.

Nicole, who is currently the brigade’s Secretary and Captain-elect, has spent 22 years with CFA in a number of roles including being a representative of District 15’s women’s reference group, a Group Secretary Treasurer, a Lieutenant and is involved in running bushfire workshops locally.

Nicole said it “just felt natural” to put her hand up when the position of Captain was made available.

“I feel extremely privileged to be elected as Captain of this brigade and am excited for what’s to come,” she said.

“We have a fantastic team here and we have a lot of work ahead of us, so I’m looking forward to expanding our cohesive brigade.

“We’re looking forward to our continued work in supporting our community as best we can.”

Nicole will also become the first female Captain within CFA’s Eureka Group, which includes Ballarat, Ballarat City, Sebastopol, Wendouree and Buninyong-Mount Helen Fire Brigades.

Nicole said she has continued to learn about the Ballarat City Fire Brigade’s rich history, which spans back 161 years of operation.

“After the brigade became integrated, we never expected to have another Captain, so this will be a big change in our leadership structure and I’m excited to lead the way,” she said.

“Despite the coming changes, the brigade’s unique and spectacular history will remain and we hope to continue to build our culture around that.”

Officer in Charge, Commander Anthony Pearce said Nicole has shown strong leadership skills during her time with CFA.

“She’s been an important advocate for volunteers in the community throughout the entirety of her CFA involvement,” Commander Pearce said.

“She has exceptional life skills outside of the CFA as well and has become an integral part of our community as well.

“This will be a great opportunity for her to lead from the front and advocate for increasing volunteer involvement in CFA and particularly the Ballarat City Fire Brigade.”

Nicole has also been announced as the successful candidate for the Leadership Ballarat and Western Region (LBWR) 2020 leadership program. 

Chris Bigham, Acting Operations Manager in District 15, spoke highly of Nicole:

“My congratulations go out to Nicole. She is a great candidate who has many roles within CFA and is highly respected.”

The Leadership Ballarat and Western Region 2020 Program is a community leadership program consisting of 22 facilitated learning sessions:

  • Opening and closing retreats that include all meals and accommodation
  • Exclusive Parliament House experience in Canberra with access to ministers and senior party members
  • Exposure to complex community issues with various guest speakers
  • Opportunities for positive personal change through the Lifestyles Inventory (LSI) Circumplex
  • Development of leadership efficacy through workplace feedback from LSI 2
  • An experiential learning methodology for leadership education and practice developed at Harvard University
  • All program resources and pre-readings
  • Graduation dinner

The Program’s official launch was 5 February 2020 and it finishes in November, with Nicole hoping to take the knowledge gained from the program back to her brigade.

“I hope that my participation in this program will mean that the brigade gains someone who has the skills necessary to help effectively lead the brigade through change, to build resilience and to help it to adapt and modernise while still keeping members engaged,” Nicole said.

Ballarat City Fire Brigade Officer in Charge, Commander Anthony Pearce (left) and Captain-elect Nicole McGrath

Author: By CFA News & Media