Today, to celebrate the contribution of young people in CFA, we spoke to Billy Tresize and Tegan Robinson from Bannockburn Brigade to talk about their experience, and to Captain Dale Smithyman on the value of youth in CFA.
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.
Big Things Ahead for Billy and Tegan
Bannockburn Brigade is located in the Anakie Group, approximately 20 minutes out of Geelong in District 7, South West Region. The Brigade has a strong Juniors program, with 11 junior members currently registered. Additionally, the Brigade has eight members under the age of 25 in the Brigade, out of a total membership of 50. This means that 38 percent of the Brigade membership is made up of youth (those aged 12-24). And half of them also started their journey with CFA, as part of the Brigades’ Juniors program.
*at time of writing
Both Tegan and Billy started the CFA journey as members of their Junior Brigade, before progressing up to senior membership - although their reasons for joining differ. Tegan’s mum, and current 1st Lieutenant was already in the Brigade and mentioned that Tegan may be interested in joining the Juniors program. Billy had mates that were already in the Juniors, who encouraged him to come along and join in.
"But I’m the only one that stayed on in the program!" Billy said.
"I really enjoyed the Juniors program, and the experience that I had." Tegan said. "I wanted to continue on to seniors and keep on learning - I finished minimum skills on my 16th birthday!" Tegan recalls.
When asked what it’s like to be part of the younger contingent in the Brigade, both Billy and Tegan had very similar experiences.
"Most of the support we get comes from the older members of the Brigade. They pass on their knowledge, stories and experiences and help us grow. We are promoted and encouraged to get involved and mentored along the way."
Billy has taken on several leadership roles in the Brigade, including the Health and Safety Coordinator, and more recently, has been elected as 4th Lieutenant and Brigade Training Officer. He says he is able to bring a different perspective and fresh ideas to the Brigade Management Team.
"I’m also in the process of getting Crew Leader at the moment, so I’m supported in gathering my evidence. I’m supported and mentored in the role." Billy said.
"I’m the youngest ‘senior’ member at the moment," said Tegan, "I enjoy listening to and learning from the other members in the Brigade, and age isn’t a barrier to being involved in discussions about the Brigade.
"Being in the Brigade gives you experiences that you wouldn’t get being a ‘normal teenage girl’.
"My friends often ask me what I’ve been up to in the Brigade, and they’re amazed at some of the things I’ve been able to achieve. They say ‘wow, you actually do that?"
Talking about aspirations in CFA, whilst they differ slightly, there is a common motivation between both members, to keep on volunteering and help the community.
Tegan is currently balancing University with volunteering and can’t wait to get back to the Brigade on weekends to catch up with what has been happening and to help out.
"Everyone asks me how uni is going and what’s been going on. It is such a caring environment, and everyone is welcome."
When asked to recall their favourite memory of being a part of CFA, there was no hesitation in response.
‘My favourite memory was my first long haul strike team deployment." Tegan said. "It was daunting, but I was lucky to have such a good, supportive crew around me giving me advice and sharing their experience. If I didn’t have that positive experience early, I wouldn’t be where I am now."
"I received the Brigade’s Operational Support award in around 2017." Billy said. "This award recognises a member who turn up to Sunday rosters, supports other members, helps around the station and that sort of thing. This was pretty special to be recognised like this".
Captain Dale Smithyman can’t speak highly enough of all the young members in the Brigade, easily rattling off several names followed by their incredible qualities.
"They have such energy and enthusiasm, that washes off on other members of the Brigade. They’ve got fresh, young minds and great ideas - and they remember heaps of stuff! We need to promote them, encourage and mentor them."
"Young people really are the future of the Brigade" - Captain Dale Smithyman
When asked what they would say to other young people thinking about joining CFA, either through the Junior program or senior membership, the response was overwhelmingly positive:
"Just give it a red hot crack!" said Billy. "The experiences you gain, the lifelong friends you make and the ability to help the community is just great!"
“Do it!" Said Tegab. "You build so many life skills and get experience that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. I’ve got no regrets in joining".