Jack with his mum, Renee
Newham Fire Brigade has an open-door policy when it comes to volunteering and its members are going above and beyond to welcome a young family into the brigade.
The Rush family are Newham’s newest volunteers and their baby Jack is also getting involved.
Renee Rush grew up in Newham and has recently moved back to the area with her husband Conal and young son Jack. They wanted to get involved in the community by joining the local brigade.
“We moved back to the area because of the sense of community,” Renee said.
“Now that we’re raising our own family, we knew this was the lifestyle we wanted for Jack.”
Since returning to Newham, Renee said she’s seen a change in the community, with more young families living in the area.
“People are moving here for a tree change and a different lifestyle, but coming from Melbourne the idea of CFA is foreign to some.”
Renee is all too familiar with the importance of CFA in a rural area though, with her dad Graeme being an active member of the Newham Fire Brigade for 35 years.
“Dad was big supporter of CFA, he loved the fire brigade and spent a fair amount of time there,” she said.
While she’s on parental leave, Renee and Conal thought it was perfect timing for them to start their own volunteering journey.
Having recently become a mum, Renee wasn’t sure she would be able to balance her parenting duties with the training required to become a firefighter.
“I felt a little awkward at first, as I wasn’t sure if I could take Jack with me. But they said it was not a problem, just to bring him down.
“If we weren’t able to take Jack down there, it would only be my husband volunteering, which would have been disappointing as it’s really special to follow in my dad’s footsteps.”
With both of Jack's parents busy with the practical aspects of training, Captain Bryan Hornbuckle has often found himself with some extra duties.
“They were practising down at Hanging Rock one weekend and had baby Jack with them, so I baby-sat and took him for a walk to watch the kangaroos,” he said.
Bryan said the brigade doesn’t have a large number of operational members, with some people moving away from the area recently they’re a bit light on.
Having new members like Renee and Conal will see an increase in the brigade’s operational capability.
“We did a letter drop inviting the community to our brigade open day. We had a good response, with around 40 people coming down to the station.
“A few people with young kids expressed an interest in joining, saying they might join when the kids are older.
“But there’s nothing that says you can’t bring your kids down; I brought mine down and now they’re all captains.
Bryan joked about getting kids to the station when they’re young.
“They’ll either be terrified of yellows and trucks or they’ll become a CFA brat and you won’t be able to keep them away - they’re either one or the other!”
Bryan has advice for other brigades. “Try to be flexible. Don’t be too staid in what you do. We’ve shown how easy it is to be flexible.
“As a small brigade, this is a good way to increase our membership and get people trained up as operational firefighters.”
Renee agreed and said the more volunteers there are, the less reliance there is on the select few brigade members. She also spoke about the individual benefits of volunteering.
“Having a child can sometimes rob parents of their independence,” she said.
“Being a member of the brigade gives a great sense of independence while being treated as an equal.
“It also gives you skills your children will be proud of, while teaching them to become familiar with the first responders in the community.”
Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said Newham Fire Brigade’s focus on ensuring it can accommodate the different needs and circumstances of those interested in joining for the future viability of the brigade is a terrific example of many of our brigades’ efforts to increase diversity within CFA.
“As such great initiatives grow across the state, with more children and young people connecting with CFA through our brigades, the work CFA continues to do to embed the Child Safe Standards will ensure children and young people are safe as we welcome the next generation of CFA firefighters,” Jason said.
- Jack with his dad, Conal
- Newham brigade members with baby Jack