To mark Youth Fest 2022, we spoke to young people at CFA to hear their stories, reflect on their experiences and hear their vision for young people in CFA.
At CFA, young people are an important part of our membership with 5,000 young members under 25 years of age contributing to the organisation.
Earlier this year a Young Adults Advisory Committee (YAAC) was established to provide advice to the CEO and Chief Officer on matters related to young people at CFA.
Theresa Henderson is a member of the YAAC as the representative for District 8.
A volunteer for eight years, Theresa joined the Kernot-Grantville fire brigade when she was 17 and since then has completed several courses and trained in wildfire and structural firefighting.
She has moved from Kernot-Grantville to Devon Meadows to her current brigade at Berwick. These transitions have shown her the differences between rural and urban fire brigades.
“It has been really interesting to see the differences and how they each work,” she said.
When she was asked to be on the YAAC, and what it hoped to achieve, it sparked excitement.
“This is an opportunity for leaders to hear from young people about their vision for CFA,” Theresa said.
“If we don’t engage with our younger members, they won’t stay at CFA.
“I think it’s important for young people at CFA to feel supported especially by their peers. Some brigades have few young people in their membership, and it can be a little daunting being the only young person.”
Theresa said the culture of helping people when they need it most and the cameraderie were key to why she loves volunteering with CFA.
“You’re welcomed with open arms by anyone who wears a CFA badge anywhere in Victoria,” Theresa said.
During the 2019-20 fires Theresa was deployed to Bunyip and Gippsland. When the bushfire at Grantville started, her captain was assigned the divisional commander role for that fire and asked her to be a penciler for him. Theresa worked two phones, the pager and the radios all while taking notes about what was happening and the communications taking place.
“I got the nickname Shadow because I stuck to the divisional commander like glue,” Theresa said.
“As a penciler you need to always be by their side taking notes. The respect I received from fellow members was great.”
Theresa’s vision for CFA is one that is more inclusive of culturally and linguistically-diverse communities. She would also like to see more leadership training opportunities to prepare young people at CFA for the future.
“I say to older members: young people are the future of CFA. Run with us, along side us and teach us. Like a baton race we hold the baton together and then its our turn to run the race.”
Youth Fest 2022 is a month-long celebration across Victoria highlighting the contributions and achievements of young people in their communities.