Lesley Read’s 19 years of dedicated service, commitment and passion to CFA and the welfare of its members has officially been recognised through the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM).
Lesley first became a member of Hildene Fire Brigade on 1 April 2002 and has served as Firefighter, Secretary, Treasurer, and VFBV Delegate. Lesley is also the Peer Support Coordinator for District 12 spending most of her personal time providing 24/7 wellbeing support to CFA members and their families, both on and off the fireground.
Lesley first joined the CFA Peer Support Team In 2006 and has firsthand experience of the effects that members can experience due to some situations and circumstances they are required to deal with.
As a Peer, Lesley supports members when they most need it. She provides a sympathetic ear to listen to anyone who needs to share, a shoulder to lean on and a source of comfort and support at times of tragedy.
Peer work often goes unnoticed due to the confidential nature in which it is conducted but Lesley’s excellent communication and interpersonal skills have established her as an exceptional role model.
Lesley has been deployed as a Peer to campaign fires including the Black Saturday Bushfires, St Patricks Day Fires, the most recent Black Summer Bushfires and has also been deployed interstate to support those who have been deployed.
Lesley’s role goes beyond providing wellbeing support during these active response periods as she delivers ongoing welfare support during the long and difficult recovery phase.
In 2010, Lesley took on responsibility for coordinating the District 12 Volunteer Peer Support Team. Whenever CFA personnel are engaged in significant campaign fires, Lesley is always ready to make herself and members of the District 12 Peer Team available for deployment to active fire areas in order to cater for the welfare needs of crews involved.
Lesley has spent countless hours training to be a Peer and has completed the Certificate III in Community Services. Lesley has also been trained in Psychological First Aid, facilitation training to deliver the Wellbeing Services Awareness Package and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.
As Coordinator of the District 12 Peer Team, Lesley has established a welfare, wellbeing and pastoral care service capable of managing the mental, social and psychological health and wellbeing of not only the volunteers but their families as well. Lesley has also driven a program of education for brigades about Critical Incident Stress.
Lesley has assisted with the development of the peer program at State level, often travelling across the state and giving up her weekends to help with screening new members or assessing new recruits skills and capabilities.
Over the 14 years Lesley has been involved in the program she has contributed in excess of 1,600 hours providing extraordinary support to CFA members and their families.
Lesley has been described as ‘open, honest and fair’. Her no-nonsense attitude and her reputation for maintaining confidentiality makes her a trusted, respected and valued Peer within CFA.
“I am truly humbled to even be nominated for this award,” Lesley said. “There is so many people in CFA who do such an incredible job so to even be considered, it’s truly surreal and I’m blown away.
“The volunteers, families and staff at CFA keep me passionate,” she added. “To me, I play such a small part in the work they do and to see that I’ve made a difference even if it’s small that’s enough of a reward for me.
“The best part of my role is being able to support people at the darkest times. Sometimes all members need is a good cup of coffee at a staging area, and if I can do that and be the support then I am happy with that.
“Sometimes members just need to know that someone is there and cares," she added. "I’m truly humbled to receive this award and look forward to continuing my contribution to CFA.”