Brendan King with his family
Family and friends play a huge role in supporting CFA volunteers so they can protect their communities. We talked to three volunteers about how their families help them.
Brendan King, Maffra Fire Brigade
Brendan King is the captain of Maffra Fire Brigade in District 10 and his family has been in CFA for many generations.
“I first joined CFA when I was 16 years old,” Brendan said. “I was home-schooled so I wanted to get out in the community, learn things and volunteer.
“I’ve now been with CFA for more than 25 years alongside my dad, brothers, partner and grandparents.
“I’ve recently stepped into the captain role at Maffra and I really couldn’t have done it without the experience and support of my family,” he added. “My dad has previously been captain at Stratford and my brothers all hold different roles in the brigade management team, so I’m able to turn to them all for advice and bounce ideas off them.”
Since first joining in 1995 Brendan has been a member of seven brigades.
“The local brigades and captains were really supportive of me staying in CFA. I’ve moved around quite a lot for university and to be close to family, so being able to continue volunteering at CFA has been amazing.
“I first joined at Stratford and have moved to Ballarat, Sale, Plenty, Macalister, Riverslea and now Maffra. I may not still be in CFA if it wasn’t for that support and flexibility.”
Brendan said it would be extremely hard to volunteer without family support.
“You’ve got to have someone there to keep things going at home so you can do these things,” he said. “We go away on deployments where we could be away for days and this wouldn’t be possible with a family if you didn’t have someone to look after them.”
Brendan also mentioned that support from employers is also important.
“There are a fair few members at the brigade whose employers are supportive of them turning out during the day. Call-outs don’t just happen after-hours, so this is vital to be able to respond and keep the community safe.
“Whatever support a volunteer receives, it’s often behind closed doors and it’s sometimes something the community doesn’t think about. I know I couldn’t have stayed volunteering my whole life without it.”
Fiona Macken, Diamond Creek Fire Brigade
For Diamond Creek Fire Brigade 2nd Lieutenant Fiona Macken, CFA is a huge part of her life because she’s currently both a volunteer and staff member.
“It’s a real team effort in our household,” Fiona said. “My partner is 1st lieutenant and I am 2nd lieutenant – we couldn’t do those roles without support around us.
“My dad and my partner’s parents often step in to look after the kids when we are paged to jobs, strike teams or have brigade meetings.
“There are also times when we attend long or emotionally challenging jobs and we maybe don’t want to go straight home. We may want a bit of time to process what’s happened and have a debrief,” Fiona added. “It’s amazing to be able to take that and I’m really grateful for that.
“My dad is a non-operational member, so he understands the brigade and what’s required of us as firefighters. He lives with us too, so when we go on a call-out and are running out the door he’s able to step in and look after things at home.
“I remember when I first had my daughter and I was asked to host the Volunteer Community Safety Forum. Both my mum and dad came with me as they were CFA members and looked after her while I was on stage.
“I was even out walking with my mother’s group once and the pager went off and the other mums all looked at me and said ‘go!’,” she added. “The support is amazing. They were all more than willing to help.
“Recently, both my partner and I had a weekend training course planned in Wangaratta and there is no way both parents could go away for a whole weekend of training without the support of our awesome families.”
Ally Smith, Bittern Fire Brigade
Firefighter Ally Smith first joined Bittern Fire Brigade in District 8 in January 2014 which is where she met her partner.
“My partner and I are both still in the brigade so we understand what’s required of us and are able to share the responsibilities,” Ally said. “Shane is a driver and a crew leader, so we always assess call-outs together to see who’s needed.
“If there’s strike team rostering that needs to happen then we decide who goes based on what they are looking for.”
Ally said the support for one another is so important, but the support of her friends is also crucial.
“We’ve got a lot of friends in the brigade who support us,” she said. “There’s always someone in the brigade who can step in as we are like one big family.
“The brigade’s response to the Crib Point fires is a great example of this,” she added. “We really needed as many people on the ground as possible. Many family members of brigade members stepped in to take care of each other’s children so we could all attend call-outs.
“This support often goes unnoticed but we couldn’t volunteer without it.”
- Fiona Macken
- Ally Smith
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