Rob Waters with CFA Deputy Chair Michelle Maclean
A leader who prioritises his brigade’s wellbeing has been awarded the Excellence in Innovation Spirit of CFA Award in the 2022 ceremony.
Rob Waters, Captain of Montrose Fire Brigade, has spent the last five years developing a strong health and wellbeing program within his brigade with the aim to build the resilience of his members.
Each month, a brigade training session is dedicated to an aspect of wellbeing to help raise awareness and educate among brigade members. Over time this has helped to reduce stigma around mental health, which is a fundamental barrier to seeking help and recovery.
“In 2015 we started going to the gym together and we did that for a couple of years. Then I thought why aren’t we doing this in our fire station? We put in some submissions to have a gymnasium at our station. It doesn’t sound like much to have a gym, but it’s quite significant in a volunteer station.
“A couple of years later I noticed that some of our younger members needed a bit more support and thought we need to expand this.
“Once a month, our training is designed around wellbeing. We invite people from different organisations to teach us about mental health, resilience, clean eating – all sorts of topics.”
Rob said that the high prevalence of mental health challenges in emergency services was a huge driver in developing the program.
“Being a first responder, you’re exposed to higher levels of challenges with mental health. We’re exposed to things that a normal citizen wouldn’t see,” Rob said.
“No one’s immune to mental health issues. It’s not just about seeing something traumatic at an emergency, it can be a range of things that accumulate over time and put pressure on people. It was really important that our brigade management team go that one step further to look after our members.”
While we often focus on physical health, we sometimes forget to put the same emphasis on mental wellbeing, said Rob.
“We put a lot of emphasis on physical training…but without adequate wellbeing, it doesn’t matter. It was really important that we designed something that invested back into us personally.”
Sharing knowledge is a vital aspect of the program. Exposing members to broader thinking from experts has enabled them to have conversations with people from across the sector on this important topic.
“I think the beauty of our brigade is that we support each other and help each other become better people,” Rob said. “Whoever has knowledge that could help others – no matter what area that knowledge is in, it’s so important to share.”
Rob said he was humbled to be nominated for a Spirit of CFA Award.
“It’s a lovely feeling. Being nominated by peers is extremely heart-warming and probably one of the greatest achievements you can have.
“To me, it’s not about winning, the acknowledgement itself is amazing. To see the benefits to our team, that’s the biggest win for me.”
Rob was also awarded Highly Commended for the 2022 Living the Values award, reflecting his long history of exemplifying CFA’s values.
- Rob Waters with Acting Chief Officer Gavin Thompson