Newest Mallacoota Captain aims to inspire others

Member News image


Tracey Johnston never imagined that crawling through dark tunnels and dropping from dizzying heights would lead her to becoming Mallacoota Fire Brigade’s first woman captain.


However, after attending the recent South East Region Women’s Network Challenge Camp, Tracey had a new-found sense of confidence, which saw her being elected by her peers to lead the brigade for the next two years.

After being supported by the Mallacoota residents for more than 30 years as a small business owner, Tracey thought joining her local brigade in 2018 would be a nice way to give back to her community.

While incredibly humble about her involvement, during her second year as a volunteer Tracey played an integral part during the 2019-20 bushfire season.

“If I hadn't been recovering from surgery, I would have been on a tanker. Instead, I was stationed at the Mallacoota Local Command Facility in a radio communications role,” she said.

“I stepped outside after the fire front had passed and as the smoke cleared I started patrolling the immediate area.

“There was a building a few doors up with a plume of smoke, which turned out to be a vehicle on fire. When I went for a closer look, I saw a truck and trailer with a dozer loaded on it nearby. The back of the trailer felt a bit warm, so I thought I’d better try to move it out of the way.

“Thankfully the keys were still in it and I was able to move it forward and away from danger.

“I later found out that dozer was the one and only piece of heavy machinery in Mallacoota, which was vital to the town’s clean-up and recovery, so I’m glad I was able to move it out of harm’s way.”

Tracey said fear didn’t come into it because she relied on the training she had received.

"We prepared the best we could and the result was everything we could have hoped for, as not a single life was lost in Mallacoota," she said.

Tracey also credits her role as a mentee with CFA’s newly created Women in Leadership mentoring program for playing a large part in her CFA journey, which saw her matched with a mentor on the other side of the state.

“I’ve never had a mentor before, so it’s been a new experience for me,” Tracey said.

“It’s been great being able to reach out to someone who’s already been there and done that, to get some advice or a different perspective on things.

“Another benefit of the program has been challenging my own perception of unconscious bias. I used to be a bit of a wallflower and didn’t want to be seen as a show-off, so I never imagined myself in a leadership role.

“Now, especially with the support of my mentor, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things. Hopefully I can help inspire others to do the same.”

With most brigade leadership roles beginning at the start of the financial year, Tracey has a few months until her captaincy officially starts, and she is using this time for forward planning.

“One of my first goals as captain will be driving recruitment to attract new members to the brigade, while bringing the focus back to family.

“I’d like to offer more daytime training, to encourage new members like stay-at-home parents to come along and support them in bringing the whole family down to the station.

“There’s no reason the station can’t be a welcoming place for everyone; we’ve got a pool table and big TV, the fridge and bickie tin are fully stocked and there’s plenty of space for the little kids to ride their bikes.

“There are even quiet spaces if the older kids need to get their homework done while their parents are training or attending a meeting. Everyone is welcome.”

When asked what advice she has for others considering a leadership role, or even just joining their local brigade, Tracey strongly suggests taking every opportunity presented.

“Don’t say no, just have a go!”


  • Member News imageTracey during the 2019/20 bushfire season
  • Member News image Training with Cann Valley brigade at Mallacoota
Submitted by CFA Media