Noble Park brigade members Elise Gregory, James Smith and Shasha Jayasinghe
“Our community is one of Australia’s most diverse and we strive really hard to reflect the community in our brigade. Diversity is our success,” Noble Park Fire Brigade Captain Matt Pond said.
More than 15 languages are spoken by brigade members and this has benefitted the brigade on many occasions.
“Having brigade members who speak different languages has paid dividends in many ways," Matt said.
"For example, we ran a large-scale ‘safer homes smoke alarm installation’ strike team in our community and there were several residents who only spoke Cambodian (Khmer) or Vietnamese. At the time, we had seven brigade members supporting the event who were able to speak Khmer or Vietnamese, so we were able to chat to the residents about smoke alarms and residential fire safety while we installed new smoke alarms to make the homes safer.
“Thirty-one brigade members took part. It was an extremely successful event. The brigade inspected over 170 properties and where a home didn’t have them, or they were non-compliant, new 10-year lithium smoke alarms were supplied and installed free of charge including in recommended areas such as every bedroom.
“Also, at emergency calls we often need to talk to local residents in languages other than English,” Matt explained.
Matt has been a CFA member for 19 years and Noble Park captain for the past two-and-a-half years.
Talking to residents in their preferred language has also helped the brigade recruit more members.
“Through these community connections using languages other than English we’ve been able to recruit many people who don’t speak English as a first language. These people thought they wouldn’t be able to join the brigade because their English wasn’t good enough.”
The brigade also wanted to recruit more women, and Matt did this by making sure the brigade had the right culture where everyone felt valued and welcome.
“We’ve worked really hard to build the right environment in the brigade. Everyone feels they have a role and it’s a safe place,” Matt said.
“In the past year, the brigade has had two recruit courses and we’ve had incredible success recruiting women. We recruited 16 women and nine men. And our women volunteers reach out to women they know, which also leads to new members.
“I’m proud of the brigade’s environment and its gender and ethnic diversity.”
Largely thanks to the demographic and Matt’s desire to rebuild the brigade with a younger base, Noble Park’s member age profile is quite different to many brigades.
“I’m in my mid-thirties and one of the oldest operational members,” Matt said.
The brigade has strong connections with its community and spends a lot of time reaching out to them.
“Every week we engage with our community. Our level of activity is much higher than the average brigade. We want to ensure our community members are as safe as possible,” he said.
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