CFA’s Youth programs are aimed at members aged 11 to 24 years old.
We talked to six of our dedicated young people to ask them about
their experiences in CFA and their plans for the future.
Elizabeth Lattanzio, aged 13, is one of CFA’s newest members having joined Truganina Junior Brigade at the end of 2021. She had several reasons for wanting to join, some that are relevant now and others that look to the future.
“I decided to join CFA because I think it’s an amazing way to work in a great team, build up essential skills such as first-aid, and also because I plan on becoming a volunteer with CFA and I think it’s a fun and engaging organisation,” Elizabeth said.
Practising for competitions is something that motivates Elizabeth and you will find her playing her part in Truganina’s Junior running team. Working as part of a team is a new skill she has learned as part of this activity.
The hands-on elements of being in a Junior brigade, using equipment including hoses, are what she enjoys most. Elizabeth appreciates the foundations that are being built through such activities, which will help her on the journey of reaching her dream.
“Because of my aspiration to become a firefighter when I’m older, CFA has influenced me by giving me a better understanding of things that are involved in being a firefighter.”
One of the added bonuses of joining CFA is that Elizabeth has made new friends and she is certain she’s making memories for life.
Although Elizabeth has not been a member long, she still has advice for other young people in CFA.
“Give everything a go, have fun and make the most of it.”
Alexis Rhodes, 14, has been an active member of Upwey Junior Brigade since she was 11. She joined because her dad is a senior member and after witnessing all the different aspects of CFA he is involved in, she decided that she wanted to “help people like he does”.
Being around friends is an important part of being a member for Alexis and she knows that being part of the brigade means there are people around her who will support her in what she is doing. In a delightful description of her place in the brigade,
Alexis explained that she has “found her people”.
She believes the skills she can learn, such as first-aid and CPR, are worthwhile and can make a real difference. At Upwey brigade, it’s a priority that Junior members train in first-aid and it has had a significant impact with Junior members stepping in to help in situations at school and in the wider community.
As a member of her Junior brigade, Alexis has discovered she can achieve more than she thought she could.
“I’m capable of doing what’s required – the physical, it’s not as scary as it looks,” Alexis said.
Her advice to other young members of CFA is not to be afraid but put yourself out there and give it a go. Being in the Juniors has made her more aware of the different ways in which she can help. Looking to the future, Alexis wants to become a senior member of the brigade, but she also has plans to join the Royal Australian Air Force after finishing high school.
Clancy Quirk, 16, has been involved with CFA for just over five years, the majority of that time with Morwell Junior Brigade. He’s now a member of Traralgon brigade.
He decided to join CFA because he wanted to learn something new and be able to give back to his community.
Clancy believes that you can never stop learning.
“I’ve always been interested in the field of fire management and saw the Junior CFA Program as a perfect opportunity to start learning. The more training and advice you get increases your brigade’s capability to help people,” Clancy said.
Clancy recognised the value and importance of teamwork and embraced opportunities to improve this skill throughout his time in the Junior brigade. He believes that teamwork is the most important skill to have in firefighting and is looking forward to being able to implement it on the fireground.
“Being a member of CFA has really influenced and changed my life. It gives me a sense of purpose. I am now looking into a career in fire management. This decision was heavily influenced by my time in CFA. I’ve found a passion in what I do, and I’m unsure what my life would look like without CFA.”
His best advice for young members in CFA is to never stop learning.
“Strive to do all you can to improve your skills. If an opportunity for another qualification comes up, always take it.”
In five years, Clancy hopes to have a Diploma of Conservation and Ecosystem Management so he can pursue a career in fire management or firefighting.
“I’m not certain of exactly where I would like to end up in the industry, but I’m sure this is the right field for me.”
Harrison Hughes, 18, has been a member of two brigades in his three years at CFA – first a Junior at Gisborne brigade and then a senior at Mt Macedon brigade.
Harrison joined CFA as a young person to get some knowledge and experience of firefighting. He believes CFA is a good way to get into firefighting and to start to build knowledge and experience while being in a supportive environment.
While firefighting skills were certainly at the forefront of Harrison’s mind when he started volunteering, he is vocal about the other benefits that being a member of CFA brings.
“The soft skills that I’ve learned through my volunteering have been the most impactful,” Harrison said. “CFA provides very good fire training to its volunteers, but skills like teamwork, working in stressful situations and critical thinking are also things you will gain. These are the kinds of skills you will keep for life and apply outside CFA too.
“Don’t see your age as a barrier to what you can accomplish in the organisation. Some people will be more welcoming of younger people than others, but it’s important to remember that even though it can present challenges you need to keep focused on why you joined and stick round the people who will help you achieve your goals, because you are just as capable as any other person in CFA.”
Currently a project firefighter for Forest Fire Management Victoria, Harrison sees himself continuing to work as a firefighter, both within CFA and externally, and to keep contributing to the safety of the community he lives in.
Tim Griffiths, 23, has been an operational member of CFA for six and a half years, first becoming involved with the local brigade aged 16 during high school.
“I always had a desire to become a firefighter. I was lucky enough to have been involved in a CFA program in high school which encouraged me to join and learn more,” Tim said.
Tim’s immediate dedication to the brigade soon became clear when CFA members noticed him frantically riding his bike to the station for turnouts at all hours of the day and night.
Tim believes the most important lesson he has learned in CFA is how to manage and overcome challenging and unique situations. Currently the first lieutenant of Rye Fire Brigade and in charge of training and development and social media, Tim thinks CFA has helped him develop his skills.
“CFA has given me greater responsibility than I would have had if I hadn’t joined. I have developed communication and leadership skills which have led me to become a senior officer in my brigade.”
What Tim most enjoys about CFA are the opportunities to train new members and being able to help members of the community.
His advice to all young people in CFA is, “put in the time, listen and learn from experienced members and you will gain a lot from being a member of CFA”.
Rex Jose, 20, has been a member of Ballan Fire Brigade for nine years – no mean feat for a 20-year-old. He joined the local Junior brigade after a fire at his property, during which he was asked by the responding firefighters to help by closing a manhole. The firefighters extended an invitation to the Junior brigade and Rex realised that joining CFA was the thing to do.
Rex credits Ballan brigade and his involvement with CFA with growing more belief in himself and being able to help others more.
“As part of a team at Ballan l’ve gained more confidence in myself. I have become more involved in our community events and brigade activities and I’m able to assist people in our community when they may be at their lowest,” Rex said.
Rex believes that the best thing about being in CFA is the team of people he works alongside, as well as meeting the challenges of providing safety for his local community.
“Being part of a team that provides support for each other has a huge impact because we are able to give care to those in need in the community after incidents.”
Looking forward, Rex sees himself continuing to help people in the community. He is considering becoming a career firefighter or paramedic because both jobs will give him the opportunity to help others.
Rex would advise Juniors and young members starting out in their CFA journey to, “join in all activities in your brigade and community and take on the courses where you learn skills for life.
“CFA gives you a tremendous background for your future.”
||Goldie Pergl and Jen Clement