Young people are an important part of a healthy brigade. But the number of operational members aged 16 and 17 years old is relatively low and this is something the Youth Team at CFA aims to change.
Recently, the Youth Team ran successful Cadet camps targeted at our 16 and 17-year-olds, and we talked to one of our operational Cadets about his brigade.
Josh Corps is 17 years old and studying agriculture at TAFE while working as a farm contractor. He recently attended a Cadet Training Camp in Sale and regularly turns outs with Whittlesea Fire Brigade along with his dad Simon. Simon is a strong advocate of Josh’s participation in the brigade.
“It will allow him to continue to build his community spirit while learning new skills and working with a great team,” Simon said. “He will have experiences that people his age may never have, both positive and challenging. And we have been very impressed with the support he has already been given from the brigade and CFA.
Josh enjoys turning out and recently helped to rescue a horse.
“I am currently doing a Certificate II in Agriculture and love working with cattle, so I felt right at home supporting the animal as we prepared to rescue it on a steep incline,” Josh said. “The crew worked well together and we all learned new skills with Arthurs Creek brigade members who are experienced in large animal rescue.”
One of Josh’s reasons for volunteering was to feel a part of his local community, a sentiment that’s echoed by his dad.
“Youth his age need as much encouragement as they can get, and be given opportunities to show them they are valued as part of the team and the community.”
Josh’s advice for other young people his age who are considering lending a hand at their brigade is, “Don’t be nervous. You can be confident that you will be supported and included in your brigade. There is a lot to learn and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
That support has been clearly demonstrated by Whittlesea brigade Captain Richard Gardiner. Richard got involved in CFA when his dad took him to the station when he was 16 years old and hasn’t looked back. He reflects on this action by his dad as a ‘sliding doors’ moment of his life, having subsequently had a career in emergency management working with CFA, Ambulance Victoria, FRV and Emergency Management Victoria.
Joining CFA at such an early age was life-changing for Richard and why he has remained passionate about giving young people the opportunity to be operational.
“It was quite formative for me and opened my whole world to the idea of helping other people,” Richard said. “I realised it was a possibility and something that could be done, but then I had that visceral experience of doing it and I realised it was something that I loved.”
Richard stressed that brigade management teams have an important role to play,
“BMTs need to develop really strong relationships with the young members and their families, even if the families are not involved in the brigade. This gives them insight into what the young person is into and what opportunities they should be offered and be able to have.
“If you build a relationship with their families and guardians, you will open the door to get to know them and know their capabilities, strengths, and skills.”
Richard is keen to encourage and support the younger cohort and see them as people just like anyone else in the brigade, but at a different stage in life.