Local 14-year-old footballer Jack Ward felt restless during the off-season and joined Red Cliffs Junior Brigade to fill in his summer in 2017.
CFA is celebrating the invaluable contributions made by its young members across Victoria, like Jack, for International Youth Day on Wednesday, 12 August 2020.
As at 30 June 2020, CFA had more than 1500 Junior members at 162 Junior brigades across the state and a total of more than 4000 members aged between 11 to 24 years old.
“I really needed something to do and as it turned out the CFA Junior Program provides a running season in the summer and focuses on theory in the winter,” Jack said.
“I first heard about CFA running teams when the State Firefighter Championships were held in Mildura in 2016.
“So I jumped on YouTube and saw that there were Junior running teams and I kept on begging Mum to let me get involved.”
He said being a member has been a chance to bond with everyone, “even the adults at the brigade”.
“You get to make so many new friends when you travel away for competitions. There are so many different brigades there,” he said.
Among the many people Jack has met at the brigade is Red Cliff Brigade Junior Leader Hanna Harvey.
Hanna said she has been around CFA since she was seven years old.
“My Mum has been a firefighter for as long as I can remember. Once I was old enough I started at Mildura, and then moved to Merbein and now I’m with Red Cliffs Brigade,” Hanna said.
“I was Captain of the Junior program at Red Cliffs for around three years and was great to have success at the running competitions.
“As I got older I moved through the ranks and Mum taught me how to be a Junior Leader so I took it on.”
The 22-year-old said she’s found a passion for leading the brigade’s next generation of firefighters in her role.
“I love teaching people new skills and it’s great to see all the kids from different backgrounds come together and just fit so well together,” she said.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to help them get better at something they really love to do.”
Hanna said there are important values the Junior program upholds.
“We want to instil values like respect and inclusivity in all our kids that come through our junior brigade,” she said.
“It’s also about teaching them to think of others and offering to lend a hand.
“I love to see the kids smile and laugh and that’s what it’s all about. As long as they are enjoying themselves and doing the best they can, that’s what we care about as a brigade.”
Jack was excited to have been recognised at the 2019 Annual Brigade Dinner when he was awarded with the Albert Ling Memorial Award for displaying leadership and assisting the new junior members.
He said he’d like to continue serving his community as a firefighter when he grows older.
“At the moment I’d like to one day become either a career firefighter or be a volunteer firefighter while I work in a different field,” Jack said.
“The Junior teams don’t just teach you things you’ll only use at the brigade; it teaches you skills you’ll be able to use throughout your entire life no matter what path you choose to go down.”