Working with young people

  Posted on 4th October 2014 by Louise in UFBA News

Working with young people

The 2014 NZFBI Scholarship was awarded to QFF Judith Stanley for a study tour in Melbourne and district in August with the Country Fire Authority.

Here Judith reports on her visit.


Junior brigades

My first visit was to the Wallan Fire Station. This was one of the first brigades mobilised during the 2009 Black Saturday fires, which began as a grass fire along the outskirts and quickly took hold in the tinder-dry terrain.

Wallan has 28 junior brigade members and is the largest in the region. While the juniors are not engaged in actual firefighting activities, they do provide a valuable pathway into senior brigades and are a key element in fire risk awareness campaigns. Many brigades in small rural areas are the only community group offering youth programmes. Working with children and young people is a strategic priority in developing community resilience and supporting volunteerism within the Country Fire Authority.

Junior brigades have been around for over 70 years and many senior firefighters, including those at executive level within the CFA boast of their time as juniors. Training for juniors is geared towards 11-15 year olds who learn basic rural firefighting skills, including pump operation, working with hoses, knots and lines, weather watching, map reading, radio communications, as well team building and leadership skills.

I also visited junior brigades at Kalarama and Wangaratta and many more senior brigades while travelling over 1000km in the state of Victoria.

Leadership of the junior programme is undertaken by senior volunteers. Some of the rural brigades provide training for a cluster of local brigades and many of them provide competition based training. Teams are encouraged to participate in inter-state competitions. 

Interesting facts

  • Wallan Fire Station has 28 junior brigade members.

  • Juniors make up 40% of Wallan’s membership.

  • Junior brigades were set up over 70 years.

  • CFA is the largest volunteer organisation in the region with 97% of its workforce as volunteers.

  • Of 1,186 fire stations in the district, 230 operate junior brigade programmes.

CFA in schools

Within the state of Victoria, volunteering is part of the school curriculum and a recognised advantage in applying for tertiary education and training programmes. The CFA is the largest volunteer-based organisation in the region with 97% of the workforce comprising volunteers.

Volunteering is not limited to firefighting. Roles include data entry, office support, public education, grounds-keeping, and everything from archiving records to running the open day barbeque.

Some of the students were working towards the Duke of Edinburgh Award (also available in NZ) and had elected to do the volunteer component with the CFA.

I also visited an urban and a rural secondary school and spoke with staff and students about both volunteering and fire-safe behaviours. The urban school I visited had a roll of 1800; half of whom spoke English as a second language; 20% were born outside Australia.

The CFA community education and resilience strategy is actively working with schools to encourage fire safe behaviours in the household, this is particularly important as the fire season approaches. Educating young people is one of the most effective ways of educating the wider community; children teach their families.

The CFA is also in the early stages of integrating fire-safe messages and learning across the school curriculum.

Further information

Judith will deliver a presentation on the study programme at the UFBA Conference and a report will be made available. 

Find out more about the NZFBI Scholarship here.

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