Having the big conversations about wellbeing

  Posted on 23rd February 2018 by Loralee Hyde in Event News, UFBA News

Twenty-nine personnel from around the country have now graduated from the recently introduced UFBA Leading Psychological Wellbeing Workshop following the second course in Wellington from 16-17 February.

Participants, who came from volunteer brigades and rural fire forces (both UFBA and FRFANZ members), were Amber Hollis (Arrowtown and Wakatipu), Bradley Shanks (Feilding), Edwin Coates (Upper Hutt Rural), Gordon Foster (Heretaunga Rural), Howard Cole (Maramarua Rural), Josh Dobson (Manawatu Rural), Lisa Cargill (Hokitika/West Coast Provincial Association), Marcia Hunter (Tora Rural), Nick West (Manawatu Rural), Peter Hanne (Turangi), Scott Allan (Bluff), Warren Maslin (Ashburton/UFBA Director) and Warwick Briggs (Te Atatu).

UFBA Leading Psychological Wellbeing Workshop participants

Pictured: UFBA Leading Psychological Wellbeing Workshop Graduates - February 2018

Using participant feedback to develop the course

Following the UFBA Leading Psychological Wellbeing Pilot Workshop in October last year, the pilot participants provided well-thought-out and constructive feedback on all aspects of the workshop.

Workshop facilitator Damian D’Cruz and the UFBA used this invaluable feedback to further enhance the workshop, including an interactive activity to support the 'Normalise' section of MANERS.

Key benefits of the workshop for members

UFBA Stakeholder Manager Ceara Owen-Perry says the key benefits for members attending the workshop are finding out how to enhance wellbeing by creating a safe and open culture and accessing the right tools and expertise to build station-wide psychological wellbeing support.

“Being able to talk in brigades and rural fire forces openly about our experiences helps to reduce any stigma about wellbeing issues.”

“I went into the workshop not knowing what to expect. I left knowing certain truths, we all have demons and pressures either personal or fire related. Sometimes you need permission to feel how you’re feeling and the trust and support understanding of your peers is vital in your journey out the other side.

The skills learnt over the workshop allow you to have a better understanding and sometimes that’s all you need to do to help your fire family. I believe strongly that every single firefighter should attend this course - anything you can do or learn to make yourself a better person, a better comrade, a better firefighter and a better leader and help you understand and cope with the bad has real value to yourself and your community.” Edwin Coates, Upper Hutt Volunteer Rural Fire Force

Psychological stress a critical risk

Acute and post-traumatic psychological stress and illness is one of the top 10 critical operational risks faced by our firefighters.¹

There are clear indicators some firefighters are experiencing increased stress from, for example, attending vehicle crashes and medical emergencies.

The UFBA Leading Psychological Wellbeing Workshop is specifically designed to provide participants with the right tools that support the wellbeing of our firefighters – which will result in less stress and burnout, improved motivation, commitment and energy and higher retention.

Fire and Emergency NZ has endorsed this course as part of their Year One Volunteer Support Initiatives.

“It was great to connect with our UFBA members at the recent Leading Psychological Wellbeing Workshop - they all have a passion to help their home communities. A great mix of people from across all sectors with different experiences and personality types but with a common goal of looking out for the mental wellbeing of fellow firefighters. 

The valuable tools and knowledge passed on by facilitator Damian D’Cruz are top draw. Great interaction between all parties in a safe and friendly environment. The benefits to their brigades are many and will ensure volunteers continue to deal with stressful ‘not normal’ incidences but have the tools to be able to cope and continue to be part of volunteer stations on an ongoing basis and ensure the families that support them are also protected.

As a UFBA Board Director, I am incredibly proud of the quality of the courses we are providing they have real value to our membership, for personal, professional and volunteer development. This is a key area of the UFBA Strategic plan: Excellence in Learning. I got a lot out of the course as a SFF and will be taking information back to our station to share the knowledge to as many as I can.

I congratulate all the other participants for the time and effort given to ensure we all got value out of the course. I look forward to connecting with you in the future and hearing of the help you have provided to the wider membership. This course really meets our Vision of Safe Sustainable Communities and I encourage UFBA members to put their name forward for future courses. Warren Maslin, Ashburton Volunteer Fire Brigade/UFBA Board Director

Essential to first attend a UFBA Leadership & Governance Workshop

An outcome that emerged from this latest course is that both Damian and the UFBA now consider it is essential applicants first attend a UFBA Leadership and Governance Workshop (which enhances leadership skills through developing effective leadership and coaching techniques) before applying for a Leading Psychological Wellbeing Workshop.

“We very much appreciate the time volunteers give to attending our leadership development courses,” Ceara says.

“Their time is limited and we aim to make sure all participants taking part in the Leading Psychological Wellbeing Workshop find out how to have the big conversations about wellbeing issues rather than refresh what is covered in the Leadership and Governance course.”

“This is a great build on to the leadership and governance workshop with Damian D’Cruz being a fantastic facilitator.

As both an Officer of Hokitika and the President of the West Coast Provincial Association, I see psychological wellbeing support being of the utmost importance and focus for our personnel going forward; to help manage both expectations of ourselves and others around us in trying situations. Not just in fatal outcomes but all high stress and big judgement call situations.

I look forward to seeing more courses being presented and the skills learnt being utilised around the country. My aspiration is to see at least one from every station attend this workshop and taking their learnings to the masses.” Lisa Cargill, Hokitika Volunteer Fire Brigade/ President West Coast Provincial Association

The UFBA very much appreciates the positive feedback already received from the participants at this second workshop and will continue to enhance the course to meet the needs of members.

Applying for UFBA Workshops

The UFBA Leading Psychological Wellbeing and Leadership & Governance Workshops scheduled up to 30 June 2018 are now oversubscribed.

We will let members know when applications for new courses open.


¹NZFS Annual Report 30 June 2017 p25
²NZFS Annual Report 30 June 2017 p10

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