Captain Joshua Philpot from Roebourne Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service with Executive Officer Tim Sonsee
Since my last update, it has been a busy and productive time in the role as executive officer.
Our Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service brigades have been facing unprecedented difficult times with the UPFU industrial action deeply and directly affecting many of our brigades across the State.
As a result of the difficulties faced, the VFRS Association believes it is a time of opportunity, and our training policy has been reviewed to remove any barriers from our end for volunteers wanting to train other volunteers. The policy was updated and passed at the Executive Committee meeting held in August.
This policy is not to add more pressure to our already busy volunteers. Instead, the Association believes it is a great opportunity to promote and develop our people, which will in turn build our brigades’ resilience.
We have so many capable and passionate volunteers who given the opportunity, would make excellent, skilful, knowledgeable, and professional trainers.
As an Association, we have been working on a strategic plan to map out where we would like to see ourselves in the next few years.
We need to remain:
relevant to our brigades
relatable to our people
adaptable to change while remaining true to our core values and
continue to have an impact on each person who represents VFRS.
We know our strength is in the unity of our volunteers and the strategic plan will reflect this.
Over the past few months, I have been visiting Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service brigades across the State including:
In May and August, I attended the 50th anniversaries of Williams VFRS and Karratha VFRS.
What a remarkable effort for the brigades to continue to serve their communities over such a lengthy period of time.
During brigade visits, there are common themes and challenges. Brigades are often facing the same issues including:
1) Fit for purpose stations.
2) Appropriate equipment including vehicles.
3) Accessibility to training.
4) Pressures faced by our brigade leadership group, and the added commitment these roles require.
5) Navigating through the legislation and regulations that were created to form healthy brigades.
I have met with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) chaplain, Dennis Sudla, and DFES Acting Wellness Manager Steve Wickham to discuss how we can work together in supporting our brigades.
The volunteering role can take its toll on our well being physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is not always the stress of the call out that wears volunteers down, but everything else going on. Either in their personal lives, or the within the brigade itself.
While the DFES Wellness Branch supports volunteers through the demands and challenges faced individually, the Association is there to assist with supporting the brigade membership in cultivating and maintaining healthy positive and resilient brigades.
Brigade management, training, administration, are all aspects of brigade life that allow others to focus only on the immediate emergency they are facing, and that is a good thing.
Council of Australian Volunteer Fire Association Meeting
Earlier this month Executive Committee Member Tony Dodd and I travelled to Brisbane to represent our Association on the Council of Australian Volunteer Fire Association (CAVFA).
CAVFA provides an opportunity for us to have a combined national voice.
Some of the challenges we face are not just in our own brigades, they are in our regions, they are Statewide and are across the nation.
Tony and I participated in a planning meeting and discussed issues of Presumptive Legislation, Occupational Health and Safety Issues, and other problems facing volunteers nation-wide. This included brainstorming ideas for CAVFA to become more known and relevant to our brigades while maintaining national issues.
WA Fire and Emergency Service Conference
A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to attend the WA Fire and Emergency Service (WAFES) conference with many of you. To those fortunate to attend - How good was it?!
I found Justin Langer captivating, funny and inspiring. When Rabia Siddique shared her story, I was lost for words from hearing her heart wrenching, inspiring, emotional journey. It has challenged me to continue to strive for change, for diversity, for ensuring every single volunteer has a voice that is heard and recognised.
Annual General Meeting
After the WAFES conference ended Saturday afternoon, we held our Annual General Meeting (AGM). It was great to see so many of our brigades attend as I understand what a busy day it is for all involved.
During the AGM, our constitution was amended to allow brigades to attend future AGM’s online. Other areas of the constitution were updated to allow us to continue to run the Association in a relevant and professional manner.
Other topics discussed during the AGM included:
fit for work brigade facilities and
the training disruptions faced this year.
A highlight of the AGM for me personally, was seeing Tony Dodd, one of our resolute executive committee members receive Life Membership to the Association.
Personally, Tony has been a massive support and wealth of knowledge for me as I find my feet within the fire and rescue world. He has supported me in my role by attending many meetings with me at DFES. Thank you Tony!
Passing of VFRS Members Hastings Adams AFSM and Noel Warke
My last point in this update reflects around the passing of Hastings Adams AFSM from Narrogin VFRS and Noel Warke from Jurien Bay VFRS, which I had the privilege of attending the funerals of these gentlemen.
Prior to Hasting’s passing away, I was fortunate to visit him in hospital. He was wearing his Volunteer Fire and Rescue t’shirt!
Both Noel and Hastings served their communities, through their brigades, over many decades. My questions to everyone are what do you think it was that kept them showing up? What kept them committed and dedicated when having to face some of life’s most tragic scenes?
I believe it was their desire to be part of something bigger than themselves and that they saw the richness volunteering brings to all involved.
More than a certificate on the wall or a medal on the chest, these men saw communities in need and stood up to look after them. After all, isn’t that what volunteering is really all about? Knowing we have given our best on someone’s worst day and being a part of a service that impacts community on every level?
There is a reason Jurien Bay’s main street came to a standstill when Noel’s funeral procession passed through town. People honoured the years of his dedication and service to his town.
Rest In Peace Hastings and Noel. As an Association we thank and honour you for your commitment. When we turn out to the next calls, we will honour your service with our actions and dedication and our continual striving for improvements in the service we provide to our communities.
If you have any questions or issues you would like to discuss with me, you can call me on 0427 800 038 or contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your service. Keep looking after each other.