“I don’t want to be quiet mate! The minute I slow down I’ll be dead,” Bill said.
Bill first joined the Korumburra brigade 38 years ago. He moved down from Doncaster as part of his job with the Department of Education, working with disadvantaged and special needs children.
“I had to come to Melbourne for work and was happy to get a transfer back out to the country in Korumburra. I’ve always been a ‘bushie’.
“I grew up in Myrtleford and used to go along to watch the competitions as a kid. Actually the main reason I joined the brigade was to run competitions – I was a pretty fit character. I soon realised the other part of the business – protecting the community and my own house.
“I was in everything, went to everything and took part in everything. I’d been secretary for five years and foreman for five before that when the blokes asked me if I’d take on the role of captain, so I did. It was a job that had to be done and I gave it my best shot.
“The previous captain Robert George helped out after I took over. We also had a few older fellas at that stage of the game who all gave me a hand too. With this sort of brigade we look after our own.
“Korumburra has always been a good brigade. Everyone is friendly and keen, very sociable. There’s no frills around the edges but we always get the job done.
“I’m lucky enough to have always been surrounded by people who are excellent at the operations side of the business, which left me to focus on the captain side of it – which is now everything else but.
“A lot of your time as a captain these days is spent on public relations and keeping the members happy. It’s all about keeping brigade members in the loop and making yourself available to chat and listen. If you’ve got yourself organised then you can keep tabs on what the others are doing and let them do it.
“Another important thing I learned was to delegate. And when you delegate make sure you leave them to do it – don’t start doing it behind their back.”
While Bill is moving on as captain he’s still got a lot on. As well as spending one or two days a week servicing equipment and looking after the paperwork for the brigade’s fire equipment maintenance program, Bill is writing a history of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria.
Bill is confident that he’s leaving the brigade in good hands with incoming Captain Jodi Butler.
“Jodi will do a good job. She’s got the respect of the people here and she knows here stuff. She was secretary for quite a few years while I was captain and a very good one too.
“It will be different going back to not being captain. I’ve certainly made it quite clear that I’ll always be here to help Jodi out as she goes along. And I know very well she’ll ask. I’d rather she asks when she needs help rather than me butting my nose in.”
Jodi says that she won’t be letting Bill get too far away.
“I feel very lucky to have had such a good mentor in Bill and I really appreciate his support.
“As well as his work as VFBV representative, Bill is heavily involved in the ‘Advance’ program they run out of the high school for year 11 students. Bill has been a big part of that right from the start. He pretty much puts the students through their minimum skills. They have practical activities and even spend a day at the Gippsland Fire Training Complex.
“He’ll also continue doing local school visits for the brigade and helping with promoting community education.
“I’m going to run the brigade like Captain Bill has for the last 26 years – Korumburra Brigade is a great social club that occasionally gets interrupted by a call-out. If you have happy members they’ll be there when you do have to put in the hard yards and attend the tough jobs.”