By Gavin Fitzgerald
What's significant about this workshop, called Bridges out of Poverty, is that it originated from Corio brigade and the program was driven by the Corio team and has grown enormously in momentum and support.
The program is supported by the local council, Barwon Health and the local multicultural agency, who all attended the workshop. Members of the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB) community safety team also attended to see how we do business.
The reasoning behind the forum is that we have come to understand in CFA that a large percentage of our clients are vulnerable and resource challenged and come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. We therefore need to change our thinking and approach in how we engage these types of community.
For example, each fire danger period over summer, CFA notifies communities about checking the CFA website for information and tune in to ABC radio. Yet if you are from a poverty or resource challenged background, you may not own a computer, you may have literacy challenges and you may not listen to ABC national radio. This would definitely be the case in some pockets of our Corio community.
Corio’s Officer in Charge Barry Thomas said, “This is part of the Corio business plan: to build relationships and a network in our own immediate community. We accept the direction from CFA being a community-based organisation. However, the words don’t necessarily make us a community-based brigade,” he said.
“We needed to adopt a ‘place-based approach’ that fits our needs and that of the community. Our people have employed a unique direction that is grass roots, and we see it being sustained into the future.”
Barry believes the importance of this workshop is that, after starting with team members at Corio, it is now involving key people in CFA.
The forum was attended by CFA Manager Community Resilience Gwynne Brennan, who said, “This type of program can initiate change on how we do business in the future.”
The workshop was facilitated by consultant Sally Sudweeks.
Photo by Gordon Guest-Smith.