It’s a gutsy move that has earned her the great respect of District 6 Acting Operations Manager Brian Brady. “She’s got what it takes to be a leader and that’s what counts,” he says. “She’s got the 100 per cent support of her brigade and the district.”
Erika seconds that. “I can learn as I go. I email and call Ops and our BASO [Brigade Administrative Support Officer] and the support is there.
“The members always come to me with good enthusiasm and ideas. It’s very democratic. Everyone has a voice. We listen to what everyone has to say and treat each other with respect.
“I just clicked with CFA. My partner and I were new to the community and we set out to make ourselves locals. We both joined the brigade and that involvement has given us meaningful relationships.”
Erika is working on her Masters in clinical leadership and, in the CFA world, has completed crew leader training and Fireline Leadership. She’s clearly up for the challenge of the Otways and led the brigade involvement in last year’s trial community evacuation of Lavers Hill.
“That got a lot of conversations going at the pub,” says Erika. “We followed up with a survey asking households if they now had a plan. Most of the community is outlying and, on a bad day, most people would go to Colac and a lot of the crew won’t be here. Aside from that, we have some people living off the grid in the forest. An emergency planning committee has been set up.
“I think one of the qualities of women in leadership is to see different sides of an issue and that’s especially important in a community as complex as this one. Joining CFA was a good decision. The brigade is going from strength to strength.”