Members who have been integral to CFA response for more than 25 years were invited to a three course dinner catered by hospitality students at Swinburne University. “We also invited people who have carried out their roles under particularly trying conditions or through personally stressful times,” explains Regional Support Officer Anne Blomley.
“In some cases we reached quite far back into the membership. I’ve been at the region for 22 years [but with CFA for 33 years] so I knew people who had been central figures in brigades some years back but hadn’t been active for a while.
“This was our way of saying thanks: ‘You’ve done the hard yards. You’ve been with us through all the changes with a do-what-you-have-to-do attitude. We really appreciate you.’
“Some group officers have told us that the dinner rekindled people’s interest in CFA. They’ve been reinvigorated and asked their brigades what they could do. Life can get in the way but now some of them have become part of their fire brigade community again. That sort of involvement off the truck can help them see themselves in a different light.”
Dandenong Ranges Group Officer Rod Stebbing is one of those enthusiasts. “This initiative is one of the best I have ever seen in my time in CFA,” he says. “The idea of District 13 CFA and VFBV recognising our most senior volunteers in this way is just another outstanding example of best practice by our members and the HR team here in 13. It shows the respect that is both due and well deserved by these members, many after a lifetime of active involvement.
“Some of the members I have spoken to after the presentation said they were just blown away by the fact that this recognition had happened. It was totally unexpected. Another had a visible spring in the step as he walked across the engine bay!
“We were fortunate to have 14 members from Dandenong Ranges Group recognised as CFA Living Legends. We are always looking at ways to reinvolve some of these experienced leaders back out of retirement and into broader brigade activities if they are able and still want to.
“We need to also keep the invite up for those members who are transitioning from operational to non-operational status. Remember that we will all be there one day so ask ourselves how we are currently treating our senior retiring members because this is how we will be treated when our time comes around.
“All it needs is for brigades to keep the station doors open to our less active senior members and have the coffee pot always on the boil. This may sometimes need to be supported by an informal invitation down to the station on a Sunday morning or training night to join in the mandatory war stories and a quick brew. It doesn’t have to take a lot of effort.”
About 60 people attended the dinner including staff with Regional Director Dave Baker gratefully acknowledging the 1742 years of combined service in the room!
“There was a buzz of conversation all night,” continues Anne. “We watched people reunite with others they hadn’t seen for years and heard them making arrangements to meet up again. It was really satisfying to see people reconnect.”
Eastern Metro is keen to make the dinner a regular event with brigades nominating attendees in future.