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Brian Wright is the coordinator and his enthusiasm is typical of the six members involved. “We have 16 Year 9s this year,” he says. “It’s more than putting them through Minimum Skills.
“I think the local knowledge aspect is introducing them to CFA. It gives them that awareness of their local environment and community. They learn what our volunteers are doing. It’s a great way for brigades to promote themselves to young people and we’ve got some good new members out of it.”
More than 150 students have passed through over 11 years with up to 30 of them joining brigades. One of that number was the school’s program coordinator who is now a member at Murchison. Another is a former student who now volunteers on the school program.
What started out as a community involvement program now also has a leadership component to it. "We have four crews each with a crew leader and, over the course of the program, everyone takes a turn in this role," continues Brian. "Before starting the day's practical work, we give them a map reference for an intersection, then another reference to the water point. It builds up their radio and mapping skills."
“Another test is spending the session in the state forest where they do more mapping and radio work. We send trucks to four different points then give coordinates for the next point and they have to give directions to the driver. It’s a real-life experience.
“We try to have fun and we haven’t lost anyone yet.”
Brian is impressed with the way local knowledge passes between the students and volunteers. “I’ve been a bit staggered by how switched on the students were,” he says. “There’s motor skills development; there’s teamwork; there’s mutual respect between the generations.
“We go to the Wangaratta training ground and go through live fire training. We’ll take them to Huntly [training ground] this year.
“We draw on our own practical experience but we‘re also passing on knowledge that we‘ve been given by others. Some of our members go back to the time of using beaters against a fire.
“As a volunteer, if you don’t get the acknowledgement you can wonder why you’re doing it. This gives us the chance to get to know them and, when the kids are responsive, you can see the volunteers relating to them better over time.
“We’re proud of them.”
All photos courtesy of Rushworth P-12 College