“Things are going really well for CFA at the moment and I’d prefer to leave at the top of my game. It was a tough decision because I enjoy my job and work hard at it, but it feels like I’ve done my time and now it’s someone else’s turn,” Mark said.
“The recent core leadership group conference confirmed for me that all the pieces are starting to fall into place. Things that we’ve been pushing in Gippsland over the last few years such as mission command, principles not prescription, getting back to basics, reinforcement of local command and control and development of the operational doctrine.”
Mark first joined as a junior volunteer at South Warrandyte in 1973 and has since become one of CFA’s most respected leaders.
He became a career firefighter in 1979 and progressed through the ranks, serving in a variety of key operational roles at Boronia, Geelong West, Dandenong, Portland, CFA Headquarters and, more recently, throughout the Gippsland region.
Mark was one of the first and youngest officers to move across to a more integrated CFA.
“We used to have two distinct streams − regional staff and station staff. They were recruited separately and wore different uniforms. I was appointed as the station officer in charge at Portland at 31 and was one of the first to perform a dual region/station role.
“It made me realise the different skills and expertise that the regional staff required, that probably weren’t well known to the station staff.”
Mark was a key part of a team that led CFA’s transition over to the CAD system in the mid-1990s and also spent time managing the State Emergency Coordination Centre. In 2007 he was seconded to the National Fire Authority of Fiji, where he filled the role of Chief Fire Officer for two years.
“It was probably the hardest and best assignment I’ve had, it was really tough. Working as the Chief Fire Officer in a foreign country with an extremely limited budget required innovation,” Mark said.
“It taught me that good leadership is about providing strong direction and simple messaging. I wish I’d done it 20 years earlier.”
After the Black Saturday fires, Mark was seconded on to the CFA 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission team for two years prior to being promoted to the rank of regional commander in Gippsland in 2010, and eventually appointed to the role of regional director.
“There’s been a significant change in the direction we’ve had over the last two years – in line with the direction set by our Chief Officer. That’s been an easy thing to do in Gippsland as our volunteers understand and support that mode of operations.
“I am so pleased that the regional director now reports to the Chief Officer. It has also been good to have a boss that thinks the same way I do."
Mark will stay on with CFA for a few months after the new regional director is appointed, to help them settle in and transition to the Gippsland way.
He will also be providing some short-term technical assistance to SOPAC (Applied Geoscience and Technology Division) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Communities, continuing on from his time in Fiji.
“I’ll be helping small island nations develop fire and emergency plans and building the capacity and capability of their fire and emergency services. I’ll be working on some practical outcomes to help them deliver better services with a lot of help from Australian and New Zealand fire and emergency services.
“I have a real interest in the Pacific region and enjoy working with the people who live there. You can really make a difference. We have a lot to learn from our pacific neighbors. They know a lot more about community, family and loyalty than we can ever aspire to.”
Mark is also looking forward to spending more time with his family.
“The regional director position entails a lot of travel and nights away from home and I have two teenage children and a long suffering wife who I need to spend more quality time with. I also need more time to work on the 20 odd boats which I have accumulated.
“I’d like to acknowledge and appreciate the strong support I’ve had from the staff in Gippsland, but more importantly the senior volunteers and brigades. To me these are the elder statesmen that really drive, guide and support the management within the region.
“I’ve received extraordinary support from the Regional Leadership Team. They’re flexible, innovative and have a strong can-do attitude which has been reflected in our recent successes.
“I’d also like to acknowledge the huge amount of friendships I’ve had right across Australia and internationally as a result of my time with CFA.
“I’m sure I’ll always have an association with CFA in one form or another. My dad was a CFA member, as were many other family members. It’s something you sign up for, for life, like a family. It’s just the way it is, it gets in your blood I think.”