“There were probably only two or three other ladies in the group at that time. It was a bit of a change − a lot of brigades don’t like change. I persisted because I knew I was joining for the right reasons and they would see that in the end,” said Captain Jodi Butler.
“The guys realised I was here because I wanted to help the community. I was here in the middle of the night, weekends, any time. I did a lot of courses. Over the years you learn to build and win people’s respect.
“I’m the only female captain in the Leongatha-Korumburra group but there are now a lot more women joining and being accepted in the ranks, there’s been a cultural change. Brigades are now quite open and welcome.
“I love getting out and helping the community, when you have a big save it makes you feel good. Helping in any circumstance feels good – especially for the people that might not have the capacity or skills to join the CFA like I’ve been able to do.”
In her time with the brigade she has attended some significant incidents.
“We had a fairly large fire at the high school which involved a lot of neighbouring brigades. The majority of the brigade was involved in the 2009 fires.
“We also sent strike teams to the Mount Dandenong bushfires in 1994. We also had a couple of members help out during the Sydney bushfires campaign. That was a really good learning experience for all the members that attended.
“The jobs we attend aren’t always nice. The least nice ones are the house fires that are fully alight - you can really relate to it on a personal basis. People are often standing there watching their whole life burn to the ground.
“The motor vehicle accidents are also part of our call-outs because we’re situated on a main highway. They’re always unpleasant – it’s not nice attending fatalities.”
Jodi already has big plans for the Korumburra brigade.
“I’m going to run the brigade like Bill has for the last 26 years – ‘Korumburra brigade is a great social club that occasionally gets interrupted by a call out’. If you have happy members they’ll be there when you do have to put in the hard yards and attend the tough jobs.
“We’d also like to increase the brigade profile and wave the Korumburra brigade flag a bit more. We’re a brigade that just gets on with it and does a good job, but we never publish information about it. We’ll be looking to make the most of local papers, CFA Connect and other media resources.
“We want to be getting out there and representing the brigade in the community, and also mixing it up a bit more with the neighbouring brigades. We’ll be looking to involve some of the smaller neighbouring brigades in our training, Kongwak and Ruby in particular, as they both respond and support us at incidents.
“I’d like to bring Poowong into the group more and involve them in the cluster training we’re getting up and going. We’re also lucky to have the road rescue brigade at Loch. We recently did road accident rescue training with them.
“I’m also looking at getting some community information signs for the front of the station to relay information to the community about Total Fire Ban days and Fire Danger Periods as well as information about volunteer recruit numbers.”
Jodi is also the brigade administration and support officer for the South Gippsland Shire.
“I guess it gives me more knowledge as to how CFA actually works and also getting to see other brigades – how they function and where we can improve in some areas. It makes you appreciate what you’ve got – not all the brigades are as happy as we are.”
She’s optimistic about the future of CFA.
“I think with Chief Officer Euan Ferguson leading the troops now he’s put a lot more emphasis back on the volunteers and he makes it quite clear that they are the important members of CFA. This makes us a stronger CFA moving forward.
“CFA has also been pushing back on the volunteers to do a lot of their own training, which is fantastic. After the Linton firefighter tragedy a lot of the responsibility for training was taken away from volunteers, whereas now we’re saying ‘Hey, you can train – just within these guidelines’.”
Does she have any advice for women joining CFA today?
“I’m not really one for banging the wagon on women joining CFA – it’s just about giving them a fair go. It’s about doing whatever you can that’s within your means.
“I’m a single mum with a 13-year-old daughter, a black Labrador and a full-time job. I’m a busy person and why not – you don’t know what’s around the corner.
“We’re a very social brigade and we involve families in a lot of brigade events. It’s been really great to meet such fantastic people with similar interests and build strong friendships.
“I have strong members behind me. I can go away with my daughter − we’re about to do a bus trip to the fire museum and ESTA. I have experienced members who can run an incident without me standing behind them.
“I’d encourage everyone to just be honest and join for the right reasons. Be yourself – don’t try to do something you’re not capable of. Get in and have a good go, make friends and have a long and enjoyable time with CFA.”
Ex-captain Bill Rodda has seen Jodi develop from her first day with CFA.
“She was secretary for quite a few years while I was captain and a very good one too. She was our first woman member and there was a bit of opposition floating around, but she soon fixed that up,” Bill said.
“Jodi got in just by being Jodi – her personality, friendliness and eagerness to learn. She’s a very sociable lady – you never die wondering what Jodi’s thinking. She’s also a very good firefighter.”
“Jodi has the respect of the people here and she knows her stuff. She will do a good job. She’s honest, social, all those things that come with being a genuine volunteer.”