The figures from last year tell part of the story. Eighteen peers in District 2 responded 470 times; six peers in District 18 responded 244 times, and four peers in District 20 responded 253 times. The total number of hours in support of CFA members and their families came to 2260. The region also has five chaplains of various denominations offering their time.
The Loddon Mallee team is led by volunteer Norm Bowen who has been known to spend up to 60 hours a week in his CIS role. Last year we reported on CFA Connect that Norm drives about 54,000 kilometres a year in this volunteer role.
Peer program activations range from one-on-one counselling; supporting a brigade through internal conflict; two or three peers turning out together to a motor vehicle accident (MVA); attending a defusion after an incident; attending funerals and taking members to and from medical appointments and treatment.
With Loddon Mallee extending to the New South Wales/ South Australian border and many of those medical appointments being in Melbourne, it’s clear that being a peer is an exceptional commitment of time, energy and compassion.
“Two of our peers are staff members,” explains Loddon Mallee Manager of Human Resources, “and all the others are volunteers. They can be called out 24/7. If there’s an MVA, peers are involved straight from the start.
“They all give their time generously, but it’s important that we make sure the carers are being cared for. We take opportunities to get them together for team building weekends. Those weekends are also about our peers knowing that they have resources behind them. They’re not a welfare service but a conduit of information through to our volunteers and their families.
“We call the service psychological first aid. First aid isn’t about long-term solutions but about helping people in immediate need – being a first port of call; providing some relief.”
As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, much gratitude and respect goes out to all CFA peers throughout Victoria. You make a huge difference in people’s lives right when they need it most.
By Leith Hillard