CFA’s records show Robert has been a volunteer for 16 years, when he joined up as a member of Clonbinane brigade.
“There were no minimum skills back then … the captain knew my father so I was presented with my CFA overalls that were kept in the car so I would be available at any time. There were no pagers, just a phone call if you were available and you’d meet the truck close to the job.
“I was shown the rakehoes, beaters and knapsacks and never really got to do much other training. I helped out with some fundraising and generally enjoyed my time in the bush. While I turned out to a few fires, I was more of a weekend visitor.”
Encouraged to return to active volunteering around four years ago after a bit of a push from his wife Carole and a visit from the then Third Lieutenant now Captain of Doreen, Chris Maries, Robert signed up with the brigade.
“Carole thought joining CFA again would be a good way to give back to the community and at the same time meet some great people. She was right. Doreen is a very active brigade with a fantastic group of enthusiastic members. Since returning, I’ve learned new skills, met loads of great people and I hope helped a few along the way. Somehow I was elected as the Fourth Lieutenant.”
For Robert, helping people is one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a CFA volunteer.
“To know you have assisted someone, possibly saved them or a family member from disaster, makes me feel good. The most rewarding aspect is the smile on someone’s face that you have just helped, especially a child’s.”
On 1 July 2009, Robert published his first piece ‘Keeping the faith’ on his CFA Connect blog. It was a reflective story written in the aftermath of the February fires as a way of expressing some of the frustration felt during this period.
“I was not happy with a few things that happened and the way the press handled Black Saturday so I started to write. I had experienced some things that I needed to release and I found putting them down on paper helped immensely. To publish them on Connect was the next step.”
Since writing and uploading this first article, Robert has shared 10 more stories on his blog: reflective pieces, training experiences and updates on the Matthew Temby Trust - a fundraising group Robert is involved with to get Matthew Temby, a CFA junior suffering from a rare form of cancer, to the US for treatment.
His blog updates are widely read by CFA Connect readers, with some of his reflective stories on the February 2009 fires receiving over 4,000 views and prompting many people to share their comments of appreciation online.
Robert fits in all this with a full-time career in the car industry as a Dealer Principal, an avid passion for fly fishing and a busy family life. You can read Robert’s CFA Connect blog here: http://www.cfaconnect.net.au/blog-mainmenu-8/blogger/RJHB/
By Livia De Sanctis