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From Scotland to Melbourne to Bairnsdale, Amanda Allan ventured to East Gippsland where she knew no one and joined the local CFA brigade to connect with her new community.
Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers across Victoria are reflecting on the close bonds they’ve formed as brigade members to celebrate International Day of Friendship, today Thursday 30 July.
Amanda moved to Melbourne in 2015 before she relocated to Bairnsdale in 2017. That was when she first discovered CFA in action.
“The first time I saw CFA in action was when I was driving to Bairnsdale and they were doing some training exercises and it looked like a lot of fun,” Amanda said.
“I couldn’t wrap my head around that the entire brigade was made up of volunteers.
“Not long after that, I looked into it a little more and expressed my interest in joining.”
The brigade made Amanda feel welcome from the moment she joined.
“People at the brigade always make themselves available to answer your questions or help you along,” she said.
“I remember one of the first incidents I responded to, I had to run the pump and I’d never done it before, but the support shown by the members around me made things like that a lot easier.
“I met a good friend of mine, Sarah Van Der Velden, who was really great from a female support point of view within the brigade when I first joined.”
For Amanda, not only has the Bairnsdale Fire Brigade provided her with lasting friendships and connections, it was where she met her fiancé, firefighter Todd Hayes.
“He was transferring from Paynesville Fire Brigade to Bairnsdale and I remember when he arrived he already knew everybody because he was a member at the brigade beforehand,” she said.
“It was through CFA that we got to know each other and now we have an almost one-year-old daughter together.
“The brigade has been so supportive since we had our child as well, they’re often checking in on how we’re going and have been there for a chat always.”
She said the diversity of the members within the brigade creates a supportive, family-like environment.
“One thing I love about CFA is it gives you a chance to meet people who are at different ages and hold a range of different skills,” she said.
“We’re a small rural community and you’re guaranteed to bump into someone from the brigade or one of their family members when you’re in town and that’s the great part of being involved.”
CFA has been the link between Amanda and some of the closest people in her life now.
“The people you meet at CFA become your day-to-day social group. These are the people that become so involved in your life that you’ll invite them to your kid’s birthday party, barbecues and other life events,” Amanda said.
“These people will still be my friends as time goes on no matter my involvement in the brigade.”