Australia and especially Victoria is one of the most bushfire prone regions in the world. All too often we have experienced devastating tragedy through fires and these tragedies would have been amplified if it wasn’t for the selfless efforts of the volunteers of the Country Fire Authority. These people stand as the vanguard for protecting life and property in rural and regional towns. However, the local CFA is often much more than firefighters and educators. They can be the hub of the community, sometimes taken for granted, sometimes overlooked, but their role is crucial to the cohesiveness of any country town. Many small towns have suffered from the exodus of facilities such as the local hall, the pub, schools and shops, with the CFA branch being the only community focus left.
The Kingston Fire Brigade is a prime example of how the dynamics of a town have shifted. The branch was established over a century ago with many family names still prominent today, while other members are relatively new to the area. This combination of the old and the new is part of the Brigade’s continued relevance today.
Robt Haughie, the Captain of the Kingston Fire Brigade, sees the Kingston Fire Station as a local community facility. It is immediately apparent when speaking to Robt that he is passionate about his role and his brigade. He is also passionate about maintaining and building community and when not fighting fires or attending other emergencies, the brigade premises is often the chosen location for meetings and events. Each year on the last Sunday in October, the Kingston CFA hosts a community barbecue. This event is inevitably the meet and greet for residents to come together to renew friendships and to welcome ‘newbies’ to the town.
Robt is proud of the Kingston Brigade, saying “It has a diverse and inclusive membership that creates equality and from that we get new ideas.” He feels that these new ideas will keep the sustainability of the brigade ticking along. He went on to say “We’re working to make sure it happens. The great thing we’re seeing of late is that we’re getting a lot of different people coming through, creating a more diverse and inclusive membership. One of our new members has arrived full of ideas and enthusiasm and that is the sort of thing that will keep this brigade sustainable.” The bottom line is that if you can’t keep the community involved, numbers can drop and brigades dissolve, leaving the community vulnerable to fire. The rural CFA brigades are 100% volunteers, so without trucks on the road, houses and lives can be lost. It’s a long way to Kingston from the only permanent firefighting units in Ballarat or Bendigo, so it is vital that these small brigades continue. The Kingston CFA has been around a long time and they’ll be here for a long time to come.