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Volunteers honoured by road naming

Having been a deputy group officer for a number of years, Jan Cleary became CFA’s first female group officer in 2010 and held the position for four years.

 “I wanted to be group officer because I knew I could do a  good job,” Jan said. “I enjoyed coordinating, liaising with people and organising.  And I cared about the people in my group and wanted to do my best for them. They are a great group of people.

“During incidents, I worked at our group HQ assigning roles and making sure we had enough people available. I knew the area and the local brigades’ strengths.

“Situations can change very quickly and I enjoyed organising strike teams and being on the go.”

Jan is a CFA volunteer with Lakes Entrance and Mossi-Tambo. She first joined CFA in the mid 1990s.

“Tambo Group was looking for someone to work on the comms vehicle and as I had an interest in radios at the time I was happy to help,” Jan said. “At the time, my children were part of Mossi-Tambo in CFA competitions, so I was already involved with the brigade.”

From there, Jan obtained her truck licence and began getting more involved with turnouts, starting with just driving the truck onto the apron.

“Things snowballed and I was encouraged to do operational training. Most brigade members had the attitude that everyone should get involved   and were very supportive. Ex-Captain David Skinner was a great mentor.”

Jan trained in peer support in 1998.

“I did peer support work during and after the 2019-20 fire season,” Jan said. It was full-on for a long time. People struggled and needed support and referrals.” 

Since 2017, Jan has been a VFBV Board member which she finds very rewarding, as it gives a great insight into what is involved in supporting our people at state level.

Jan is also a member of the South East Regional Inclusion and Fairness Council.


Pictured left to right: Jan Cleary, Samantha Rothman and Sue Sheldrick with CFA CEO Natalie MacDonald.

A street at the new CFA VEMTC training facility in Central Highlands has been named after CFA volunteer, Samantha Rothman, who has been recognised for her commitment to training and development.

The new state-of-the-art facility near Ballan was unveiled on Tuesday 23 November and features a driving course with 10 streets named in honour of illustrious CFA members.

CFA unveiled Samantha Street, named after Samantha, in recognition of her localised work at CFA, secondary school programs and broader dedication to volunteerism in her community.

Samantha joined Bacchus Marsh’s junior program in 1988 when she was 14 years old and became a senior member around three years later.

Through the strong guidance of brigade leaders, she became the brigade’s first female member of the Brigade Management Team (BMT) in her early 20s.

At 25 years old, she moved to Maryborough where she joined the local brigade and has now spent 20 years as a firefighter.

She holds the rank of 3rd Lieutenant currently at Maryborough Fire Brigade, making her the first female Lieutenant at the brigade.

Samantha describes herself as having a strong interest in providing training and education for all.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have been led by some great mentors during my time at CFA, and those people provided myself and others with an equal opportunity for training and leadership development,” she said.

Samantha’s incredible passion for learning and development extends beyond her CFA journey, having founded an award-winning school emergency services program called the Emergency Services Journey at Maryborough Education Centre where she works as a secondary teach

Additionally, she has formed local youth groups and led training courses as a volunteer for Life Saving Victoria.

She has also been a member of the VFBV Board for eight years and currently holds the position of State Vice President.

“CFA is an amazing organisation and there’s so much we can learn from each other from what we do,” she said.

“From the comradery, the culture, brigade atmosphere and inclusiveness; there’s so much we all get out of being a part of CFA.

“I want to continue promoting our training programs and foster continued skill improvement across all members.”

As a firefighter, Samantha has been involved in some of the state’s most devastating fires, including Black Saturday and the 2019-20 bushfires.

“I was on a Strike Team in Kinglake West during Black Saturday and that was one of the most impactful teams I’d been a part of,” she said.

“While devastating and somewhat terrifying, I’ve had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of helping to fight fires in Mallacoota during the 2019-20 bushfires.

“It was quite the amazing experience to be flown in and evacuated on HMAS Choules.”

A valuable part of working in CFA strike teams for Samantha was being able to meet new people.

“Everyone is there for the same reason regardless of their background – and that’s to help others during an emergency,” Samantha said.

“I’ve made some incredible friends and connections through these opportunities and it goes to show how strong the CFA membership really is.”

Being honoured at the new VEMTEC training facility has come as a surprise to Samantha, but she said it is a recognition of so many others who have contributed to her journey within CFA and other volunteer ventures.

“I feel extremely proud, but I must acknowledge the many people I’ve met who are so dedicated and work so hard for their community,” she said.

“I have worked with some great teams during my time at CFA and I see this as an acknowledgment of that.

“Ultimately, a brigade or program can only work if it has good people within it.”


The devastation of the Ash Wednesday bushfires left young mum Sue Sheldrick wanting to do more to help affected communities. While she was unaware at the time, this grim start to 1983 was also the start of a ground-breaking journey for both Sue and CFA.

Sue joined Research Fire Brigade in May 1983, before transferring to the Wattle Glen brigade in 1986, where she undertook all the training required to become an operational firefighter with a busy urban brigade.

When she relocated her young family to regional Victoria in 1994, Sue transferred to the Killawarra brigade. Almost immediately, Sue found herself longing to don a BA set again and respond to structural fires. To satisfy this, she also joined the somewhat busier Wangaratta brigade, holding dual membership at both brigades.

Sues desire to do more with CFA didn’t stop there. Following a brigade election in 1994, Sue became the first female Captain in the history of CFA, a role she held for almost six years. This was an almost accidental situation, after the existing Captain moved away from the area, forcing an election to be called.

Sue reflects on this as a time of symbolism for women, which opened the floodgates for women to choose their own journey in CFA.

“I feel proud to know I’ve been part of a change, which was an evolution of women’s roles not only in emergency management, but within the community in general,” she said.

The significance of being the first female Captain for CFA, along with her ongoing achievements in emergency management is what led to a street at the newest VEMTC facility being named in her honour.

“I’m really honoured to receive this nomination. However, it’s not about me. It’s an opportunity to put female firefighters, future and existing CFA members of all callings on the map. Literally on the map, by way of a street named in my honour,” she said.

“This recognises the work that females have done for a long time in CFA. It’s not always talking on the radio or cooking with the Ladies Auxiliary. There are many women who fit in volunteering duties around family and work commitments.”

Whilst still an active operational firefighter, Sue’s main focus is her Incident Management Team (IMT) role as a level 3 Public Information Officer (PIO). 

Sue says: “I still try and jump on a truck where I can, but my focus is on now on my IMT role, as these roles are so important. My PIO role dovetails into all the conversations I’ve had with community members over the past 38 years.”

Sue’s journey has come full circle since the fateful Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983. While she initially offered assistance to her local CFA brigade, Sue ended up volunteering with SES, aiding in local recovery support.

Along with 38 years of dedicated CFA service, Sue is also an employee of SES doing what she loves best, assisting the community.


This article has been republished from CFA News and Media.

About VFBV: VFBV is established under the Country Fire Authority Act and is the peak body for CFA Volunteers in Victoria. VFBV works tirelessly to represent, advocate and support CFA volunteers to the CFA Board and management, governments, ministers, members of parliament, councils, instrumentalities, business and the public. Our vision is for Strong Volunteerism, Embraced to Build Community Resilience for a Safer Victoria.

This article is part of our series celebrating women in CFA for International Women's Day.


Read 5082 times Last modified on Thursday, 10 March 2022 15:59
CFA Volunteers are the unpaid professionals of our Emergency Services. VFBV is their united voice, and speaks on behalf of Victoria's 60,000 CFA Volunteers.