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Faces of CFA – Leonie Turner, Hoddles Creek Fire Brigade

What is your CFA role?

Captain, District 13 peer, Junior leader and catering team member.

Why did you join?

In 1991 a large fire came close to where we lived and the primary school my boys attended was evacuated. After that I started to think about the people on the trucks and asked others about CFA. With the support of my family I joined a local brigade.

What incident has had the greatest impact on you?

As a firefighter and peer, the 2009 fires had a significant impact on me. Our strike team turned out in the afternoon and worked through the night. When we were released the following day, we started to hear of the devastating loss of life and property. As a peer, along with many others, I spent time with the brigades, members and their families directly affected by the fires.

Who have been your mentors in CFA?

Like all captains, a lot of people have given me advice and helped me including current and past captains, group officers, commanders, CFA members and my peer coordinator. At Hoddles Creek the brigade is fortunate to have Rob Worlley. He’s a quiet man with a wealth of knowledge, particularly his bush skills, natural navigation, sixth sense when it comes to reading the weather and the valley winds, which is invaluable for us.

What have been the highlights of your time in CFA?

High on my list would be the great friendships I have made as a firefighter and a peer.

I have the honour to teach and watch the Juniors grow, going on to become valued senior members, Junior leaders and officers in their respective brigades. The Juniors have an abundance of enthusiasm, a have-a-go attitude and a willingness to learn.

I’m very proud to be a peer support member and helping other members and their families when required. And being a firefighter helps me to better understand what the brigade or member have been through. The highlights can be as simple as when a person feels comfortable enough with you to tell you honestly how they feel, to helping strike team members when they’re a long way from home.

My number one highlight from 2020 was a phone call from North East Region Assistant Chief Fire Officer David Renkin, who told me the brigade would be receiving a new fire station through the CFA capability funding.

How do you motivate your brigade members?

I hope by just doing my job, having a go, and keeping a positive attitude. Every member has a different skill set, knowledge and ability. When crewing our vehicles, we make sure our newer or younger people are well supported by more experienced members. Mentoring makes new recruits feel welcome, they learn faster and settle into the brigade more quickly.

At times, motivating a person can be challenging but keeping a brigade motivated is a team effort. Over the past 12 months we’ve all had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Junior brigade face-to-face activities stopped and went online, and our active members only came together when their pagers went off. We all had to learn to embrace Zoom or Teams meetings and training online. I’m lucky to have a great BMT and the officers all stepped up, particularly my 1st Lieutenant Graham Boyd and 3rd Lieutenant Brett Kerford.

What lessons are you most keen to pass onto other members?

Family first, communication, respect and good teamwork. If you don’t have the support of your family, it would be impossible to be a CFA volunteer.

You will never please everyone all the time but if you’re fair, involve your officers in the decisions being made, and keep your members as well informed as you can, everyone is usually happy.

Not all people join the brigade to become a firefighter. We have a catering team that does a fantastic job looking after our crews and other emergency services at incidents. Other members help out around the station with the general maintenance and cleaning. No matter what role a member has, respect and teamwork play a huge part. Coming together is a beginning, keeping it together is progress, and working together is success.


This article has been republished from CFA's Brigade Magazine.  

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.


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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.