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A passion to lead CFA’s next generation

Leading the next generation of CFA volunteers has come naturally to 20-year-old Colac firefighter Caitlin Willsher, who has climbed the ranks through the Junior program to now take the reins as Junior leader.

Caitlin (pictured above as a senior firefighter and a Junior competitor) followed in the footsteps of her father and older brother, who were members of the brigade, when she joined as a Junior member at the age of 12.

“The Junior team was struggling when I first joined, we just didn’t have many numbers there,” Caitlin said.

“I’m glad I got to give it a go as a Junior. I really enjoyed it and was particularly competitive with my brother who was also a member.

“It provided a great environment for me to make friends and socialise with other members too. Since then we’ve been able to get the membership up and have built a really strong Junior group.”

She applied to be a senior member when she turned 16 years old and officially started as a Junior leader in 2018.

“I didn’t want to leave the group and knowing this the coach asked if I wanted to help out as a Junior leader,” she said.

“My role is to discuss with the coach and other leaders how we can improve as a group, as well as organising events, competitions and social nights.

“I took on the role because I like to see the kids happy and enjoying what they’re doing. Every time they win something, when they place or when they give something a go, I just really like seeing that.”

Caitlin has been an active member of the brigade, especially over the last summer season.

“I got the opportunity to be deployed to the New South Wales bushfires last year,” she said.

“It was nerve-racking but I loved it. I was able to meet so many new people and learn a range of new skills from them and was eager to bring them back to the brigade.”

The Colac Fire Brigade Junior Program has grown a lot since Caitlin first joined eight years ago, with 12 committed young members now participating.

“A strong social aspect has helped grow our Junior group. One person would give it a go and then ask their friends to come along and we also have a few family members involved as well,” Caitlin said.

“When they first join they are quite shy, but it’s great to work with them to build their confidence and watch them come into their own and now they all work so well together.

“The program is great not for socialise reasons, but we also help them with their training, building a range of skills and helping them get involved in their community in a bit of a different way through CFA.”

Caitlin hopes to continue to work as a Junior leader at the brigade for the foreseeable future.

“I love helping our Junior members where I can and want to remain a Junior leader going forward,” she said.

“I’m very keen to stick with the brigade and continue to grow in my firefighting role as well.”

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.