At  recent meeting our Chairman for the night  Jo White introduced ex-Bayside member and friend Gavin Fitzgerald who came tonight to tell us about the community service he’s involved in through his workplace. 

Gavin said it was good to be back and to see a few old faces from his club days with Bayside.
  Gavin has been with CFA for 10 years and was a volunteer for many years as well. He recognises what they do well at CFA: the roll out of trucks and fire fighting, but questions how well they engage with the community they serve. 

It is a case of understanding the underlying dynamics of your community getting good involvement  with them  will reduce the bad involvement with your community at the actual fire scene - seems a smart move, well done Gavin
It is a fact that there is a fundamental unintentional community disconnect  where CFA employs middle class workmen with middle class values and education, who hand out pamphlets to people who may not be able to read or comprehend the language.
 Gavin wanted to change that and along with 6 other employees decided to change the face of community involvement. Progress within CFA is not possible without a business plan and to give 
Gavin due credit  his philosophy has now become statewide. 

Some statistics in seeking to minimise fire and other emergencies ( specifically in a bush fire focused model )
• Need to stand 100m from 10m high fire for safety of health
• 173 people died on Black Saturday
We all need to treat bush fires with due care!

However Gavin is servicing a city / residential area in  which the  players and dynamics are equally specific.
• Geelong is largest regional centre due to house prices in northern suburbs
• 1 in 3 arsons investigated are in Corio, representing 1 in 7 in the State
• Many fires due to burning rubbish in back yards: people lack knowledge re local laws
• 80% of residents in this area are deemed vulnerable: many refugees who are already vulnerable being sent to vulnerable areas, some direct from refugee camps
• Disconnected youth 14-19 year olds, few skills, no work, low self-esteem
• People who can’t change the cycle, known as ‘Generational Poverty’

We have local facilities including Diversitat, Youth Networks, Multicultural Council and CFA Safety and Cultural Awareness Programs. By using a community engagement approach to address complex problems, a place-based approach seeks to make families and communities more engaged, connected and resilient. 
Gavin followed his passion, got involved through Diversitat. He understands they are resource challenged and wants to impliment solutions; “empower those around us, increase their knowledge base, form male health and youth networks. He wants to embrace communities, avoid ‘otherness’, avoid ‘tokenism’: don’t just have the firetruck on display, provide a BBQ for the community, chat to them and earn their trust. People need empathy, cultural understanding, speak to the women who are the real leaders in their families.”

Gavin's measurements of success:
• Accomplishment of an aim, a favourite outcome
• Building trust, hope, engagement, compassion, empathy with people 
• Building relationships with kids from many countries – kids become friends, their self-esteem improves, they dare to be creative and can then re-invent themselves.

Gavin admitted the pure statistics of fire instances to CFA community involvement are  difficult to build for the academics  but the  community  acceptance of the fire prevention message and the  improved  working relationship with the community is seeing benefits  all round, we say again 
, well done Gavin