Network of leaders ready for fire season

A group of ACT and NSW emergency first responders, government agencies and rural land carers have formed a leadership network to better prepare for fire seasons ahead. 

More than 30 diverse leaders across these sectors participated in the Regenerate Capital Region leadership program, recently completing the last intensive ahead of their graduation in November. 

The program was designed and delivered by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation in response to the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires. It’s funded by the Australian Government as part of the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery program. 

Better responding to emergencies 

The objective is to:

  • build a strong leadership network across borders and agencies
  • be able to respond to future bushfire emergencies; and 
  • build long-term resilience in bushfire impacted communities 

It will complement efforts by state government agencies in response to reviews and the Royal Commission, as they focus on their bushfire response going forward.

They won’t just be names; they’ll know and trust each other 

“Improving leadership at all levels is needed to drive improvements in disaster response,” ARLF chief executive Matt Linnegar says. “The core of what we do is exposing people to situations and ideas that will enable them to see a bigger picture, a different perspective and ultimately have the courage to put their ideas into action, bringing others with them.

“This is done in a face-to-face residential program setting where connections are inevitably made. When future fire emergencies occur, this network will be invaluable. They won’t be just names and positions; they’ll know and trust each other and be able to work through the challenges in front of them.”

Participants reflect and prepare 

“I think the important thing to note is if we have any sort of natural disasters be it fires, flood or drought, we now know through that collective of people who we can contact within our networks to get stuff done, to support each other, to build resilience in our communities, to build resilience within ourselves,”agrees Robbie Thompson, station officer with the ACT Fire and Rescue. 

Chris Condon of the ACT Rural Fire Service adds: “I think it was bringing together that everybody’s got a different way of thinking about things and the benefit of that will help people understand how to support one another, make decisions and help people understand one another’s roles a little bit more. And that will really help in those high pressure situations, responding to fires and so on.”

ACT Parks and Conservation Service ranger Mirjana Jambrecina says: “I reckon for me one of the biggest outcomes has actually been the networking, meeting people working in this region and getting to know them really well through this program and continue to build those relationships throughout the year. And there are people I can draw on, I now know them personally, if I want to discuss something, if I’ve got an idea, I’ve got people that I can call on. So, there is a support network which I think is just absolutely invaluable when it comes to moving forward and preparing our communities for whatever might come in the future.”

In agreeance, Jack Corrigan from ACT Parks and Conservation: “I think just being able to have some people’s number would be handy especially private land holders in my position, and local RFS brigades, people to call, people to speak to. And just local knowledge as well, having an idea of who we can rely on to get resources and where we could potentially set up staging areas and so on.”

President of a local NSW RFS brigade, Peter Henry, hopes the connections built on program will help with cross border relations: “I thought it was an opportunity to build connections across borders…we live in NSW but we’re more part of the ACT so building those connections across the border with leaders so that we can actually try and break down and make that border disappear.”

Mulloon Creek Natural Farms farm manager Matt Narracott can see the flow-on benefits to his local community: “I guess I wanted to come and tap into a broad, diverse network, and then gain the confidence and skills and the network to be able to bring that back to our community. And then step up as a leader in that group and really move us forward and be more resilient to not only fire but flood and drought, which are massive issues in our community as well.”

A shout out to ARLF Associates Karim Haddad and Ali Wass at Cuppacumbalong Homestead for hosting and co-facilitating the program and to Benny Callaghan and Melinda Nicholson for their expert facilitation.

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