Emergency saves station

Andrew South, left, and Matthew Pond, right, receive their award from Greater Dandenong Mayor Heang Tak. 149525 Picture: GARY SISSONS


TWO years ago, senior CFA officials didn’t expect Noble Park’s fire brigade to survive.
The membership was so low that the 87-year-old brigade was often bypassed when there were callouts in the local area and the station briefly shut down.
But now the brigade is thriving thanks to a successful recruitment drive that embraced the suburb’s culturally diverse demographics.
The drive’s architects, Matthew Pond and First Lieutenant Andrew South, were awarded Greater Dandenong’s multiculturalism award on Australia Day.
Mr South said it was clear to the station’s predominantly white Anglo-Saxon males that membership was on the wane, down to just 14 members.
It was also clear a new approach was needed to attract Noble Park’s new majority of overseas-born residents.
Many were not used to the idea of volunteerism or had misconceptions that emergency services were hotbeds of corruption.
Another impediment was that English was not the first language of choice for many Noble Park residents.
“The main thing was education – going out there and lowering barriers,” Mr South said.
“If we didn’t change anytime soon, the bridge wouldn’t be there any longer.”
Mr Pond, the station’s support officer, said the brigade enlisted help from the Red Cross on how to reach out to potential recruits.
AMES provided English-language classes to help get the recruits trained and job-ready.
After two years of hard work and long nights, the station has been “refreshed” and feels more part of the local community, Mr Pond said.
Its volunteer staff has leapt to more than 50 and its reliability and capabilities are rated at a high level.
The recruitment methods have become a prototype for other emergency services in the state.
“There’s satisfaction that we’ve turned it around,” Mr Pond said.
“We now stand on our own two feet and are a leader.
“Needless to say, it’s been a complete surprise to a number of people.
“A lot of people had given up on Noble Park station.”
Those who would like to volunteer or donate to Noble Park CFA are asked to phone 9546 6618.