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Project role led to full time job 

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Corryong firefighter, Cath Davies, will forever remember the night that the 2019-20 Black Summer fires tore through the Corryong district. 

Heavily pregnant with her first child, Cath watched as Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMV) crews headed towards Towong to protect lives and property directly in the path of the out-of-control bushfire. 

“I remember sitting on the front verandah with a face mask on, watching the crews leave and bawling my eyes out,” Cath recalled. 

“I felt so hopeless. Everyone was out fighting the fire and if I wasn’t pregnant, I would’ve been with them. It was tough.” 

On maternity leave but determined to help, Cath went to the Corryong FFMV office and took on the role of radio operator. 

“I needed to do something,” she said. 

“I couldn’t just sit there and watch,” she said. 

“Everyone was under pressure and doing the best that they could. For me it was nice to be able to come back to work and feel like I contributed in some small way.” 

A week after the fire was contained, Cath and husband Joel welcomed the safe arrival of their first child, Archie. 

“Looking back it was a pretty hectic time for everyone, including us,” Cath said. 

“I have so much admiration for everyone who helped fight the fires, all the firefighters and the community which rallied together and supported each other.” 

As part of the recovery program, Cath and FFMVic colleague Nathan Hewatt were appointed as leaders of the Towong Community Recovery Committee. 

The committee has led the completion of a range of local projects in the Towong district while also helping to bring everyone back together.

“I think we have achieved a fair bit for our little town obtaining grant funding for a walking track, community barbeque facilities and various events,” Cath said. 

“If there is a silver lining to the bushfires, it’s that it has brought everyone together. It’s made us all even more aware of the importance of community, and what can be achieved when you work together.” 

Cath’s journey with FFMV started seven years earlier when she applied to join the Corryong crew as a project firefighter at age 21.

“I was working in real estate at the time and I learnt pretty quick that I hated being indoors,” she said. 

“I knew a few people who were already on the crew and we were all close mates, so I thought why not give it a go.” 

After three seasons working as a project firefighter, Cath was offered a full-time role as a Field Operations Officer before more recently joining the district’s fuel management program. 

“It was good to spend three seasons as a project firefighter and then progress into a full-time role,” she said. 

As a fuel management officer, Cath helps plan the delivery of the district’s planned burning program which reduces the risk of bushfires to Upper Murray communities including her hometown. 

While she now spends more time in the office, she hasn’t lost her interest in emergency management and is an accredited crew leader and can do multiple roles in the incident management team. 

“As a crew leader I love the leadership component of the role, making decisions and having a lot more responsibility, particularly for the people you are leading,” she said. 

Cath is the first to acknowledge that being a mum to two young children, Archie and now daughter Billie, while working in emergency management is a constant challenge. 

“FFMVic supports me to work from home when I need to and, depending on the situation, I can either work in the incident management team or out in the field,” she explained. 

The opportunity to live locally and help protect her community from the threat of future bushfires is at the core of Cath’s love for what she does. 

“For me, being able to look after the forest and the community that has looked after me and my family for so long is pretty special,’ she said. 

Corryong Courier 11 July 2024

This article appeared in the Corryong Courier, 27 June 2024.

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