East Gippsland Peer reflects on fires this R U OK? Day

To mark R U OK? Day today, volunteer firefighter Allan Cracknell recounts the huge efforts of CFA Peers who provided wellbeing support to CFA members during and after last season’s bushfires.

East Gippsland Peer reflects on fires this R U OK? Day

Photo: CFA Peer Allan Cracknell

CFA recognises this year has been one of change, challenges and adjustments and the need for our communities to stay connected and feel supported has been more important than ever.

Allan, CFA Peer Coordinator of Districts 10, 11 and 27 and based in Bairnsdale, said he has been part of the CFA Peer Support Program for 23 years.

“I’m passionate about rural communities and the people living in them,” he said.

“We encourage people to support each other to keep our communities strong and Peers provide support from a brigade perspective.”

CFA has more than 170 Peers across the state as part of its Peer Support Program.

CFA Strike Teams deployed interstate and across Victoria last bushfire season were accompanied by Peers just like Allan to ensure on-the-spot support was available.

“We were busy during last year’s bushfires with Peers deployed all over the state on rotations,” Allan said.

“We find that people normally need emotional support after the dust has settled as well.”

Allan said he coordinated Peers to attend staging areas such as the Swan Reach Base Camp over the summer and their responsibilities were dynamic.

“We would be available just to chat with people; sometimes it’s just about having a joke with someone and be that person to interact with,” he said.

“Other times we’d have to contact firefighter’s families upon request or sitting down with them and talking through some more serious conversations.”

CFA offers various wellbeing programs to its members including the Member Assistance Program (MAP), Peer Support Program and Chaplaincy Program.

“We want people to understand it’s okay to not be okay and recognise the support available to them,” Allan said.

“It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit ordinary in the aftermath of devastating bushfires like we saw in East Gippsland.

“We are here to listen to people and provide all members with support and guidance to get them back on track.”

In line with R U OK? Day’s theme ‘There’s more to say after R U OK?’, Allan said it is important to go into a conversation without a script.

“It’s a good starting point, but don’t just do it on 10 September, check in with your family and friends regularly,” he said.

“Make sure you’re genuinely interested and listen to them.

“Whether it takes five minutes or five hours, you need to be attentive and trust that you’ll come up with the right words.”

If you are not okay, or if you notice a change in someone you know, contact the CFA Wellbeing Support Line on 1800 959 232 to access free, confidential support that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Wellbeing services are available to all CFA volunteers, employees and their immediate family members.

The support services include the Member Assistance Program with Psychologists and Counsellors, Peer Support Program, Chaplaincy Program, Let Me Know web-based app, as well as other services provided by the Organisational Wellbeing Team.

/CFA News Release. View in full here.