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First Responder Story: ‘I chose to be a volunteer, and it’s my family who should be thanked’

As a volunteer firefighter, I can be called away for short emergencies, or for five- to seven-day deployments. Suddenly, my wife – who works full-time – is left taking care of everyone for up to a week, and also dealing with the whole family being worried when I’m away. 

That’s the main reason I’ve joined in with some of Fortem’s activities. As a family, we’ve gone bowling, we’ve done indoor rock climbing, and I’ve taken painting lessons with my daughter. It’s good family time, to do things together that we wouldn’t normally do. It’s been good for us to go along, spend time together, meet some other people who are in similar situations, have a bit of fun. Rock climbing has now become a new family hobby.  

The latest thing I did was just for me, though: 14 weeks of guitar lessons online. It was something I’d always wanted to do, and I had been taking lessons from another guy, but not progressing very well. Being virtual (they started during lockdown), these classes had their challenges, like trying to adjust the iPad so the instructor could see the guitar and both my hands. 

I definitely progressed quickly, and I think being taught by a professional musician helped. I came out with the sheet music and a fair idea on six or seven songs – or even more – and the confidence to continue to do this on my own. 

I really like learning new things, so I was proud of myself for getting a new skill. 

I found it relaxing, too, sitting down and practising the songs, or even just strumming away in the lounge room. 

It was also something to look forward to during lockdown. I really looked forward to the Wednesday classes. Because I was working from home and not going to see anyone, and not able to really do anything, it was a good opportunity to interact with other people on a topic that we were all interested in. 

No one else in my family wanted to learn guitar, but they were happy for me to find something I enjoyed. And everyone’s happy to go and do an afternoon of rock climbing or something like that, so it’s really good that we can do those things together as a family. 

There have always been benefits given to thank volunteers, even though we’re not doing it to get those. But to have some things that involve the family means a lot. 

I think of these activities as a way to thank my family for allowing me to go and help. 

As told to Fortem Australia