Fortem Community Engagement Coordinator, Nicole Delle Coste swapped her usual city views for a bush change, as she travelled to visit first responders in the Riverina and south west of NSW.
Nicole’s first meeting was with permanent staff at NSW Fire and Rescue at Turvey Park in Wagga Wagga, where she met with staff on both the 15 and 16th of March.
It goes without saying that Nicole saw the bush community spirit in action during her travels – something that was immediately noticeable during her first meetings in Wagga.
“The local FRNSW staff were really appreciative of my visit and showed immediate interest in what we do as an organisation.
“We sat down for a chat and coffee and cake and had a really good conversation about being a firey and what Fortem can do to help.
“The highlight was just having a chat though – and hearing about the local region – especially the tips on what to see and do!”
Next on the itinerary for Nicole was Griffith, where she received the famously friendly bush welcome from local RFS members – with operational officer Michael Borg deserving a special mention for his enthusiasm and hospitality.
“Michael was so helpful and keen to assist, which was just terrific, as there is some natural crossover with some of the activities he runs with a local young veterans group in Griffith,” Nicole said.
Michael was able to immediately suggest some great local activities for Fortem, including a mens’ walking group, kayaking along the Murrumbidgee and events run by a mens’ shed group in Hay.
Michael also took Nicole on a tour of the RFS and SES stations in Griffith, as well as showing her around the town itself.
While in Griffith, Nicole also dropped into the local police station, where she received a warm welcome from Senior Constable Susan Harris, who immediately invited Nicole to speak with a number of officers, who were in town visiting from Griffith, Hay, Leeton and West Wyalong. The visiting officers were very interested to hear more about Fortem and were provided with flyers, which they took back to share around their local stations.
To top the day off, Michael and Nicole, as well a number of local RFS members, went to dinner at a local Italian restaurant, where they were treated to the best pizza in Griffith. Talk about hospitality!
After leaving Griffith, Nicole made a bee-line for Albury, where she was treated to a tour of the RFS station at Lavington, courtesy of local RFS Unit Leader, Bruce. One of the sheds at Lavington was actually brand-new, having been very kindly donated and built by a local builder in Albury.
While at the station, Nicole saw first-hand the fantastic work of a local artist, who was decorating the Lavington fire shed with a mural. Nicole said even the photos of the mural didn’t do it true justice.
Nicole was then introduced to the brigade staff, after which she had the opportunity to deliver a PowerPoint presentation and a chat where she shared her own experiences. A key part of the discussion for Nicole was speaking with staff about the importance of mental fitness in maintaining a healthy life.
“I had a terrific chat with the crew at Lavington. It’s always so rewarding to be part of an honest and open chat about shared experiences. Being part of that moment, where people realise that they are not alone in their experiences, it just really makes my job worthwhile,” Nicole said.
On her last day in Albury, Nicole visited the police station in Albury, where she received a very warm welcome from local officers.
“I had lots of interest in what Fortem does from the officers in Albury – they were just so friendly, and were keen to get on board with us and what we have to offer.
“It really makes your day when you get the engagement and welcome that I received in Albury. It’s really obvious that the first responders there are proud members of their local community.”
Nicole said the trip was an eye-opener – particularly around seeing how different life in the bush is from city areas.
“For a city-dweller like myself, the most striking thing is the tyranny of distance in the bush. It’s so far between some towns, I feel like I now really understand why the bush spirit is so important.”
“I made a few new mates during my travels. Thanks to the locals who took the time to speak with me and show me around, this trip will be an experience that I won’t soon forget.”
Fortem activities, events and community engagements are designed to support the mental fitness of our first responder families. Read more about Our Approach.
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