Haydn McComas, a volunteer fire fighter from South Australia is heading to France, Denmark, Canada, US, and New Zealand to investigate how other nations support volunteer firefighters. Haydn fought in the Black Summer of 2019 – 2020 in NSW, at both the Adelaide Hills – Cudlee Creek fire and the equally tragic Kangaroo Island fires.
Haydn believes there is still much more to learn and to do in Australia on the volunteer firefighting leadership-development front.
Mr McComas said “How can we realistically send our emergency service volunteers into such stressful situations and expect them to effectively lead teams with little or no investment towards their leadership development? That’s just not right – there has to be a better way!”
It was this thought that inspired Haydn to apply for a Churchill Fellowship. Through his Fellowship he will travel to get a grasp on what other nations are doing, and to bring this learning home.
“The lack of any nationally consistent leadership learning pathway for volunteer firefighters stood out to me as a serious and systemic national capability gap, and this is what I am hoping to investigate through my Fellowship.” said Mr McComas.
Adam Davey, CEO of the Winston Churchill Trust congratulated Haydn on his Fellowship. “We recognise Haydn’s efforts alongside the many other brave firefighters who risk their lives to save towns and communities.”
“We are inspired by Haydn’s passion and commitment, and wish him well on his travels as he researches learning and development in volunteer firefighting, and brings these learnings back to Australia.” said Mr Davey.
Australia has assisted other nations since the mid-1900s to fight fires, but formal sharing of resources across countries in wildland fire-management is relatively new, when in 2017 government agencies with front-line responsibility for wildfires in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. signed a formal wildland fire-management agreement to facilitate resource-sharing.