Captain Paula’s golden fire service recognition

Golden Beach Briage Captain, Paula Grosveld was recognised during the 2024 Australia Day honours, receiving an Australian Fire Service Medal. Photo: Contributed

GOLDEN Beach Fire Brigade Captain, Paula Grosveld was recognised in this year’s Australia Day Honours, receiving an Australian Fire Service Medal for her 36 years of dedicated service to the CFA and her community.

Ms Grosveld AFSM has served CFA for 36 years and as well as being Golden Beach captain, is also deputy group officer, treasurer and health and safety officer of Banksia Group and District 10 Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria Executive.

She has had three stints as brigade captain, the first one from 2000, and was group secretary for 30 years.

“I can’t believe it. It’s a prestigious award and I don’t believe I do anything that others don’t do,” Ms Grosveld said.

“I became captain for the first time largely because of the sudden death of a captain. I was first lieutenant at the time and was elected captain.”

In 2006, Ms Grosveld moved away from the area and decided to give up the captaincy.

She was elected captain for the second time when the existing captain died.

She decided to step down again, only to be elected captain for a third time when the then-captain wanted to leave the position.

“You have to respect the volunteers and they need to respect and trust you as captain,” Ms Grosveld said.

“Respect and kindness cost nothing and help develop a collaborative team.”

Ms Grosveld doesn’t hesitate to put herself forward as a leader of CFA firefighters when the need arises and the community is at risk.

As an operational member, she regularly attends incidents in her response area.

Ms Grosveld has also taken on the role of strike team leader many times, and attended campaign fires including the 2009 Delburn complex of fires, the Bairnsdale floods in 2012 and two tours of the 2019 Gippsland fires.

“My most memorable time as a strike team leader was during the 2019/20 fire season.” she said.

“We drove through the Mount Delegate area to reach the Tubbut fire. It was a real challenge dealing with an angry community that felt they’d been forgotten. I tasked the strike team to talk to the community to gain their support and trust.

“We were protecting a property as we saw the fire coming. But we were then told to go to Buchan to protect the town. It was very emotional having to leave the property, but luckily it survived without our help.”

Ms Grosveld is the local source of expertise for a variety of CFA courses (including driving, general firefighter training, and mandatory firefighter training such as burnover drills and hazardous tree awareness) and is highly regarded by Forest Fire Management and Victorian firefighters who regularly seek her advice and local knowledge.

“I try to remove the ‘us and them’ attitude,” she said.

“When I’m at a fire alongside people from other agencies, I don’t care what colour they wear. We’re all there to do the same job.”

Ms Grosveld is a mentor in the well-respected CFA Captains Peer Mentor Program, and staff and volunteers alike are drawn to her ability and affinity to support the wellbeing of those around her.

“I loved the mentor program and really valued the captains who chose to take part,” she said.

“I’ve mentored two captains and found it so rewarding – seeing people bounce ideas off you and giving someone the courage to step outside their normal boundaries and give it a go.

“Sometimes people need encouragement to explore their own values.”

Ms Grosveld is a champion of women in CFA and has been instrumental in organising training opportunities for women, including chainsaw training and women-only training sessions.

She regularly makes herself available to other women members across South-East Region, including emerging leaders, to provide support when members face difficult circumstances.