Women wanted: Bayswater CFA captain Diana Ferguson, front, and brigade members Geoff Steward, Lyndee Stride, Kim Phillips and Dave Tangey want to encourage more women to become firefighters. Picture: Wayne HawkinsWHAT DO YOU THINK? SCROLL TO BELOW THIS STORY TO POST A COMMENT.
FOR many people, the prospect of balancing three children, a husband, volunteer firefighting and a day job at the SES would be more than enough to do every day.
But when Diana Ferguson was offered the opportunity to be the first female urban captain at Bayswater CFA, it was an opportunity that proved impossible to knock back. “It was exciting to pave the way for other women and set a good example,” she said.
Women now represent more than 20 per cent of total CFA volunteer numbers, and they’re pushing for more women to join the ranks. Since March last year, 688 women have joined the CFA as firefighters and in support roles.
CFA chief officer Euan Ferguson said “it’s great to see a boost in female numbers within CFA”.
Mrs Ferguson began her firefighting career as part of a community service component to get into the police force, but decided she much preferred the “firey” life.
“It was a great opportunity to meet a whole range of people from different backgrounds. I’ve done so much training and I’ve continued to build on those skills in life.”
The mother of three said there was nothing the men could do that she couldn’t.
“I go to the gym and work out there, and the three kids certainly keep me fit. But we’re all from diverse backgrounds, male or female, different cultures. Everyone is treated equally as firefighters.”
She said the Bayswater brigade typically responded to about 500 calls a year, and even after all these years it was still an exciting and rewarding experience to fight fires.
And she wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the CFA to other women.
Chris and Gary Wood are loving life as members of Yarra Ranges Ulysses Motorbike Club. Picture: Rob CarewRetirement used to be a time for putting your feet up but Melissa Cunningham finds an increasing number of seniors are staying young with the activities they aspired to in their youth.
The roar of engines can be heard from miles away as the bikes cruise down the hills. Amid the smoke and bustle the riders search for a friendly face and somewhere to park.
Every Saturday for almost a decade, 69-year-old Chris Wood has ridden her motorbike from Lilydale to Kilsyth to meet the folk who make up the Yarra Ranges Ulysses Motorbike Club.
There are more than 500 members across the Yarra Valley in this branch alone. The only prerequisite of the nationwide organisation is that you are over 40 and have an interest in riding motorcycles.
It’s not simply the motorbike club’s motto of ‘growing old disgracefully’ that keeps this leather-clad grandmother young. During her first trip away with the club 17 years ago she was swept off her feet by the love of her life, Gary Wood.
“I was convinced by my friend Pat to go away on a trip to Tocumwal with the Melbourne Ulysses Motorbike Club,” she chuckles. “When we got there she said to me, ‘Do I have a honey for you’ and I said, ‘No way’.
“I thought they were all too old — but there was Gary. I sat opposite to him while we ate our barbecue that night.’’
Wearing his sheepskin flying boots and dancing at the club’s rock ’n’ roll themed night Mr Wood, 65, and the future Mrs Wood had their first dance.
“Being a part of the Ulysses makes us feel young again,” Mr Wood says. “Chris and I started the Yarra Ranges branch in 2003 with another six members. It’s not just about having a ride — it’s having a social chat and coffee with other people about the same age as you, who enjoy the same things as you. We have members who are in their 40s all the way up to their 80s.”
Glen Waverley University of the Third Age secretary Pam Murphy says an increasing number of people from the outer east are filling their days of retirement with the activities they aspired to during their working years.
This year more than 500 people have signed up for U3A classes in anything from science and mathematics to literature and French.
“People going into retirement don’t want to vegetate,” she says. “They are seeking new company and wanting to learn about modern technology before they get too old. Our computer classes are always booked out and full of oldies wanting to learn about the internet.’’
Members also keep active with group physical exercise classes.
“It keeps members young, their minds fresh and gives them an outlet that encourages them to be a part of the community.’’
Sixteen years after they met Mr Wood proposed to Mrs Wood on the club’s annual trip to Tocumwal.
“The thing about the Ulysses is that it’s like a big family,” Mr Wood says. “As soon as other members see the Ulysses symbol on your motorbike and you’re in trouble on the side of the road they will stop straightaway and help you.’’
These days Mrs Wood usually enjoys the ride from the back of the motorbike.
Every week members take scenic rides through Kinglake, Powelltown, Eildon and Yea and other towns.
Mr Wood, a funeral director by day, says his affection for motorbikes even inspired him to create a trailer designed to carry coffins to ceremonies on the back of his motorbike.
‘‘Riding has been a way of life for our family,’’ he says. ‘‘That’s our outlet — I think everybody needs some kind of outlet in their life no matter what their age.’’
Like the Woods, Spartans Club runner Neville Gardner is thriving in his older years.
The 68-year-old Croydon resident has run 50 marathons and shows no sign of slowing down.
‘‘I think it’s the adrenalin rush that makes me want to run,’’ he says.
Mr Gardner has been an umpire for the Southern Football League for more than 40 years and competed in every Melbourne Marathon since the event began in 1978.
In 1987, he was selected to join the Spartans Club, a group established for runners who had competed in 10 or more Melbourne marathons.
‘‘The Spartans is just a trade-off of everyone’s experiences,’’ he says. ‘‘We all have a lot in common and share training techniques and it’s a social way to meet people with the same interests as you.’’
Not even a hip replacement last May could stop him competing in the Melbourne Marathon last October.
‘‘After my surgery I started off doing laps around the backyard with two crutches. Gradually, I worked my way down to one. Then finally, I was walking with none, and that’s when I started jogging back on the street.’’
Professor Peteris Darzins, director of geriatric medicine with Eastern Health, says a lot of changes often associated with ageing can be attributed to the winding down of activity.
‘‘A lot of changes we associate with ageing are actually not physiological changes due to ageing but more so attributed to sloth and inactivity that causes the muscles to lose strength,’’ he says.
‘‘Fit and active elderly people who are still running marathons could be deemed freaks mathematically because statistically they are the minority, but biologically they aren’t.
‘‘They have simply maintained the muscle and physical abilities they had at a young age.’’
Professor Darzins says maintaining brain function and avoiding cardiovascular risk factors is the key.
‘‘Being a part of the community socially is also just as important to the elderly as to the young. If you look after your health physically, mentally and nutritionally, you can lead a rich and full life regardless of age.’’
After being given the all-clear by his surgeon, Mr Gardner began a rigorous training regime, walking and running three times a week, and he finished the marathon in six hours and 12 minutes — four hours short of his personal best.
In his prime, Mr Gardner would train five times a week — in the morning, at night and during his lunch break at work. Back in those days he would run the Melbourne Marathon and, less than five weeks later, the South Melbourne Marathon.
‘‘I’m an accountant by trade, so working in an office and sitting at a desk all day has helped me to have my downtime in between my training.’’
Now he deems one marathon a year is enough.
‘‘My family tell me to slow down and that I’m too old for that,’’ he chuckles.
‘‘But I say, ‘I’ll make the call when I decide I’m too old to do it any more’. I’ve always said any exercise is good and for now I’m going to keep doing what I can within my limits.’’
Trumpeting success: Kristian Gregory (centre) with fellow performers Paul Biencourt, Roger Howell and Matthew Thomas at a rehearsal for La Boheme. Picture: Stephen McKenzie Kristian Gregory. Picture: Stephen McKenzie
WHEN 25-year-old Kristian Gregory compares opera singing to an endurance sport, it’s a fair analogy.
The Scoresby resident is playing Schaunard in the Melbourne Opera performance of La Boheme and says opera singing is very challenging.
‘‘It’s a non-amplified performance which means there are no microphones, and you’re often singing over a 100-piece orchestra.’’
It will be Gregory’s first professional opera gig, but he started his musical as an eight year old performing with the National Boy’s Choir.
He left the choir when his voice broke but continued to follow his passion of classical music, and eventually completed a bachelor of music at Monash University.
Friends and family have always supported Gregory’s musical direction, however the same can’t be said for the general public.
‘‘Although I would love to stay in Australia and continue to work here, I know that at some point I am going to have to go overseas because there is a different view of it there, it is built into their history.’’
He says while opera is a classical music genre, it is just like being interested in ‘‘classical Bowie’’ and people should come in with ‘‘an open mind’’.
Gregory told the Weekly that if people were interested in seeing an opera for the first time, La Boheme was a good place to start.
‘‘The music is accessible, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry. It’s a real rollercoaster of emotions.’’
The opera is also being performed in English.
La Boheme is on the Athenaeum Theatre and will conclude with a gala performance at Monash University’s Robert Blackwood Hall on March 31. Details: melbourneopera南京夜网
Joining in: Striking Sigma workers were joined by nurses and Monash Student Union members at the picket line in Rowville last week. Picture: Ted KloszynskiWORKERS at the Sigma pharmaceuticals plant in Rowville are celebrating the end of month-long industrial action after management agreed not to remove penalty rates on night shifts.
Union members voted to stop striking at a meeting yesterday, after representatives held conciliation talks with Sigma management at Fair Work Australia on Monday evening.
Site organiser Rod Wigg said it was a “great outcome”, although there would still need to be some “trade-offs on the peripheral” before formal negotiations concluded.
He said workers at the Rowville plant had also received a “good wage increase”.
The end of the industrial action will be a welcome relief for the company’s management, as well as the companies it supplies, after industrial action escalated last week when nurses and university students joined the picket line.
Mr Wigg said up to 130 workers had taken part in the strike, which has involved picket lines and blocking trucks from entering the premises.
He said nurses had decided to protest alongside Sigma workers because “they understand what it’s like to have your conditions of work attacked”.
Monash Student Union environment and social justice officer Laura Riccardi said earlier her group had felt compelled to join the fight.
“It represents an attack on an employee’s most basic working conditions. All they’re asking is to maintain what’s currently in their EBA.”
The students took the protest to Chemist Warehouse stores in Oakleigh and Clayton on Friday because the company is a major recipient of goods from Sigma.
Ms Riccardi said the group received about 50 signatures on a petition stating that Chemist Warehouse should boycott its contract with Sigma.
Mr Wigg said he had heard Chemist Warehouse was running low on some of its product lines due to the lengthy strike action.
However, Mr Wigg said the picket line had been flexible regarding trucks carrying “life preserving” drugs.
Chemist Warehouse declined to comment when contacted by the Weekly.
Good times: Upwey Tecoma players celebrate the wicket of Eildon Park star Cam Cosstick during day two of the Knox Tavern Cup grand final on Sunday. Upwey Tecoma won the premiership. Pictures: Rob Carew Hot hit: Eildon Park’s Shane Cosstick hits a cover drive on Sunday.
UPWEY-Tecoma claimed its first Ferntree Gully District Cricket Association’s Knox Tavern Cup in 10 years, beating Eildon Park at Upwey Recreation Reserve on Sunday.
The Tigers entered the final as favourites but faced a Panthers side desperate for another premiership.
Feaver Medallist Sam Taylor laid the foundation with 88 not out on day one as the Tigers won the toss and batted, making 248 on Saturday.
The Panthers were stung by the dismissals of stars Cam and Shane Cosstick on day two as the Tigers bowled them out for 214 to claim the premiership.
Tigers bowlers, 42-year old seamer Justin Smith (4-35) and Leigh Bianchi (4-79), and were the chief destroyers.
Tigers captain-coach Matt Mulcahy said the premiership was not just for the players but for the communities of Upwey and Tecoma.
“This goes beyond the playing group, it’s about everyone involved in the club,” he said. “It was an unbelievable feeling of relief and happiness when we had finally won. That game was a high quality grand final which ebbed and flowed for two days.”
Mulcahy paid tribute to his whole side for their contributions in the grand final, from Taylor and Ryan Pitts (46) on day one to a stunning catch by teenager Jake Evans and Smith’s four wickets on day two.
“After tea, Evans took an amazing catch and from that point on the game changed and we got the last few wickets,” he said.
Taylor and Smith provided compelling stories to the Tigers premiership. Taylor joined the Tigers from Premier Cricket side Richmond before last season on the advice of his good friend Mulcahy.
The Tigers skipper said Taylor had loved his time back in club cricket. “I don’t think Sam realised how much he would enjoy playing at this club,” he said. “You could tell he was very determined to bat for a long time – he never lost his head.”
Mulcahy said Smith was an emotional figure after the game. “Justin came to us from Upper Ferntree Gully last season,” he said.
“This year one of our players moved to South Australia and he came into the side. We had our backs against the wall on day two so I threw him the ball and told him to give it everything he had.
“He ended up with four wickets for not many runs. This was his first flag, I think he couldn’t believe his luck.”
To cap off the weekend the Tigers’ second side also won its grand final. Knox Gardens beat Lysterfield in the De Coite Shield final.
For more pictures from the Knox Tavern Cup grand final, click on multimedia link to picture gallery, above right.