ISFSI Member Spotlight: David Thewlis

1. Tell us about yourself and why you decided to join the fire service

I joined the Country Fire Authority of Victoria as a volunteer in 1975 – currently still serving as a volunteer in my local brigade. I am aspiring for a career in the military, I enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force as a then Fireman Trainee including a tenure as an instructor at the RAAF Security and Fire School. As an NCO and SNCO, I was responsible for the ongoing training of the rostered crew I was in charge of. Prior to discharging from the military after 20 plus years of service, my last posting was as Fire Station Commander at a promulgated international airport. I am now working in the private sector contracted to defence.

2. Who or what has inspired you as a fire instructor?

Early on in my military career we researched and presented topics to the duty crew as part of on station training requirements. I enjoyed the facet of imparting knowledge to others, creating discussion and achieving objectives set developing my own individual style (which had been recognized by my superiors at annual reporting times).

3. What are some things you are working on in your department and how can others learn from that?

Currently I facilitate our crew supplementary training activities, both knowledge and skills based through a variety of differing formats. I also conduct training sessions to my volunteer brigade and mentor as required.

4. Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career

Having co-developed a complete training process for our then contractor company, which could also be utilised outside of the fire and rescue service line.

5. What do you hope to accomplish as a fire service instructor?

  • To impart skills and knowledge to others
  • Everyone can learn from each other
  • Even after 40 plus years in the industry, I’m still learning

a. When you are gone, what do you want people to remember you by?

Hopefully I’ll be around for a while, but just to be remembered means you have left something behind.

6. What is the biggest change you have noticed in the fire service since you started?

  • Probably technology, both in vehicles and equipment
  • The need to adapt and change processes sometimes is ever present.
  • Work smarter, not harder!

7. What is something that most people don’t know about you?

This had me stumped for a while as people have known me for quite some time. For ISFSI members, my other half lives in Romania and I haven’t seen her in a while due to this pandemic and travel restrictions.

8. If you could choose your title (other than the generic Training Officer or Firefighter) that uniquely describes you in your position, what would it be and why?

Sometimes the term instructor can be a little daunting to some. I like to think of myself not only as a firefighter, but a teacher, mentor and friend.

9. And finally, what advice do you have to give another instructor or to somebody who is just starting out as an instructor

  • Firstly, be yourself and don’t try to big note. To me this is a turnoff straight away.
  • First impressions always count
  • Always be approachable
  • If you don’t know something, be honest
  • So much more could be mentioned here

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