Introducing Kate Riddell

Kate has lived in the Kinglake Ranges for 8 years. She is a married, full time mum with two young children, a part-time teacher and a Mental Health First Aid instructor. Kate also spends time in Queensland working with disaster affected communities.

Kate is passionate about the well being of her community. She is an emergency services volunteer in the Kinglake Community Emergency Response Team (volunteer ambulance service), sits on the board of the Kinglake Ranges Foundation, plays for the local tennis club, as well as being a founding member of the Murrindindi Toy Library and Kinglake Ranges Representative Group.

Kate, along with other members of CERT received an award by the Victorian Health Minister for their ongoing efforts during and after the fire, servicing those in need. Kate was awarded the Pride of Australia medal in 2010 and in 2011 she received an Emergency Services Foundation scholarship to complete research in America.

Kate has completed extensive studies -BA (Outdoor Ed.), Dip Ed (Secondary), Grad. Dip. (Social Ecology), M. App. Sci (Social Ecology)- which have fueled her passion for place, gender, communities and organisational change.

Introducing Jemima Richards

Jemima moved to Kinglake in 2007 with her husband David Exton, who’s family is one of the original pioneering families in Kinglake.  Her twenty-year career in the well-being and beauty industry and working closely with people, was useful in the smooth operation of the only private relief center in Kinglake that she set up and ran from her 50 acre property. This relief center engaged and serviced hundreds of community members in the initial weeks and months after Black Saturday. It also introduced her to many in the community and Australia wide.

Some of Jemima’s volunteer and work roles include, co-founding and the continued running of the expanding Firefoxes Australia organization, board member of the Kinglake Ranges Foundation, Ambassador for the Horse for Hope program, member of the Community On Ground Assistance (COGA) Alliance, and spending time in disaster-affected communities across Australia.

A new career in Motivational speaking, (Sharing the real story of community response, relief and recovery, the Firefoxes story and what is possible if you believe in yourself) consulting to Government and Service Agencies on Disaster Preparedness’, Response and Recovery, and a new business venture bringing cement and concrete products in waterproof packaging to the retail market, for the first time in Australia, keeps her on her toes!

Jemima’s work in, and for the community, has seen her receive the Paul Harris Fellow and the Pride of Australia medal in 2010. Nominations for the Pride of Australia medal in 2009, Victorian Honor Roll of Women in 2010.

Some of her speaking audiences have included Westpac, Lend Lease, Victoria Police, Elders, Launch of Red Shield Appeal for the Salvation Army, Kerferd Oration, Latrobe University, Rotary, Melbourne Tigers, Government Agencies, and Disaster Affected Communities all around Australia.

Jemima is forever positive and believes anything can be achieved with vision, determination and thinking outside the box…and a smile goes a long way too!

Firefoxes would not exist without the guidance and support of the fabulous Rowena Allen and Kaye Bradshaw, who were instrumental in guiding the Jemima and Kate through an organic process to see what was needed by the community once the attention went away. Forever grateful x

Westpac and Qld

As Australia’s first bank and company, Westpac has a long history of building strong partnerships with individuals and communities as well as supporting organizations that not only reflect Westpac values, but will also help create better futures for all Australians.

Recently, Westpac sponsored a pilot project that in a few short visits to far north Queensland and outer Brisbane, saw the Firefoxes founders reach over 700 disaster effected Queenslanders, including Westpac staff.

The FNQ component focused on the Cassowary Coast and Townsville. Westpac staff, customers, future customers, business networks and ordinary women (along with a few brave men!) from surrounding communities joined Jemima and Kate for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper sessions.

Weeks later, Brisbane was the next stop. Community events were held in Goodna and Fernvale, meeting with a local group ‘flood buddies’. Women’s stories and experiences were shared, heard and validated in a safe and respectful environment.

Kate and Jemima shared the real story of recovery, the highs and lows, the unofficial timelines, the personal and communal recovery process. Through sharing their own experiences, Jemima and Kate were able to provide hope for recovery and the future, validate individual’s journeys, create a safe forum in which to acknowledge fear and to energize communities when it was most needed.

In addition to the immediate positive response from women who attended the pilot events, in excess of 50 women have since contacted Firefoxes, Anne Hely and Sarah Flenley (Department of Communities). They thanked us for sharing our stories of recovery and listening to theirs, and asked for our ongoing support and information to help them in their journey of recovery.

Westpac is clearly leading when it comes to doing the right thing. This is demonstrated in Westpac’s Disaster Recovery team efforts, staff contributions to disaster relief funds and commitment to building community resilience as part of its corporate social responsibility.

Most disaster affected communities have not had the good fortune to learn from those who have gone before them or to pro-actively prepare for what lies ahead (long term physical and psychological recovery). Through supporting this project, Westpac is changing people’s lives in a unique way- a contribution that can’t be measured by traditional means. You are making a difference in one person’s life, and reaching many more via the ripple effect.

At these events, seeds were planted for the future. Westpac staff and women asked ‘What might be possible in our community?’