Struggling farmers, sick children, disaffected youth and animal welfare charities are just a few groups that benefit from the proceeds of the 2020 Australian Firefighters Calendar, released for sale today.
A page in the calendar is a hotly contested position amongst all fire services including urban, rural, aviation, military and corporate; more than 130 applied, 44 were photographed and only 30 were chosen. Calendar director David Rogers said the men subject themselves to months of hard training to secure a spot, and to in turn make a difference to people they will never meet.
"For most, the motivation is being involved in something bigger than what they might achieve by themselves, for some it is so their families can to be proud of them, and for others it is because they have received support from the organisations the calendar supports," he said.
The calendar originated in 1993 as a way to fund a trip to the World Firefighters Games. The concept was so successful the firefighters were able to donate the excess funds to the Children's Hospital Burns unit in Brisbane. Since then the calendar has donated more than $3 million to various charities around the country and is now sold in 91 countries.
The calendar attracts firefighters like Cameron Simpson, who recently took part in a calendar-sponsored hay drive that took five road trains to the drought affected areas of Molong and Cumnock in rural NSW.
Cameron is not only an experienced HAZMAT Sydney firefighter but also the head of first aid training at his local surf club at Elouera and spends his weekends training nippers in first aid and advanced resuscitation. He has also spent hours visiting sick kids with other calendar firefighters at the Children's Hospital at Westmead and the Sydney Children's Hospital at Randwick.
Another firefighter changing lives outside his day job is Jase Pawley, based in Darwin. A veteran of numerous deployments overseas with the army, Jase appeared on the cover of the animal calendar in his first year with the calendar. Each year the firefighters receive calendars that they can give to family and friends and Jase used his calendar to raise $3000 for the Daniel Morcombe Foundation and Autism NT.
A newcomer to the 2020 calendar is former Scone resident, and now Sydney-based, Ben Swift. It took Ben several attempts to be selected as a firie but but in his first few weeks earned a Commendation For Brave Conduct for saving a young family involved in a car fire at a petrol station; Ben was able to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher long enough for the parents to get the children out the car.
One regionally-based charity the calendar will support is BackTrack Youth Works. For the past 13 years founder Bernie Shakeshaft and his team have been changing lives of disaffected youth in regional Australia, keeping them out of jail and helping them to become valuable contributors to their communities by preparing them for apprenticeships and teaching skills that prepare them for the workforce.
While the calendar has predominately supported causes for children, it also donates to local animal charities such as Safe Haven Animal Rescue, ABC Rescue, and Pets of the Homeless (POTH). Every year rescue animals from these organisations take part in the calendar photoshoot.
"With a combined global social and traditional media reach of over 3 billion people, the calendar can promote the work these organisations do in our communities," David said.
"The animals have such an impact on the firefighters that every year rescue animals are adopted by the firefighters at the photoshoot. These guys really do fall in love with their co-stars."
And that includes David, who adopted Lenny following an operation where the dog's tail had to be removed because it had been pulled from his spine. Lenny features in the 2020 Australian Firefighters Calendar dog edition.
"Our global reach allows donations to flow from around the world to smaller local charities like Healing Hooves. Using equine therapy, this tiny organisation has been saving the lives of children and adults suffering from Autism to PTSD. The calendar donated funds for a new ride-on mower last year and this year more funds will be allocated to expand the services Healing Hooves can provide," David said.
The Kids with Cancer Foundation also benefits from the calendar; it donates funds to families, hospitals and support groups involved with caring for kids of all ages and funds research into better ways to treat children suffering from cancer.
"It is the most satisfying work I have done or ever will. To go to work and create something that people love so much gives me the drive to continue what was started all those years ago," David said.
"I am always amazed and humbled by people that tell me a story about a child that spent time in a hospital that we supported, or that they have the very first calendar from 1993, or a relative living in Europe that has a calendar hanging in their house.
"It also reminds me that we have to keep working hard to keep making a difference to people we will never meet, but need our help," he said.
"It's the best job in the world!"
- Australian Community Media is a media partner with the Australian Firefighters Calendar