Wangaratta firefighter Heath French, left, Mooroopna community engagement officer Larissa Ballard, Lieutenant Commander Adam Farley, Kilmore firefighter Stephanie Calderwood and Bonegilla firefighter Phoebe Church aboard the STS Young Endeavour. ​

By Max Davies

Kilmore firefighter Stephanie Calderwood was one of four young Country Fire Authority, CFA, volunteers to embark on a sailing journey on the Tasman Sea last month.

At sea for 11 days, the full ‘youth crew’ of 24 participants were chosen for the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme through a rigorous application process, providing them with an opportunity to build on their leadership skills while sailing aboard the STS Young Endeavour.

The participants were also able to work together to become better team players, as well as improve communication skills.

Ms Calderwood said the journey was a good chance to learn something new and connect with likeminded people in a unique environment.

“It was just something designed to get you out of your comfort zone while still learning everything there is to know about sailing like how to do the different roles and the rules of the sea, things like that,” she said.

“The friendships that were built were really important. You’re spending a lot of time with other people in close quarters and the connection you make while there is something you can’t really replicate anywhere else.”

The STS Young Endeavour serves as a sail training ship for Australian youth, with more than 500 youth crew participating in the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme every year.

Over the course of the voyage from the Young Endeavour’s homeport in Sydney to the finishing point in Melbourne, the youth crew rotated through most roles aboard the ship and assist with its operation.

Ms Calderwood said a highlight of the trip was taking over command of the ship with the rest of the youth crew, an event typically towards the end of the 11-day voyage.

“There was one day where all the youth take over and I got given the role of the navigator,” she said.

“It seemed really cool at first, but I didn’t realise how much work it would be so it got a bit stressful. I had some help from a couple of other people but it was still pretty much just me, so I learned a lot.

“Everything changes out at sea, we got stuck in storms for four or five days, which we weren’t totally prepared for, so you have to learn how to adapt quickly.”

Ms Calderwood has been a CFA member for more than eight years and became a firefighter in late 2020.

She gained an interest in firefighting from her father, who is also a long-time firefighter and helped her learn about working with the CFA from a young age.

Ms Calderwood has since become an ambassador for the program and encouraged anyone who has thre opportunity to take part in the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme to give it a go.

“If you ever get the opportunity you should take it, don’t second guess yourself,” she said.

“You might think about it and question why you chose to do it, even while you’re at sea, but once you finish you’ll be glad that you did it and you can hold onto the connections you made for a long time afterwards.”

To learn more about the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme, visit youngendeavour.gov.au.