Sue Arndt Hare on Community Spirit

In talking to Sue about Mansfield life, community spirit is a recurring theme. Whether through her job with the local council, or since her ‘retirement’, Sue is constantly involved in community activities. From being a scout group leader, volunteering with MMuDS (Mansfield Musical & Dramatic Society) and Arts Mansfield, to being on school councils and now the CFA, Sue has become a mainstay of Mansfield life.

When did you first come to Mansfield?

My first job in the area, back in 1987, was at Mount Buller as a ski photographer. The company was called Good Times Photography, so I was a Good Times girl. It later became Hot Shots Photography.

Sue Hot Shots
Hot Shots Derby (Colin Coates, next to me, speed skated for Australia in six winter Olympics)

In my late twenties, I decided I needed to settle down, to have a base. One day, in a conversation at the Mansfield Post Office, I realized that Mansfield felt like home. It was a bit like a frontier town then, very rural with high country cattlemen and a strong connection to the land. My soul is at home here. I’ve remained here ever since, with just a couple of stints in Melbourne and Wodonga.

What are your roles with the CFA?

I volunteer as Mansfield Group Secretary and work for the CFA as a Community Liaison (Bushfire Engagement) and the Community Based Bushfire Management (CBBM) Project Officer for Tolmie. The roles involve bushfire awareness raising, education and community development.

We haven’t had a major incident affecting local residents for 12 years, so there’s a risk that we can become complacent. There are no guarantees that you will have a fire truck at your door or you will be rescued in a flood, so we have to instill the shared responsibility approach, where local government, CFA, SES, Police and residents work together.

Through the CBBM in Tolmie, the group created a new resident kit with lots of fire ready information.

Spring has arrived and we are fast approaching fire season. What key safety messages can you give?

Have a fire plan!

If your plan is to leave, leave early. Decide a trigger for when to leave, and know where to find information. Install the Vic Emergency app on your phone.

In Mansfield, many people have pets and horses. You need to make plans for them, too.

If you are staying to defend, you need to be very fit and capable, both physically and mentally. You need two people on site, no kids.

In case you don’t have time to get out, know how to protect yourself. Everyone should be aware that most fire victims are killed by radiant heat. Toxins, smoke and embers are further dangers. Heading for water is not an answer. Many people have died in dams, pools or water tanks.

This link to the CFA Website has the most current advice to help you plan and prepare. Please share this with your friends and family.

You previously worked in community development with Mansfield Shire Council. What is community planning?

The aim of community planning is to build a resilient community whose members can work together to achieve their goals. The plan includes a community profile – who’s there and what they love about the area – and often reflects the desire to get together and enjoy our beautiful environment in gathering places and walking trails. For example, the Jamieson community mapped their historic trees and created a walking map.

From community planning, we discovered that many areas had telecommunications issues with slow internet and mobile phone black spots. I formed an advocacy group that included locals (who stepped forward after an ad in the Courier) with a wealth of experience. We gathered stories, mapped the issues and identified potential solutions. Telstra joined the group, as did our local MP, Cathy McGowan. When the Federal Government’s Black Spot funding came up, we were ready to jump, and we were awarded funding for seven towers the first year and another one the next. By working together, the area now has greatly improved mobile phone reception.

It was while I worked in community planning that we started the very successful Facebook Mansfield & District Community Noticeboard.

What did you do with MMuDS?

I started in backstage and technical roles such as lighting, but eventually went onstage in Cabaret. My son tells me he was scarred for life seeing his mother appearing as a Kit Kat Club girl in her 50s. My last role didn’t get any better – I was a leper in Lyfe of Bryan!

MMuDS and Arts Mansfield bring thousands of locals and visitors together which is super-important when building community resilience – we know each other, we have fun together and we can enjoy creativity.

What does Arts Mansfield do?

Arts Mansfield has just launched a Strategic Plan which was written with a lot of community consultation. The group’s aim is to support local artists and to run events such as exhibitions and workshops.

We are holding the first Arts Mansfield networking meeting on November 18. Everyone involved in arts activities is welcome.

Can you tell us about the trivia game you developed?

I love this game! Emergency Ready Trivia was designed to increase awareness about a range of emergencies by bringing people together to share their experiences and learn from each other. It can be found on the Council website but needs a knowledgeable facilitator. Talk to your local CFA or SES if you would like to play a game. Although it didn’t win, I was thrilled that it was nominated for a Resilient Australia award.

Where to from here?

I plan to remain in the area. Both my children are settled nearby, which is a wonderful reflection on the town. Young people aren’t in such a hurry to move away these days as it’s a safe environment and there is so much to do. There’s cycling, skiing, the lakes and rivers, theatre, music, arts, sport, yoga, camping, 4WDing, bushwalking and so much more.

I love to travel and I plan to do lots more around Victoria, Australia and overseas. Over the past few years I’ve been very lucky and have visited Burma (Myanmar), Bhutan, Samoa, Iran, the Philippines and took my children to where I was born in England. But I’ll always come back to my soul home – Mansfield.

You can follow Sue on:
Facebook: Sue Arndt Hare

Next time: Kate Murdoch on Managing Multiple Manuscripts. Kate’s second historical fiction book, The Orange Grove has just been released.
Next Mansfield interview: Theresa Commadeur on Dealing With Change.

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