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Reflecting on the year that was 2022

CEO Belinda McMartin in the museum, 2022
CEO Belinda McMartin in the museum, 2022

Since taking up the position of Museum of Fire CEO in mid-2020 I have been pleased to see the Museum develop and grow in all areas. When we re-opened the Museum following the first COVID closure in early 2020 we had just two permanent staff and three casual weekend staff. Two and a half years later we now have a team of fifteen and our heritage arm continues to be the greatest beneficiary of that growth.

How have we achieved this growth many ask? We haven’t found a magical golden stream of financial support that enables this progress but what we have undertaken is two and half years of tireless work to develop regular visitation and find other ways to make the Museum financially viable. It hasn’t been easy, especially with such a small pool of staff to get the ball rolling but the dedication and commitment of the team has laid the foundation for what we can achieve today.

Museum of Fire Team, 2022
Museum of Fire Team, 2022

As the Museum has developed and promoted itself in more modern ways, we’ve seen the demographics of our visitors shifting with lots more people travelling from further afield to see what the Museum has to offer. This is testament to the Museum’s digital promotion which is largely done through free social media platforms and word-of-mouth. In addition to this the Museum’s online shop has continued to improve with a greater variety of stock choices that are reflected in store as well.

Mascot Duke with Duke Plushie
Mascot Duke with Duke Plushie

Two of the lines that have proved very successful and popular are the dalmatian museum mascot “Duke” line and the “Vehicle of the Year” line which features the fifty-year-old International C1600. This limited-edition line was targeted towards the vehicle enthusiasts while the “Duke” line aims to engage kids (pictured below is mascot Duke with one of the toy Duke’s). These are just two examples of how the shop has developed to cater to multiple audiences whilst continuing to stock well-loved staple items such as the FRNSW branded products.

While the team has worked hard to find new ways to make the Museum financially stable, we have also engaged third parties to help save the Museum money. Several upgrades have taken place around the Museum and grounds which have substantially seen our overhead expenses decrease. It is these cost saving measures accompanied by the development of new income streams that have made it possible to continue to grow our Museum’s paid staff team.

Our team have taken every opportunity that has come their way which has seen many off-site event visits such as the Museum stall at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and the recent collaboration with Penrith Westfield to help promote all of the activities on offer in the local region.

In 2022 the Museum struggled to maintain staff levels as the pandemic affected the team like most other businesses in the state. Furthermore, we battled the floods after being forced to close twice with the Museum falling within the mandatory evacuation zone.

Despite so many hiccups accompanied by a growing list of tasks the team have come together to unite for a common goal which is to ensure the Museum is able to meet its mission and purpose goal to provide a world class facility for the preservation of the history of firefighting and to become a leading Australian organization in this field.

Penrith Valley Chamber of Commerce Christmas Party, 2021
Penrith Valley Chamber of Commerce Christmas Party, 2021

We have continued to work and engage with the local community to support local businesses by being an active member of many community run initiatives. One highlight of the last year was hosting the 2021 Penrith Valley Chamber of Commerce Christmas party on the Museum grounds and inside the Museum main exhibition space

The greatest depiction of the facelift our team has been providing to the Museum came at the end of 2021 when the famous “fire engine on the pole”, located at the Museum’s main entrance on Castlereagh Road was removed with the assistance of Debner Cranes so that our volunteers could complete the marathon job of restoring the vehicle with this fire engine atop the pole being the public’s first glimpse of the Museum as they head towards our building, its wonderful preservation serves to demonstrate our consistent efforts to modernise and upgrade our public offerings and collection works.

Before and after shot of our restored "firetruck on a pole", 2021
Before and after shot of our restored "fire engine on a pole", 2021

Over the next twelve months I hope to see the Museum continue to offer new projects, develop new ideas and welcome exciting new possibilities into the fold.

As we head into 2023, I am excited to see what new adventures and no doubt difficulties the year will bring as I know our team will meet each and every one head on.

I am proud to be the CEO of such a great local organization.

- CEO Belinda McMartin


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