What it’s really like to be a female firefighter
WHEN I was growing up, the fire services were often not really considered a viable career option for women.
There just weren't many women who were firefighters. But after six years as a career firefighter in CFA I can say that those times have changed.
Last month, the latest Victorian firefighting recruitment drive saw a 42% increase in the number of females wanting to join the CFA as a career firefighter on last year's numbers alone.
While this statistic and my own story indicate that we've made some great progress, we still have a long way to go.
In fact, only 4 per cent of Victoria's fireys are currently females.
The United Nations has specifically highlighted the importance of women working in emergency services as part of its 'Leave No Woman Behind' theme for International Women's Day today.
This theme looks at the role women have in humanitarian and disaster planning, using evidence that having female leaders in these situations leads to better outcomes for girls. As a female firefighter and mum to a daughter I know this first hand.
Just this week two colleagues and I visited a primary school in Shepparton to talk to the kids about working in emergency services.
We were there to show them what we do, but we specifically wanted to inspire the girls to think about a career in the fire services.
Even if they don't want to follow in our footsteps, we showed them that gender is no barrier in our jobs.
We also want to breakdown the barriers for women who are thinking about a career in the fire services. I am sure for many women, they are holding back for a number of reasons: Am I cut out for it? Will I fit in? Is it a family-friendly job?
Luckily for me I had a mate who was on recruits encourage me to look at the fire services.
Without him putting the idea in my head, I doubt I would've considered joining. Hopefully I can be that mate for you!
I can now confidently say I am where I belong - and more women should be encouraged to consider it as a career path, just like I was.
Part of this encouragement involves dispelling some of the misconceptions women might have about joining the fire services, be it CFA or MFB.
One of the main anxieties about joining the fire services relates to what the role actually involves.
We don't only put out fires, and we are not always performing operational duties. Our fundamental role is to protect lives and property - and this isn't only carried out on the fire ground.
It is done in classrooms, where we teach young Victorians about how important it is to be fire aware.
It is done at events, where we inform communities throughout the state about how you can best protect your family and prepare for fire season.
It is also not only about fire - firefighters attend road accidents, technical rescues, Hazmat incidents, provide medical care and respond to other emergency events throughout Victoria's cities and towns.
The Victorian community can be assured the fire services are prepared and ready to protect them at their time of need. However I do believe a more diverse crew is a stronger crew, and women have abilities that can be of great value to the fire services.
Today, I am a proud mum to a beautiful two-year- old and a Leading Firefighter with the Country Fire Authority, and I am no different to thousands of other women out there who I am sure have the same drive as me and could enjoy a quality career in the fire services.
By being more encouraging and getting the message out there, we can lift the female representation in our ranks.
It is my hope that in the future, it is not just my daughter who thinks women in the fire services are the norm, but whole generations of young women and girls who think it is too.
- Briody Walker is a career firefighter with the Country Fire Authority .
To find out more about becoming a career firefighter visit: www.firefighter.vic.gov.au