Honouring Women of Willung South CFA

Willung South Fire Brigade celebrated the contribution of women on International Day of Rural Women on October 15. Photo: CFA

International Day of Rural Women honours and recognises the role of rural women on October 15 each year.

Last Sunday, CFA celebrated the contribution of all the women in the organisation, particularly those who perform leadership roles.

More than 420 women in CFA stand proud as captains and lieutenants in their brigades; 27 have a group officer or deputy group officer role, and 192 are group secretaries, treasurers, communications officers, training officers, community safety coordinators or health and safety officers.

Willung South Fire Brigade is unique in having many inspirational women leading from the front across a broad range of roles.

Captain Dawn Wood has volunteered for almost 30 years and has maintained many responsibilities in that time.

Ms Wood thinks that being a woman does not limit opportunities in CFA, but rather, women are seen as a valuable resource.

“Women are vital; we make up 50 per cent of the community, and we have an essential role to play to ensure we thrive going forward,” she said.

“We’re seeing people leave rural areas, so this means for our communities to survive and groups like CFA and VICSES to continue, everyone – both men and women – must get involved as equals. We balance out our strengths and work together.

“Through CFA, I’ve gained confidence, leadership skills and mentorship, and I know I have the capability to succeed and am willing to give things a try. If I can’t do something, there are people who will give me a hand and help me learn.”

Formerly a St John Ambulance volunteer, training officer Bev Anderson joined CFA just before the 2009 fires as a firefighter.

Now, two years into her training role, Ms Anderson said she was thoroughly enjoying it.

“In the past, there’s always been a notion that men went out and did all the CFA work, but it’s important that women know they are welcome too,” she said.

“It’s an inclusive atmosphere, and we get a lot out of it.

“Where you’ve got some spare time, why not do something for the community? You just give what you can, and you develop some really good skills and have a great deal of fun.

“Being a nurse in the operating room, the training responsibilities translate across both my work and CFA.

“I completed my adult training and assessment course a couple of years ago, and I use that for both too, and I gained my chainsaw accreditation, which comes in handy on the farm.”

Second Lieutenant and community safety coordinator Racheal Bradley has been a brigade member for 18 years, following in her uncle’s footsteps.

“Most of the women I know are very hardworking, have a can-do attitude and encourage others; those characteristics just bring a level of energy to a brigade,” Ms Bradley said.

“It’s important to have a mixture of men and women to draw on different ideas and hear various perspectives on how to tackle things.

“In our brigade, we learn from our mistakes and inspire each other to be better.

“It’s been rewarding to be someone that your local community looks up to and approaches for advice and guidance. I’ve got five children who are all keen to join CFA when they get older.”

Secretary and firefighter Karyn Oakman was encouraged to join the brigade more than five years ago by Ms Bradley after they became friends through their kids.

“I believe in being a great role model for our children and want to show them how we can work together and what we can achieve when we do.” Ms Oakman said.

“As a new CFA member, I have found other members really supportive, and it is great to be alongside inspirational women who step up rather than leave it to someone else, who work together as a team, embrace lifelong learning, and build strong friendships.”