I joined CFA as a volunteer in the late 1970s. Back then there was definitely a perception that the fire services were for men only. It was just how it was.
But the way we did things had to change, and with that change came opportunities.
Being part of a brigade in a small rural community it became clear we needed to encourage more women to take on operational roles so we could meet capacity.
As more women joined we saw the environment improve; our brigade was far better off for their involvement.
By my early 20s I knew firefighting was the career for me. I joined as a career firefighter with CFA in 1986, working my way through the ranks to my current role as ACO.
I have seen our organisation change a lot over that time. More and more women are putting up their hands for leadership and operational roles in their brigades. There are more women in senior leadership roles right across the entire emergency services sector.
And from that we’ve seen great gains. I’ve seen the changes at every level in my region, from brigades, to regional teams and District Planning Committees.
Having women’s voices at the table gives us different and new perspectives and allows us to make more informed, considered decisions.
Sunday 8 March is International Women’s Day, an opportunity for each of us to reflect on our own attitudes and work environment and how welcoming and inclusive we are as individuals.
For me equality and diversity are about a fair and equitable go for anyone who is part of CFA; an equal opportunity to progress through any organisation especially the emergency services.
This is the future I want for my daughter.
Like me, she started out her CFA journey as a volunteer. Now 21, she has decided that like her dad she wants to be a career firefighter.
I would like her to have the opportunity to progress through the ranks like I did, to be a leader in the emergency services if she chooses, perhaps even Chief Officer.
I’m happy that we’re in a space now where this is a viable and welcomed option, that many of the moulds that we’ve put women into in the past have been broken.
But we can always do more, each of us, to break down bias and encourage more diversity at every level of our great organisation.
This International Women’s Day I encourage you to think about your role in supporting diversity at CFA and ensuring that our organisation is a safe and welcoming environment for women.
Let’s celebrate the benefits that greater representation can provide. Let’s keep pushing for an even playing field for all people, regardless of their gender or background.