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Annika empowers community
“There’s so many other roles than just being on a fire truck which I believe a lot of women could be part of – it’s a bit of a boys club – but that doesn’t mean we’re not invited,” were the wise words of Gnarwarre Fire Brigade secretary and firefighter, Annika Naylor.
***Annika Naylor is a CFA volunteer who is being profiled as part of a special series ‘Celebrating CFA Women’ in recognition of International Women’s Day on 8 March***
Annika has been a CFA member for around eight years and has proven to have a powerful influence on CFA and her local community.
Annika’s husband is also a brigade member and with children to look after she admits her husband often gets out the door to callouts before she does.
“I get to go to a lot of planned burns and some other incidents but it is harder for women here to attend all fires when you have a job, a family and most husbands or partners are also brigade members,” she said.
“But there’s always something to do - during a serious incident my home can sometimes become a bit of a childcare centre! Other CFA members drop off their children at my place while they attend the incident.”
When Annika moved from Melbourne to the country she said CFA was the only community organisation in the area so if you wanted to be part of the community, you be a part of CFA.
“I felt it was the right thing to do – if you choose to live in the country – this comes with it – it was a natural thing to do.”
After a large fire hit Gnarwarre in February 2014, Annika felt the community needed something other than just CFA so she brought CFA and the Surf Coast Shire together to build a stronger community and ran some education sessions.
“I wanted the community to feel empowered, I wanted to educate them about being prepared for fires – how to clean up their properties and what equipment to have,” she said.
“We have a lot of city people moving to the country and they need education and guidance.”
“I ran around knocking on doors and inviting people – I wrote newsletters and I tried to communicate in a fun, informative way.”
“We got a really good response from the sessions and I felt we gave the community confidence.”
With only a few women at Annika’s brigade, she would like to see more join CFA.
“There’s nothing you can’t operate on the truck, you just need skills and knowledge, not muscles,” she said.
“There’s always people to help you, it’s a real team effort and you’re never left alone. There’s nothing I can’t do – I’m always treated as an equal on a fireground.”
“CFA is a very supportive organisation and it’s also a great way to get to know other people in the community.”