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Brigade thrives under Emma’s captaincy
“It doesn’t matter what colour helmet you’re wearing, we all work as a team” – that’s Emma Brennan’s ethos, and one she has implemented so successfully since stepping into the captain's role of Laceby West Fire Brigade last September.
***Emma Brennan, Captain of Laceby West CFA is being profiled as part of a special series ‘Celebrating CFA Women’ in recognition of International Women’s Day on 8 March***
The brigade on the verge of closing its doors late last year before Emma put her hand up for the captaincy role - Laceby West is now a thriving social hub for the whole community.
On being the first female captain in the brigade’s history and one of the few statewide, Emma says:
"I did get a few smart-aleck comments, but I guess it helps that I don’t take any rubbish.”
Emma says she’s certainly seen a lot of positive changes in CFA since she joined 19 years ago, and the barriers stopping women from joining are slowly being broken down.
In her 19 years Emma has been an active operational member, holding the fourth lieutenant position and then the first, before taking on the captain role.”
Having grown up on a farm and therefore no stranger to manual labour, Emma says she hasn’t struggled at all with the physical demands of the job.
"When I first joined the brigade, one of the older members asked me if I was here to make sandwiches."
But, she goes on to explain, “It’s a lot different now – I’ve received nothing but support since I’ve taken on the captain role.
“It's a bit daunting to walk into a room of 40 blokes for a regional leadership team meeting, and being the only woman – but once you get past that initial discomfort its fine.”
Emma’s list of impressive achievements extend beyond CFA. She's a mother of two young children and works as a nurse and runs two small businesses. When asked how she finds the time to fit it all in, she says frankly: “Well I don’t sleep much.”
Emma believes that CFA could benefit by attracting more women to the organisation, and hopes she can motivate others to follow in her footsteps.
“I hope that I can be a role model for other women who are thinking about joining CFA, but think it might not be for them because of the stereotypes around it.
“By seeing me out there on the back of truck or being an incident controller, they might see that it’s OK for them to join too.”
Since taking on the top job Emma has found that her personable style and nature has worked wonders for the brigade and its members.
“After an incident or a job I make a point of calling members involved and giving them a bit of feedback ie. you did that really well, or that was a good idea, etc – and people really appreciate that.
“Farmers are farmers and they’re tough blokes, but I’ve found they really appreciate a personal thank you and it helps in breaking down some of those barriers.
“Where the brigade is now, we’ve had something that we haven’t had for a while with a renewed sense of community spirit.
“I think women naturally have a different, more personable communication style than men – and that’s a huge advantage for CFA and something women can bring to the table and help rally the troops.”
And some advice for women who are thinking about joining their local CFA but aren’t sure Emma says: “I think there’s still a bit of work to do in promoting female membership and more diversity in the organisation.
“Many [women] feel like they aren’t going to be able to offer anything, but they can.”
If there are great women in your brigade you’d like to recognise this Women’s Day, we’d love to hear about them in the posts section below this story. Read more stories and watch a video from last year’s Celebrating CFA Women series here.
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