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Championing Women in Brigades Workshop
Thirty-two members from District 24 made their way to the Beechworth Fire Station on 21 June to participate in the Championing Women in Brigades workshop, facilitated by the Regional Development Company based in Wangaratta.
Members were welcomed by Operations Manager Paul King and the event was launched by Indigo Valley member, Helen McGowan. Helen shared her CFA experience, from being a volunteer returning to her hometown with a young family to being a CFA board member late 1990s/early 2000s. Participants identified with Helen’s experiences. Her inspiring insights set the direction for the day.
The D24 workshop was born from the Women’s Training and Networking event held in March this year – members told CFA what they needed in the District to promote inclusion and diversity in brigades. Members wanted an opportunity to get together and develop some practical ideas that could be implemented by brigades and supported by CFA. Like the training and networking event, the Volunteer Support Program provided the funding to support members to achieve their objective.
Over the course of the morning members were asked to consider three things which helped to set the agenda for the day: what do you most value about your membership of CFA; what is your big picture for women’s participation in District 24 in five years’ time; what needs to change for the big picture to be achieved? These questions drew out some great insights from members of our CFA community.
Key themes for how District 24 could look in five years’ time focused on developing our junior brigades to influence change, having more women in leadership positions within brigades and creating an environment where women can contribute and feel valued across all roles. The ideal big picture is a true reflection of the community demographic reflected in CFA membership where everyone, regardless of gender, is valued for the skills and experience they bring.
Some strategies and actions were identified by members to turn these big picture ideals into reality. They included a greater focus on mentoring and passing on of skills, working on cultural change and the incorrect perception that CFA has limited opportunities for women. Supporting and encouraging women to take on leadership roles and promoting CFA opportunities to members, both in an operational and non-operational roles, were also considered important.
Feedback also included the following:
“There was a lot of energy in the room which generated fantastic practical, useful and valuable ideas. Fantastic!”
“A really worthwhile workshop”
“Very productive! Hopefully the initiatives are driven hard and come to fruition”
So, where to from here? Work towards increasing the participation of women in CFA will continue, based on ideas and actions identified at the workshop. It is fantastic to say that a lot of work that will see the ideal big picture eventuate is already underway. Resources such as mentoring programs and promotional materials have been developed and are ready to go, and districts across the state are hosting workshops that focus on the same theme. District staff are there to support members in working towards the objective.
Thanks to everyone who participated on the day and to those who provided input. Special thanks also to Marelle Whitaker, Chiltern Fire Brigade and to Helen Tobin-King, District 24 Headquarters Brigade, for assisting with the planning of the event and for leading the discussions on evaluation and strategies for the way forward.
Kimberley Taylor, Volunteerism Coordinator - District 24