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On the radar: Hanh Thao
It was a matter of the right place at the right time for Hanh Thao Nguyen who, 13 years ago, walked into her local Bunnings and saw a poster calling for volunteers at Springvale brigade.
One year into an engineering degree, Hanh Thao - one of the CFA women being profiled this week in the lead-up to International Women's Day - was on the lookout for some kind of voluntary work that would boost her employability.
Thirteen years, a successful job application and numerous friends and experiences later she can still recall the image of a water bomber helicopter that caught her attention. According to Hanh Thao, making the first call was the hardest part, and from there she just went with the flow.
As an eighteen-year-old with limited life experience it was all very new. In fact, the newness was what kept her coming back. And as a practical person, she gravitated to the people and the skills.
“Looking back I am absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer number of new things I have been able to do,” she says.
Thirteen years down the track Hanh Thao has not only grown to be part of the furniture at the brigade, but made a real contribution to the way it engages with ethnic communities. She served as 3rd Lieutenant, taking on the portfolio for diverse communities.
“At the time I joined I felt quite dispirited at living in Springvale with the reputation it had. But from being in the brigade I’ve come to realise that there is more to the community than what they say in the news.”
“I’ve been to fires where I’ve done some unofficial interpreting,” she says. “It does help, because when people are in a situation where they’ve just lost their home, they don’t know what to do or what happens next.”
Springvale now has five (unrelated) Nguyens on its books. “I think me being here has made a difference because it has put the brigade on their radar,” says Hanh Thao, who explains that new recruits have mentioned seeing her in the paper or hearing about the brigade through family and friends.
She has recently retired from CFA to commit fully to her studies in medicine. The decision wasn’t an easy one but she knows CFA will always be there.
“CFA has inspired me to pursue a career maybe as a GP in a regional area. I’ve become passionate about people and wanting to do something meaningful in the community. I miss it already but I know it will always be there.”
In the lead-up to International Women’s Day, CFA is profiling women who represent the many and varied roles that CFA members play in their communities.
All the stories featured this week will be published in a special booklet titled Celebrating CFA Women which was launched on Friday 7 March.
See also: Celebrating CFA Women