CFA celebrates International Women's Day

On Thursday 8 March, CFA’s District 22 Headquarters Office hosted North East Region’s celebration of International Women’s Day by hearing from a range of speakers who have demonstrated leadership that has helped empower women and reduce the stigma around diversity.


Tony Owen, Colleen Furlanetto, Laura Tierney, Sarah Howson and Steve Smith

Speakers included Colleen Furlanetto, Chair of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council and member of District 22 Strategic Leadership Team (DPT), Laura Tierney, District 24 Women’s Reference Group and Sarah Howson, firefighter from Wangaratta Fire Brigade.

The speakers talked about their experiences at CFA and the roles they play in helping CFA to reduce the gender gap.

Colleen said the day was a great opportunity to share her story. “I’m not an expert, except of myself. We need diversity to adapt and to be relevant. Diversity can mean different things to different people, places, organisations and communities, “ she said.

“It is not men versus women. It’s not that women are better than men, but the fact that CFA is the better for embracing diversity, including women. Together we are supporting the organisation to achieve the best possible outcomes.”

Colleen Furlanetto, Sarah Howson and Laura Tierney

Colleen Furlanetto, Sarah Howson and Laura Tierney

Laura spoke about the District 24’s Women’s Reference Group and the important role it plays in providing women in the district with a voice. The group was formed in 2016 and holds a voting position within the D24 District Planning Committee, thus enabling the group to act as a conduit for issues faced by female volunteers in the field with strategic planning and decision making. The group has also implemented a number of successful initiatives since its inception including:

  • surveying female members to better understand their participation in the district and identify any barriers they may have been experiencing
  • initiating the rollout of feminine hygiene kits across the district into all vehicles and stations
  • hosting an event to promote the role of women in the district and to assist attendees to gain a better understanding of the roles and training opportunities available to them through CFA.

This year the group will be focusing on the development of a more structured buddy system to improve the way we support and induct new members into local brigades across the district.   

Sarah brought her perspective to the table by talking about her role at Wangaratta Fire Station, and the challenges she faced as a female looking to become a firefighter.

“We are the minority,” Sarah said. “I really enjoy the look of disbelief on little girl’s faces when I get out of the truck. I hope I’m a role model to these younger women.”

Steve Smith, Assistant Chief Officer - Inclusion and fairness, said the event was a great way to share personal stories and present some of the opportunities for women in the region. 

“As an organisation with strong values, it makes sense we work towards a culture of inclusion, to embrace differences and encourage opportunities for all.

“We support our women and these initiatives help to strengthen CFA as an organisation, which will in turn lead to better outcomes and workforce.”

Author: CFA Partnerships and Marketing