Creating new opportunities for women volunteers

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After a successful 12-month pilot program, the Women in Leadership mentoring program will continue its mission to support the learning, growth and skill building of women at CFA.


In our ongoing commitment to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion, the Women in Leadership mentoring program was introduced to empower and support our women volunteers in leadership roles across all levels of our brigade and district roles.

Twenty-two partnerships were paired in the inaugural program. The process began with an expression of interest, followed by a meticulous selection and matching process. In November 2022, mentees and mentors met for the first time. Every region and all levels were represented – a Board member, deputy chief officer, captains, brigade management team members, firefighters, Fire Rescue Victoria personnel and CFA employees.

At the initial workshop, participants were introduced to each other, focused on self-awareness and created their partnership agreements.

Throughout the next 12 months, participants committed to participating in monthly one-to-one engagements and three face-to-face workshops, ensuring a holistic and personalised approach to mentorship and skill development.

The results of this initiative have been truly inspiring, with tangible outcomes that reflect the success of the program.

Notable achievements include the appointment of two new women captains, showcasing the impact of mentorship and support on career progression.

“Women hold just 2 per cent of captain roles across the state, and we must do more to advance women and girls into leadership roles for the sustainability of future brigades,” Diversity and Inclusion Manager Terri Wright said.

Beyond job titles, the initiative has contributed to increased confidence among participants, a crucial factor in breaking down barriers that may hinder career advancement. Remarkably, mentees from the program have seamlessly transitioned into mentors themselves, creating a continuous cycle of empowerment and support.

Dani Watkins, a mentee in the inaugural program, said the success of her partnership made her decide to become a mentor in the 2023-24 program.

“The program and my mentor taught me truckloads about the strengths I already have, as well as steering me in the right direction to fill my skill gaps,” Dani said.

“I loved every minute of it and was excited to apply again when the opportunity arose. Last year’s program gave me the confidence to apply this year as a mentor, to give other women the same opportunities for support and encouragement that I received.”

Outcomes from the final workshop included a discussion about positive changes forged from mentoring partnerships, learning new knowledge to carry forward, and solving shared challenges unique to women in the emergency services.

Establishing a network across the state has further solidified the success of this initiative. The creation of a community of practice allows the participants to share experiences, challenges, and successes, and foster a sense of camaraderie and mutual support.

This program is a direct outcome of the comprehensive External Review of Culture and Issues Management and the Gender Equality Action Plan. It reflects our commitment to addressing challenges identified in these reviews and fostering an inclusive environment.

Funded as part of the Volunteer Leadership Development project, the second intake for 2023-24 has now started. The program is open to all women volunteers across CFA (and men who want to take up mentor roles), with the aim of bridging the gap between gender equality in leadership and promotion.


Submitted by Grace Casey and Tracey Ruse