Fiona Macken, Belinda Harris and Antoinette Ribchester
Diversity in brigade leadership is bringing fresh perspectives, skills, knowledge and experiences to Diamond Creek Fire Brigade.
Diamond Creek members Fiona Macken, Belinda Harris and Antoinette Ribchester believe what benefits CFA members ultimately benefits the communities they serve and the organisation more broadly.
The three hold Lieutenant roles within their brigade management team (BMT) and like their fellow BMT members they are committed to supporting the brigade’s efforts to build a safe, inclusive, friendly and encouraging culture.
While they know having three women lieutenants in a BMT is rare, they see it as an opportunity to highlight the benefits of stepping up into leadership positions at CFA.
A brigade member for 15 years and lieutenant for five, Fiona said diversity in brigade management meant that decisions were more likely to reflect the broader brigade membership.
“While I love that we have strong women representation among our operational leaders, I am primarily happy that three skilled, knowledgeable, passionate people stood up and took on these leadership roles as I know that ultimately our brigade is better off as a result,” Fiona said.
“Encouraging diversity in our leadership means a broader range of experiences, views and values are brought to BMT discussions, and it also gives confidence to members that they will be represented.
“Greater diversity also means the brigade is likely to have and/or build strengths in a number of areas, making a well-rounded, healthy brigade with something for everyone.”
Antoinette, who has been a member of Diamond Creek for five-and-a-half years and its Junior leader for five, agreed saying, “diversity is about the contribution you can make.
“I’m glad I can contribute in some way to what is a strong brigade with an amazing culture where everyone is made to feel welcome and part of a team,” she said.
“The three of us contribute to that culture in different ways with varied skills, knowledge and experience which is priceless to not only the brigade, but to CFA.”
Belinda, who has a background in paramedicine, put her hand up to be a member of the BMT after being a member for five years.
“I joined the BMT this year as a lieutenant because I wanted to contribute further and support the brigade beyond being an operational member,” Belinda said.
“My goal is ensuring we have a functional brigade with a focus on member welfare. As the brigade’s new personnel manager, I also assist with the mentoring and recruitment of new members.
“It’s amazing being part of such an inclusive and welcoming brigade and meeting so many different people who are now lifelong friends.”
Fiona, who is also the brigade’s community safety coordinator, said although it can be hard to make change, history has shown that change can bring a myriad of benefits.
“Some of the initiatives we’ve seen include an increased focus on welfare such as ensuring there are sanitary items at the station and in our trucks, stronger use of social media to engage our community, and increased local partnerships and events,” Fiona said.
She encouraged members to put their hand up for leadership opportunities within their brigade.
“We shouldn’t be afraid to try new things, give new people opportunities and to make incremental, meaningful changes to improve brigade culture and diversity.
“If you’re reading this and feel as though you don’t identify with the majority of your BMT members, maybe that’s a sign that you should be stepping up and bringing a new, diverse view of the world to your BMT.”
Antoinette agreed saying that it was important to have faith in yourself and have the confidence to “give it an honest go”.
“Give it a try and if it doesn’t work out or it’s not the right fit, you can always take the opportunity to upskill or step back from the role.
“Remember that there are plenty of people around you who have either been in a similar situation or who are able to guide you through. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
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