The superpowers of CFA women
by JAIME NOYE
8th March 2021
HELD ANNUALLY on March 8, International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over a century, with the event’s website claiming the first gatherings were held back in 1911.
The issues of the time were women’s right to work, vote and ending discrimination.
110 years on, while we still continue the fight for gender equality, there is much improvement to be celebrated…and the women of Warrandyte CFA are no exception.
Often referred to as a “bit of a boys’ club”, in fact CFA focuses on being inclusive, no matter the gender.
Currently, Warrandyte CFA has 10 female volunteers, the majority of whom regularly respond to emergency pages day-and-night, or provide active support in other ways.
Women bring the same firefighting and rescue skills as men, with some of Warrandyte’s female members taking on years of specialist training, qualifying them to manage a broader scope of roles during an emergency.
The brigade’s support roles are open to both men and women, and it is not the stereotypical mix you would expect, in fact our current secretary is a man.
The skill set women hold is expansive, with roles in training, recruitment, community education and officer positions.
A few are also CFA staff supporting other volunteer brigades around the state and can be called upon to perform extra duties during large-scale bushfire events and managing emergency warnings from the Incident Control Centres.
Warrandyte CFA recruited its first female firefighter in 1981 when the station moved to its current location on Harris Gully Road.
Prior to that, women who attempted to apply were rejected by the captain of the time; the cited reason being the old station had no female facilities.
According to former Captain, now Deputy Group Officer Shane Murphy, the introduction of women into the brigade promoted positive cultural changes.
“Member’s self-check behaviours and language evolved with female presence”, he said “as a result, more respectful attitudes were adopted towards everyone, not just the women”.
Reminiscing over his first house fire call in the early 80’s he said: “It was a female who was first through the door”.
1996 saw Warrandyte CFA elect its first female Lieutenant.
Kate Murphy, still a current member, was elected by her male and female peers and reflected on the time as “of complete support” and that “equality and diversity was encouraged”.
Since then, and still to this day, women have held several leadership roles at Warrandyte CFA, both in officer positions and within the Brigade Management Team.
It is not uncommon nowadays for women to be captain.
Females are afforded every opportunity within CFA, and it falls to the leadership to ensure members are seen for their capabilities, not their gender.
So, when will Warrandyte see its first female captain?
Mr Murphy said: “On the fireground, it is non-gendered — it is a team operating with a common focus — but if you’re looking for it, you see females everywhere”.
The path has been paved, but women must still demonstrate to our future generations, the importance of “she can be anything she wants”.
The women of Warrandyte CFA are doing this every day.
They strive to protect our community and we recognise the value they offer the brigade.
Volunteer firefighter, Louise Leone said: “I love it when you’re driving past in the truck or getting out at a job — and a little girl sees you.
“You watch her eyes open wide and she’s like ‘hey, she’s a girl like me!’
“It’s the best feeling!”
And therein lies the superpower of the women of Warrandyte CFA.