SAN Remo Fire Brigade has significantly boosted its female membership thanks to a grassroots recruitment initiative.
The brigade identified it could benefit from more female volunteers and acted by conducting a letter box drop late last year seeking expressions of interest from local women.
Since the campaign began in November 2019, the brigade has successfully recruited eight new female members.
San Remo Brigade Captain Mark Thiele said it was important to diversify the overall membership of the brigade.
“We thought our brigade should better reflect the community,” said Captain Thiele.
“We wanted to do what we could to ensure women were better represented,” he said.
The brigade has set itself a target to secure 50 percent female membership within five years.
“We have been fortunate to pick up a brilliant bunch of people,” Mark said.
“We held information sessions and focused on getting them trained and skilled to be part of CFA.
“It’s been about engaging them and making them feel like they’re part of the brigade from the get-go. It’s important to make all our new members feel empowered and part of our CFA family.”
The eight new members boost the brigade’s female representation to around 35 percent, with women making up 12 of 35 brigade volunteers.
A member of the newly joined group, Firefighter Sarah Fry, said becoming a CFA volunteer alongside a group of other new members has created a more comfortable environment to learn.
“It was a great experience to work and learn alongside other women,” Sarah said.
“The brigade was incredibly welcoming, every single member made sure we all felt comfortable.
“It makes a lot of sense for brigades to attract more women to get involved. As well as responding to emergencies, there are so many different roles that can be filled outside of firefighting, which is something I did not realise beforehand.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to be part of the organisation in a role you can be comfortable with.”
Firefighter Rachel Hornsby joined during the female recruitment drive and has leaned-in to her new role with San Remo Fire Brigade, taking on the role of Secretary.
“The letterbox drop made all the difference for me, I wanted to do something for the community, but I wasn’t sure what that would be,” Rachel said.
“I am not sure I would’ve approached the CFA if it wasn’t for the Open Day and doing the training as a group; it removed all potential hurdles for me.
“The Secretary role was made available and I chose to take it on because I thought it’d be a good way to better understand the administrative aspects of CFA.”
Rachel said the groups trainers, Mark Thiele and Ric Pearce, were very supportive.
“Not only did the brigade identify women were underrepresented, but they made a genuine commitment to make sure we are involved and break down any barriers to participation,” she said.
“I’d encourage other brigades give this approach a go as long as there is a commitment from the top.”
Mark said the new cohort has brought a refreshing level of enthusiasm to the brigade.
“I would wholeheartedly encourage other brigades to take on similar recruitment projects,” Mark said.
“Diversity builds strength and provides you with different perspectives and ideas.”
San Remo Fire Brigade is looking ahead as to how it can engage other members of their local community who are currently underrepresented in CFA.
“We’ve addressed just one aspect of diversity, but we understand there are a number of people in our community who may not understand the CFA and how it works, which can be intimidating and prevent them from joining,” he said.
“Everyone in our community could play a role in protecting life and property and it’s about reaching out and making them comfortable enough to get involved.”