Day One WAFA Conference 2012
After a late night pulling together last minute details and working around some presenting challenges, Day One of the Women and Firefighting Australasia conference began with many delegates meeting over a buffet breakfast and discussing how the morning would be spent before official registration and commencement of proceedings.
Many delegates arrived the day before, so as to settle in and take in the Adelaide CBD with a bit more leisure in the morning. This worked out well, and delegates were criss-crossing paths down Rundle Mall and in the various cafes dotted around the Hindley Street vicinity
After lunch, sponsored by the NSW Rural Fire Service, delegates moved into the conference room to take places at the set tables and Tamara Campbell, President of WAFA offered a welcome to the organisations represented. An acknowledgment of Kaurna Country was offered in place of the Welcome to Country that was cancelled due to an emergency in the Kaurna community, involving one of the dancers who was to perform for us.
South Australia’s Country Fire Service and Metropolitan Fire Service both delivered welcome speeches that inspired and were also hopeful of organisational change for greater inclusion and acceptance of the role women have to play in the fire services.
A brief introduction and Barbara Etter delivered an amazing keynote on moral courage, taking action, identifying inhibitors of courage and the tools of decision making. Her experience is derived from a long-standing career in policing around Australia. Barbara went over some additional strategies on an individual level for achieving success in life, and stressed personal social supports as well as thinking about energy management over time management. Barbara urged delegates to think about the life/work balance, instead of the reverse, so that life is prioritised and work sustains it and this relates to the need to establish your own core values. Above all, Barbara left us with principle that one has to practice courage to be courageous.
A short break for afternoon tea, sponsored by Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (we’re still allowed to call them AFAC!) allowed delegates to chew over the principles imparted in Barbara Etter’s presentation.
Professor Suzanne Franzway’s keynote address was littered with the ‘f’ word, much to the delight of President and MC, Tamara Campbell; that word being ‘feminism’. Suzanne’s work is in gender studies and the labour force, with recent work looking at the gender imbalance in the field of engineering. Incorporating diversity into the collaborative project poses challenges, where one group’s interests impact on the interests of another group and members may often straddle two, three or more groups, an example being a woman who is also a member of a cultural minority group who has children; structurally, she has three ways to be discriminated against. Alliances are key to helping other women step up in their careers and volunteer aspirations, because shared stories inspire, show leadership and provide concrete examples of why the assumed default position of the male paradigm is anything but neutral, and can be overcome. No longer is it merely acceptable to ask “Why aren’t more women joining, rising in the ranks and remaining in Firefighting” and leave the conversation with the answer “I don’t know”. The problem is everyone’s, not just the women who struggle for recognition of their interests and skills. If women make up a very small percentage of the labour force in our agencies, the problem is a structural one that needs figure heads to tackle and be seen to deconstruct. Suzanne’s address was of a theoretical nature, posed questions and a map for untying those questions.
Air Services Australia sponsored the Welcome Reception immediately following the keynote addresses, where many ideas were unpacked, critiqued, and compared. I am sure Day One of the 4th Biennial WAFA Conference had something for everyone, in all capacities within their agencies, to play with and start them off as agents of positive evolution of women and firefighting.
I was kindly sponsored by CFA to attend the conference and many phone hours were spent at Korumburra FB organising my responsibilities to help get the conference off the ground. – big appreciation to both CFA and my home brigade for their understanding and support. Host Jurisdiction sponsorship was provided by CFS and MFS (SA), and Conference sponsors were Fire & Rescue NSW (Platinum), Air Services and NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (Gold Sponsors), Country Fire Authority and NSW Rural Fire Service (Silver), AFAC, NSW Fire Brigade Employees Union and ACT Emergency Services Agency (Bronze), and without our valued agencies our conference cannot be offered, so thank you for your support.
Iznaya Kennedy is a CFA firefighter with Korumburra Fire Brigade, CFA Chairmans Challenge alumni and has been a WAFA board member since 2010, among other things. CFA is in the process of providing guidelines for establishing a network of CFA women across the state, which will be a valuable resource for brigades, groups and districts, as well as at an individual firefighter level. Any members wishing to know more about WAFA and how to connect with cross-agency women in firefighting for inspiration, professional networking or mentoring may visit the website at www.wafa.asn.au, or ‘like’ the Women And Firefighting Australasia Inc Facebook Page. Be a part of the exciting evolution of firefighting in Australasia.