Female Firefighter Recruitment Australia

female firefighter recruitment Australia 2015

Female Firefighter Recruitment Australia

Below is a collection of thoughts comments and tips from some of the female firefighters that have been recruited and attended the various fire service training colleges over time. This is a good resource for Males and females.

Some of the names have been changed for privacy reasons

Martine: It’s a great team environment. It gave me a new lease on life, and it’s the best job I’ve ever had. Never looked back.

Carla:              It’s an amazing career. I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Martine:         My name’s Martine Pearman. I’ve been in the fire service now for four years. Why do I like being a firefighter? It’s really challenging, and it’s a fantastic experience, a great career choice.

Carla:              I applied to be a firefighter when I was 19 years old. I was in England, and it was very half-hearted. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and then I didn’t get through. I didn’t even get anywhere with that and then I didn’t even really think about it too much until I came to Australia. I knew then, this is for me. I’m going to do it, and I’m going to get in.

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Claire:            My name is Claire Finucane. I’ve been in the service 16 years now, and I did a bachelor of education and taught for a short time before I changed jobs.

Pippa:             My name is Pippa Williams. I’m a senior firefighter, and I have been employed in the WA Fire and Rescue Service for 11 years.

April:              My name’s April Jane Litterick, and I’ve been in the job for nearly a year and a half now. I’ve always wanted to become a firefighter. It was just a matter of becoming old enough to be a firefighter and start applying. My dad’s been a firefighter for a really long time, and I’ve always looked up to him and seen how much he enjoys the job and his friends enjoy the job.

Carla:              If you’re wondering whether this could be the job for you, I’ve been in this job two and a half years, I’m 36 years old, and it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I’ve never looked back.

Martine:         I was so glad that I made that transition from teaching to becoming a firey because it gave me a new lease on life, and I was just re-energized and re-motivated again. That’s what this job does.

April:              Well, there’s nothing really I don’t like about being a firefighter. I love the sense of family every day I go to work. I wake up every morning thinking I have the best job in the world, and there’s never a day I wake up and go, “Oh, I have to go to work.” I love my job.

The application process, I think, was going to be hard for anyone. I applied twice, and the whole way was … I just focused on it. I trained a whole year in advance for my application then I ended up getting in.

Martine:         Yeah, I think from the minute that you put an application in to become a firefighter, you’re looked upon as being a bit weaker to the males that are also applying. That was the case for me the whole way through the process to the day I finished training. We were on the same level as the guys and expected to do exactly the same thing. You need to be quite strong, and you need to be mentally strong I think as well. Physical and mental strength are important.

April:              To females trying to apply, if you feel like you can’t lift a 20 kilo weight, don’t stress about it. It’s, how would you put it? It’s all practical to the job, so all I recommend doing is getting hold of what the actual, physical process and going to your local fire station, getting them to show you everything. If you don’t feel strong enough, just work at it. I did. Originally, I wasn’t tough. I wasn’t anything, and I wouldn’t say I’m touch now but I just kept working at it.

For the whole process, learn as much as you can about the job through the sources available online, talking to people, talking to administrative staff and really have a clear understanding if it’s the type of job that you want to enter into in the first place then to really be honest with yourself and decide are you the type of person that will be suitable for that type of job.

Claire:            At the time that I entered into the school, I was playing water polo for Australia so I was very fit which was a real benefit, but I was also training and had other commitments. It was unrealistic of me to think that I could do both because I was tired from training in the morning after doing a full day of physical activity at the academy. If you do get into the academy, you really have to focus all your attention on that period of your life and trying to focus all your time and attention to that because you don’t have time for anything else. You don’t have energy for anything else because you’re fatigued physically and you’re fatigued mentally throughout the process, and that’s part of the test that you can operate while you’re fatigued in an effective manner.

Carla:              As you get through the training, it’s around three and a half months, and it was a bit like this. Some bits were really hard. Some bits I found easier.

Claire:            For me, personally, the physical side of it I coped quite well with. I’m quite physically fit so that wasn’t really a challenge. It was more the mechanical side of things, and that was something that I had to work hard at.

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Pippa:             Personally, in my recruit school of 12, there were three of us who had no previous firefighting experience, so coming from zero background with firefighting, there were some issues that I did find challenging. The teamwork and the level of instruction was fantastic, and I definitely felt that I wasn’t being left behind at all and was getting my skills along the same lines as everyone else.

April:              Some tips on surviving the school, don’t ignore your own limits. There was a couple of points where I reached my limit and now I know. Don’t get to that point. You let people know if you’re struggling; that everyone’s there to help you. YOu’ve got your family and your friends there. You’ve got the instructors always there to help you. If you’re struggling, you must let someone know. Everyone’s only there to help you.

Pippa:             I like the career of a firefighter as the idea of going to work every day and not knowing that the day has in store for me is appealing. It’s also a very positive and well-respected career in the community, and I like being able to assist the community in times of need.

Carla:              An average day shift for me would be to turn up for work, check all the equipment that you’re going to be using, so all of the trucks and then usually a gym workout. Sometimes we’ll go out and service the hydrants, so painting them and checking that they’re not clogged up with sand and that kind of thing. We do building inspections. We do training out in the yard, drilling and school visits. There’s lots of things that we do as well on top of our calls, and then in the afternoon I might be doing some of my course work, my study notes, my study assignments because you’re studying for the first five years. Need to tell you that as well.

Claire:            When you first start as a firefighter, you’re not fully trained. You have just started your training, so they have five years of firefighter development program which is all the Australian standards plus the agency’s state-specific requirements. After that, there is professional development opportunities to go to, station officer level or to go into a specialist branch like rescue, hazardous materials, community education, media. There’s a lot of opportunities if you choose to take those up after you finish your complete studies as a firefighter.

April:              The days are generally filled with training, operational readiness, things like that. Our night shift is the same thing. We come in and then we come out, check the appliances, all the same things. We go to the gym and then after that, training. Yeah. Then we sit around the table, have our dinner together and … I think the nighttimes are really when we start to feel we are a family.

Claire:            Working as a firefighter and station officer in the operational fire and rescue service isn’t like a normal Monday to Friday nine to five job. You do work shifts. You do work weekends and public holidays like Christmas, New Years Eve, some birthdays and school or social functions, you may have to forego sometimes. On the other hand, you do have a very positive part of working shifts which is you do have time available when other people don’t necessarily have time free.

Carla:              The type of job you get sometimes can vary depending on which station you’re at. For example, in town you get lots of alarm calls. The buildings have the direct brigade alarms. You turn up to those, have to find out where the alarm has gone up, is it a real fire, is it a fault, is there workmen in the building, that kind of thing. We get the traffic accidents. We turn up to those, sometimes have to get the cutters and the spreaders out and assist the ambulance service. The police are usually there as well. Obviously, you get house fires and other structure fires, car fires, bush fires and you get things like cat stuck in trees. That’s happened. There’s a big range of jobs we get.

April:              18 months into the job, I feel a lot more comfortable than when I did when I first came out. We come out of the school and you’re taught everything you need to know to fight a fire, rescue someone out of a car, but you still feel like there is so much to learn. I feel a lot more comfortable now jumping into one of these appliances and going to a job than I did at the start. Not saying that you wouldn’t feel comfortable when you first got out of school, but it’s just every time the bells go off I don’t have to pull myself off the ceiling. Yeah. That’s all I have to say is the job’s going to get more comfortable every single day that you work.

Claire:            Being operational on shift does require you to have a high level of self-motivation because there are times when people aren’t always going to push you to do something all the time. You have to do it yourself, so you have to study yourself. You have to make sure you complete your training requirements, yourself and within the team, but it does rely heavily on you being a motivated person.

Carla:              I would say a very difficult day at work was something like a bush fire where you’re working hard all shift, the whole of the shift. You have to really try and keep your fluids up because you can get dehydrated so quickly. You’re dragging hose around through the bush, and it’s hard and it’s hot. You can’t breathe very well. It’s smoky, but it’s worth it. At the end of the day, you finish your shift. You feel like you’ve done a good job, like you’ve done something.

April:              A bad day is going out and seeing something unexpected, something that takes you aback. It’s going to end up being a bad day, but like I said, you’ve got all your friends around you so they turn it into a good day after that.

Claire:            Over the period of 16 years, I’ve attended maybe 50 fatalities, and that hasn’t always been easy. Even talking about it now, I can feel a little bit emotional, so I have talked to my family about it. I have talked to my partners about it and friends, and also we talk at work within the team. We help each other and support each other. In place, there are systems to assist, and I’ve chosen to take them up at times. There are psychologists available to talk to, and I’ve chosen to speak to those psychologists when I feel the need and that has helped me as well.

Carla:              Being female sometimes you can sense that maybe the guys were talking about something that wasn’t female-orientation and they might quiet down when you walk in, but it’s like they haven’t even heard me talk. Jesus. I shouldn’t say that.

Pippa:             I don’t want to get special treatment because I’m female, so I’m pretty sure it’s the same. Sometimes it’s funny when a guy is having a shower or something and he might walk out with a pair of boxers on and forget that you’re there. I mean, I don’t really care at all, but sometimes they get a bit embarrassed. It’s quite funny.

Martine:         I think there’s a few boxes that need to be ticked. You need to be strong-willed. You need to be motivated as an individual, but you also, I think physically for me, that’s one of the major things that as a female you need to be strong enough to be able to do this job. The physical demands are quite intense, and if you don’t have that, then you can’t do things like slip a ladder or lift the tools. Generally, if you’re doing a rescue, being able to lift someone out of a building or your fellow firefighter if you’re in there and they get injured, you need to be able to drag them out.

If you can’t do those basic things, then you’re unable to do the job. I think being versatile and being able to work in a male-dominated workplace, it’s important that you are strong-minded and you’re able to adapt to that situation.

Carla:              For me, the job gives me satisfaction, and I think it is probably harder for a female because, without being sexist, we are not as big and strong as the guys. It’s not just about being strong and big. It’s about thinking. It’s about helping people. If you’ve got the right attitude then there’s no reason why you can’t do it. Show those boys!

Pippa:             I have three children. I have three boys; one eight year old, a five year old and a two year old. I’ve had all of my children while I’ve been employed in the fire and rescue service. Personally, the shift work and juggling work and family life, I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The way the shift work is structured it does offer a high level of flexibility. Having a family was always going to be something that I had planned on, and the fire service at nighttime spared me from that thinking.

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I did feel supported the whole way through, and coming back to work as well, the support from the fire station that I work at and management was always 100%. Just because you’ve had children doesn’t mean that you’re not capable of being a firefighter. I think every time that I’ve returned after having my children I’ve been fitter, I’ve been stronger and I just love coming to work. I think it does make me a better mother. I know that my children absolutely love the fact that they can come and visit the fire station and are very proud that their mom is a firefighter.

Claire:            I’ve enjoyed my entire career as a firefighter and station officer. There were some big challenges initially, and society was changing at the time as was the culture and society within the job.

Martine:         I think that in 2014 we’ve moved along really well. I dare say it used to happen. I’ve heard a few stories, however, I can’t say as though I’m looked upon in any other light than treated with respect.

Claire:            One thing I would have to advise females to go in the job is you have to be confident about speaking out what you are comfortable with and what you’re uncomfortable with. That’s also in society. If you accept something then it will happen again. If you’re not willing to accept something, you must speak out about it. There are systems and [mains 00:18:55] in place to ensure people can work together effectively and everyone is treated equally.

Martine:         Working in a male-dominated environment, I often get asked that question. Personally, I prefer working with men and within this environment as a firefighter. There’s a lot of teamwork that needs to be undertaken. Generally, the males that I’ve worked with have been fantastic. They’re very supportive. They take care of you and look out for you.

April:  I feel like my future in the fire service is going to be a long one. I love this job. I love being able to learn every single day. I still have so many more things I can qualify on. I’ve already qualified on the heavy rescue, the foam trailer, high expansion foam trailer, and it’s just so broad of a service to … so many resources that I can learn from. Even once I become a senior firefighter, I can spend the rest of my career as a senior firefighter and just keep learning, keep absorbing knowledge and keep trying new things. That’s a fantastic part about the job. The rewards from being a firefighter are endless. You just feel a sense of achievement every single day. So … I hope that’s not

I hope you enjoyed this article and perhaps got some insight from the girls.

Regards,

Brent

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Brent Clayton

After becoming a Firefighter, I developed a massive interest in the Fire Services Recruitment and Selection Processes. I've been working since 2007 to learn everything about how Fire Services Recruitment works. I've tested and refined proven methods to help people get the edge over the competition. Today, over 100 of my former students are living their Firefighter dream.