What it’s like in the CFA’s leadership program for women

Since finishing high school Rhani has stayed active in her local community, working in a local cafe, volunteering with Ambulance Victoria and volunteering the the CFA. She’s recently been accepted in a leadership program for women in the CFA.

Rahni from Timboon, Victoria.

How did you hear about the program?

When the fires happened in my local area I realised I wanted to become a volunteer firefighter.  Since then I’ve been involved in my local brigade as a volunteer. Last year, all the women from District 6 brigades were given the opportunity to apply to the program. So I submitted answers to a questionnaire, and I was lucky enough to get a call saying I had been selected. I was really surprised and happy to be accepted.

What is the program? 

The program aims to build leadership skills for women. It gives us the skills to deal with confrontation, using the technology needed in the brigade, like radios and pagers, it also aims to create a safe space for people who are under 18 to join the CFA. Right now in Timboon, we don’t have anyone under the age of 18, but you actually can join the CFA once you’re 16 years old. 

What has it been like? 

It’s been really supportive, being around women who have similar experiences within CFA. It’s sort of comforting to know that they’re struggling as well to be heard. Especially in such a, traditionally, male-dominated operation. When you think of CFA you think of an older man with open jackets, big boots. So it’s really comforting to know that other people struggle with this as well. 

It’s really great, we have a little facebook group, and it’s really nice to know that we’ve got a female captain as well, who was elected in the last couple of years. We have online meetings every month with other women in the program to check in with each other, and talk about the last month. 

We’ve got a few other women in the group who have been elected as lieutenants and as other roles within the brigade that haven’t traditionally been roles for women. It used to only be secretary and treasurer roles that were given to women. 

Next steps in the CFA? 

In the recent CFA elections I got elected to the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (FVBV) which is the representative body for CFA Volunteers. They focus on the experience of CFA volunteers, uniting their voice and advocating for the experience of volunteer firefighters. It’s sort of about knuckling in on the challenges faced by volunteers as a collective, across a number of brigades, not just one. I’m really excited about this role! It’s really interesting in the meetings to listen to the experiences of people from other brigades, who I would never have met before. 

Is it something you think other people should look into?  

Definitely, if it’s something anyone is interested in and has the chance to get involved in – definitely. It’s giving me skills for life outside of the CFA too. 

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