A mum of two and man whose childhood dream was to be a firefighter were two of the 18 new firefighter recruits who were welcomed into ACT Fire & Rescue on Monday (29 January) morning.
Julia Chadburn and Mark Parsons will now begin a 20-week intense training course that will prepare them to work with the nation’s fastest responding fire service.
Mrs Chadburn, who used to be a primary school teacher in Canberra, took leave from her job to work towards becoming a firefighter.
“I knew it was an arduous task and it was not something that I could approach casually. I took leave of my job in April 2016 and now 18 months later, here I am.”
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Mrs Chadburn was attracted to a more hands-on job that would give her more time with her two sons when she saw advertisements for female recruits in 2016.
Mrs Chadburn worked at Duffy Primary School at the time of the 2003 bushfires and had to call all of her student’s families to check if they were okay. Unfortunately, one of the parents of her student had passed away. That memory has stayed with her since.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman congratulated the recruits on their perseverance in chasing their dreams to become firefighters.
“Today I congratulate the women and men of Recruit College 39 on their selection to train to work for one of the most trusted emergency services in the country,” Mr Gentleman said.
“I am told that a number of our new recruits have applied multiple times and their commitment has paid off, beating hundreds of applicants to fill these 18 recruit positions”.
“New challenges start today for these recruits to complete their intensive learning program which will prepare them for the tasks associated with modern day firefighting.”
In 2015, the ACT Emergency Services Agency set upon a journey to increase diversity across emergency services and Minister Gentleman said that the ACT Government is committed to continue recruiting people from all walks of life.
“Recruit College 39 is a wonderfully diverse group of women and men from various backgrounds, and for the first time the college includes two recruits selected from the Indigenous Fire and Rescue Employment Strategy (IFARES),” Minister Gentleman said.
Mark Parsons went through IFARES program, which was a six-month program designed to increase the skills and knowledge of community-minded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women interested in becoming firefighters.
Mark Parsons, who was a house painter in Batemans Bay, said it had always been a childhood dream to become a firefighter.
“I always knew I wanted to be a firefighter and I went to all the firefighter’s section during all the school career expos. I have a lot of passion for the community and the fact that a lot of trust and lives are put in a firefighter’s hands, I wanted that opportunity.
Out of all the tests that Julia and Mark were put through, both said they struggled the most with the dummy drag, which required them to drag an 85-kilo dummy across 60 metres in 100 seconds.
“I was not bothered by the ladder challenges since I am a house painter and I am used to running up ladders, but I struggled with the dummy drag. The dummy must have been close to 20 kilos heavier than me, but I still passed,” Mr Parsons said.
The recruits of ACT Fire & Rescue College 39 will now be required to successfully complete 19 weeks of training before graduating as firefighters and joining the frontline in June 2018.