Like the Pontypandy Fire Brigade’s lone female member Penny Morris, ACT firefighter Gina Kikos works for and with a bunch of beefy blokes.
And while Penny’s colleague Sam has inspired young boys to consider a future as a fireman for years through the British television program in which he features, Penny is perhaps too much of a minor character to have the same impact on girls.
“Eventually we’re going to have to change Fireman Sam to Fireman Samantha,” says Station Officer Kikos, who coincidentally looks quite a lot like keep-fit fanatic Penny, the only female fire officer in Pontypandy.
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Ms Kikos is one of six woman firefighters in the ACT out of a total of 340, and has spent the past three months working on a campaign to attract more women to her workplace. She agrees with the ACT Government that it would be good to have better gender diversity in the firefighting ranks.
“Women tend to look at things a little differently, so I don’t know if women would do the job better, but it would contribute and make it a more evenly balanced contribution,” she said.
That said, despite being so outnumbered, she doesn’t feel under-represented.
“I’m a firefighter, I’ve trained the same as all the men,” she said. “I do the same work, I have the same opportunities.
Ms Kikos suggested women who were interested in becoming a firefighter should look at the requirements on the website, register for one of the upcoming recruitment information session and get training.
“I love it. I’ve been doing this for 24 years. I started as one of three females in the job, so we’ve doubled our numbers, and I love working with men, it’s a lot of fun.”
Come February, when applications open for the next wave of recruits, the ACT Government hopes that half of the 16 new hires will be women. It will campaign here and around NSW to attract applicants, with events planned for regional centres of Orange, Dubbo and Wagga.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Joy Burch said the ACT Emergency Services Agency’s Women in Emergency Services Strategy aimed to provide a pathway for emergency services to better reflect the community they serve.
“If you are an intelligent, fit and community minded woman looking for a unique challenge, consider a career in firefighting,” she said. “Prepare for the recruitment process by going to the ESA website at www.esa.act.gov.au”.
The website includes information on how to prepare for the process and how to apply. There is general fitness training advice and a series of videos demonstrating the various physical aptitude test tasks candidates will undertake as part of the recruitment process.
“The campaign has been specially designed based on the feedback from extensive research involving people who have expressed an interest in applying to become a firefighter in the ACT over the past twelve months,” Ms Burch said.
ACT Fire & Rescue will use the following messages to attract interest from potential candidates:
• BE challenged every day;
• BE part of the team;
• BE there to help; and
• BE who you want to be.
The ACT Government allocated $147,000 in the 2015-16 ACT Budget for ACT Fire & Rescue to conduct a new recruit college.