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Women relish firefighter roles as brigades push equality

PROMOTING OPPORTUNITY: Sawtell firefighter Georgia Gerdes reflects on her role at Sawtell Fire Station.
PROMOTING OPPORTUNITY: Sawtell firefighter Georgia Gerdes reflects on her role at Sawtell Fire Station. Leigh Jensen

"THERE'S no male or female, we are all fire fighters and we're all a team."

That's the mentality behind Sawtell Fire Brigade's only female fire fighter, Georgia Gerdes.

Ms Gerdes is one of few of female fire fighters with as many as one or two in brigades across the Coffs Coast.

In recent times, Ms Gerdes said the NSW fire brigades have begun targeting the role towards women.

The ambitious 21-year-old described her team of male counterparts 'like her second family' with a strong culture support and equality.

"A lot of women don't realise that they are more than capable," she said.

"I think that it is a very male-dominated industry but at the same time we are so welcome in it."

Working mums Lisa Bussa and May Standing are the among the first three female fireys to join the Woolgoolga brigade since it was established in 1977.

L-R Chris Barnes, Lisa Bussa and May Standing of Woolgoolga Fire Brigade.
L-R Chris Barnes, Lisa Bussa and May Standing of Woolgoolga Fire Brigade. Claudia Jambor

Juggling the role with motherhood, Ms Standing said it worked well but the occasional call-out at school pick-up or drop-off times could sometimes prove a struggle.

The benefits of the job are worth it for Ms Standing every time her four-year-old and seven-year-old saw a fire truck whiz by.

"To see their face when a truck goes past and they say, 'mummy's got a call out' that's exciting," she said.

For Ms Gerdes, Ms Standing and Ms Bussa exemplify how the job integrates into the lives of all women.

"Even working mums like May and Lisa who do have children they could just sign on up call outs during the day and home at night to be with their families," she said.

The thrill of the job is one of Ms Bussa's favourite aspects of being a female firey.

"There's always something different all the time, you never know what you're going to get, you never know the crew that you're going to be with,"she said.

In the coming years, Ms Gerdes hopes to see more women join stations across the Coffs Coast and beyond.

"I think if we could get more girls involved it would be great and the guys would welcome them with open arms."

Topics:  fire fighters nsw fire and rescue rural fire service sawtell woolgoolga



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