International Women’s Day takes place on 8 March each year, as a celebration of the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women across the globe.

At VICSES we have many amazing women who contribute significantly to our organisation and their communities. We are proud of our commitment to promoting diversity and working toward a more gender balanced workplace, with 33% membership represented by women across Victoria.

Here are just some of the incredible women that make up VICSES:

 

Caroline Taylor, Deputy Controller - South Barwon Unit

“The opportunities have always been there, but barriers to reaching those opportunities over time have been broken down.”

What do you enjoy most about working for the community?
It’s often the fact that we’re called at a time that a person is having one of their most terrible moments. The look of relief on an old couples face once you’ve responded to flooding that’s affected their house is so rewarding - you know that you’ve made a difference.

What motivates you?
Assisting the community and the people. it’s an amazing team environment. There are strong friendships that are formed at VICSES and so many shared experiences. We all come from different backgrounds, but share a united goal in terms of helping the community, which means that we all have something big in common.

Biggest challenges as a volunteer?
Proving yourself early on! When I first joined I remember people assuming that holding a pair of cutters would be too heavy for me, but anyone can do the job.

I love learning. If you’d had asked me before I started with VICSES if I could ever have the sort of skills of capabilities that I do now, like cutting people out of car wrecks, I wouldn’t have believed you. Then to be able to share those learnings and develop others is something I love. 

What opportunities are there for women at VICES?
VICSES gives some amazing opportunities. I’ve been fortunate enough to develop amazing friendships, and a skill base I could never imagine.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to assist with deployments to the recent bushfires and head to Mallacoota as part of a rescue support team, and a road rescue team to Canberra on the fire ground there. I’ve also been deployed to assist other VICSES units for major storms and other significant incidents.

I’ve travelled to multiple countries for road rescue competitions to represent VICSES and Australia.

The opportunities have always been there, but the barriers to reaching those opportunities over time have been broken down.

Your advice to women wanting to join VICSES or the emergency services sector
My advice would be to absolutely give it a go. If this is what you want to do, you can do it!

It gives you a great opportunity to build your confidence and capability in what we do. With the right mentoring and skills there’s no reason you couldn’t be leading your own unit one day, or leading crews on the ground or whatever you want to do. 

 

Nicole Peters - Tallangatta Unit

“I feel very supported. We have a few younger members, and everyone is always there to help you and teach you and supportive of doing extra courses – our unit is like a little family”

What opportunities are there for women at VICSES?
I feel very supported our unit is fantastic, we have a few younger members and always there to help you and teach you and supportive of extra courses – our until is like a little family, everyone helps each other out.

There’s a lot of women in leading roles, which is great. Females are becoming more prominent, young women coming through school can work in the bush or become a tradie. There are always people that get behind you, that believe in your capabilities. We’re very lucky in this day and age.

Your advice to women wanting to join VICSES or the emergency services sector?
Get in and give it a go, you learn heaps and make fantastic friends; it’s something different to do. Don’t be afraid to stick your hand up, you can achieve those goals.

What motivates you?
Helping people. It’s hard to explain I don’t feel like I’m that special.

 

 

Nina Brooks - VICSES Board Member

“I think there is a very mature view of females within the organisation. There are quite a lot of female leaders and they are female leaders who are well respected for their contribution and for doing an excellent job.”

What attracted you to being on the Board at VICSES?
Before joining the VICSES Board, I was on a small regional board with Otway Health for 10 years which was really important to me.  Joining VICSES in 2016 was a great opportunity to be part of and contribute to an amazing organisation.. VICSES support communities right across Victoria and the important work our people do was really attractive to me.
 
How is VICSES aligned to your background?
I’ve been in Human Resources for over twenty years. VICSES is a very diverse organisation with people that come from various backgrounds and walks of life. The fact so many of our people are volunteers is something I don’t think many people really understand. Having over 5000 volunteers is a critical asset and a key to success in what we do as an organisation and the state. Diversity makes a stronger organisation. We have a lot of female leaders within VICSES which is really important not only internally but in delivering outcomes for all Victorians.

I think there is a very mature view of females within the organisation. There are quite a lot of female leaders and they are female leaders who are well respected for their contribution and for doing an excellent job. The combination of males and females brings out different viewpoints and perspectives which achieves better outcomes.

What advice would you give to your young self?
I think there is a lot of pressure on young people these days to make a decision about what their career should be at an early age. I’d just say do your best and contribute to your areas of interest and develop your expertise.  I have a portfolio career now where I do a few different things which I really enjoy. It gives me a lot of different perspectives across the areas I work in.
I never would have expected to be a board member when I was a teenager. I’d say don’t stress. It will all work out. You have different interests when you’re growing up and living your life. Those interests will continue to come to the fore and you’ll end up doing what you want to be doing.
 
Why should we celebrate International Women’s Day?
There are a lot of reasons we should continue to celebrate International Women’s Day. We have stronger female voices, stronger advocates, increasing role models and stronger representation and that must continue. The day is a great opportunity to come together, reflect and recognise what has been achieved and what more can be done.

 

Kate White, Director - Community Resilience and Communications, Victorian Head Office

“It’s important how we promote our brand and stand by our values as an organisation. VICSES has a brand and that’s committed to having no barriers around gender and the strong leaders to stand by that.”

What attracted you to VICSES?
It’s such a strong volunteer based organisation. Lots of passionate volunteers across the state serving their community across multiple specialist service delivery functions. I like the fact it’s a grass roots community based organisation.

Have you seen the opportunities for women grow?
I have. There is a really strong commitment from the Board and the Executive at VICSES to grow and mentor women across the workforce. There is great diversity on the Board, we have 3 females out of 6 on the executive, we have really strong female representation at the senior management group level and some great female leaders at unit level as well. They all bring great skills and expertise to the organisation. 

What’s important in terms of continuing to build momentum around diversity and inclusion?
It comes down to how we promote our brand and values as an organisation. We have a brand committed to having no gender barriers. We have strong leaders at both staff and volunteer level and we’re committed to removing any barriers or perceived barriers around gender.

VICSES is shifting from traditional response focussed agency to one that not only responds well but builds community  resilience and really supports communities before, during and after emergencies occur. Diversity of views and reflecting the communities we serve is really important in achieving that. 

What advice do you have for young women?
The sky is the limit! You can achieve what you want to achieve in whatever industry you choose so stay the course. 

The emergency service sector is still a growing industry following the 2009 fires and the 2010 – 11 floods. There is great opportunity across the sector and we need to continue to break down those gender barriers or perceived gender barriers. It’s a great sector for a young women to get involved in.