A female firefighter conducting a back burn
rollup robyn allchin

Blazing a trail on International Women’s Day

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This International Women's Day (8 March 2024), Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service celebrates the achievements of all the women across its workforce, particularly those in male-dominated fields such as fire management.

PWS has had great success with women rising through the ranks in fire management, with three of our seven Fire Operations Officers and many of our Duty Officer roles occupied by women.

To help build on these numbers and strive towards our goal of greater gender diversity in fire management, we have joined Women and Firefighting Australasia (WAFA).

Robyn Allchin took up the role of Fire Management Officer – Policy 10 months ago, but has discovered there is so much more to the job than just policy. She also has the opportunity to work in fire operations, assisting in incident management teams (IMTs) and on the fireground.  

“I think PWS signing up to be an organisation member of WAFA shows that the agency is cognisant of the value of diversity, and that it recognises embracing it benefits everyone, not just female staff," Robyn said.

Robyn says that while women are increasingly represented in entry level roles, there is scope to improve retention and help build capacity for women to reach their full potential – particularly for those trying to maintain operational roles after they have children.

“At the moment only 16% of our firefighters are women, yet in IMT roles it's 56%. Some of this imbalance will be a result of personal choice I'm sure, but some of this will be unconscious bias," Robyn said.  

“Diversity in people brings a diversity of ideas and that results in improved outcomes - bringing more voices to each conversation will make us a better fire management agency."

Larissa Giddings moved to Tasmania from Far North Queensland to take up a Fire Operations Officer position at PWS, where she is responsible for planning and implementing fuel reduction burns.

Like any role, it comes with challenges. Larissa says working through her own predispositions and biases, and how they may affect her actions, reactions and the way she is perceived is one of the toughest challenges.

“There is an element of feeling you need to work harder than everyone else to prove you are worthy of being there, which I feel is shifting, and I feel very well supported by my colleagues," she said.

Despite the challenges, there are also plenty of highlights in her role. Larissa says she loves working in a team with people from all walks of life, all who have a variety of experiences to share and learn from.

“The greatest part of these roles is the incredible environment we work in but also the people you work with, there is a point where they feel like family."

And her advice to other women considering a field-based or operational role?

“Be bold yet humble and always willing to listen and learn."​​​

A female firefighter kneeling down and hand feeding two wallabies

Fire Operations Officer Larissa Giddings

A female firefighter conducting a back burn

Fire Management Officer Robyn Allchin

Published 8/03/2024