Australian firefighting class sees women make up half of graduates for first time

A number of female firefighting graduates pose outside a fire station. Source: Facebook

Firefighting is a career that has long been a male domain, but that may soon change if the latest news from the Australian state of New South Wales is anything to go by.

According to reports by local media, the graduating class of trainee firefighters in the NSW Fire & Rescue department saw an exact ratio of 50% men and 50% women for the first time in history. 24 women graduated in the class, and Commissioner Greg Mullins could not be happier with the result.

“Firefighting hasn’t been a traditional role for women of the last 100 years, but many women don’t know that it’s a career they can choose,” he said. “I’m proud of my leadership team, and the union who we’ve worked with and who agreed — yes, let’s diversify… I’m proud of the agency who I think is one of the best fire brigades in the world.”

Graduating at the top of the class was 27-year old Genevieve Holden, who told media that when she was 3 years old she received a toy firefighting hat from her parents, inspiring a lifetime goal of becoming a firefighter.

“Having that diversity — I thought we worked really well as a team,” she said. “Although we might not be as strong as the men physically naturally, although some of us I’m sure definitely are, but I think everybody brings different skills and attributes. It’s up to us in Fire and Rescue to utilise each other’s strengths.”

The Fire & Rescue department reportedly received thousands of applications for this year’s intake, and only the best candidates progressed through the program to ultimately graduate with a firefighting qualification.

Those applying for positions as a firefighter had to endure a gruelling 13-week physical and mental training course which covered firefighting, road crash rescue, first aid, fire science and community risk management.

In addition, a reminder of the times we live in, the students also covered how to deal with the consequences of terrorist attacks. The graduates are aged between their early 20s to 40s, and included  ex-Army members, fitness trainers and sailors.

For Ms Holden, it’s second time lucky after she first applied back in 2010. At that time, she was unsuccessful, which she attributed to “her young age and lack of life experience”. How the tables have turned, with her now graduating at the top of her class. “I couldn’t be more proud than to wear the uniform because we do so much for the community,” she told reporters.