Glenreagh RFS volunteers Clare Palmer, Shaunagh Willman, Maree Law and Theresa Schofield.
Glenreagh RFS volunteers Clare Palmer, Shaunagh Willman, Maree Law and Theresa Schofield.

RFS women talk up volunteer culture

WHEN Theresa Schofield joined the Glenreagh RFS, she envisioned helping out around the shed. But being thrown in the deep end changed all that in a heartbeat.

“I joined the brigade and thought I could do some catering – help out here and there,” she said.

“Then I had a go, got out on a fire and went ‘yeah, I’m not doing any catering – I’ll keep doing the fires’.”

Along with fellow new recruit Clare Palmer, Ms Schofield had only finished her training in July and was almost instantly on the trucks fighting blazes right up until recent rains finally put them out.

Ms Schofields self described “baptism of fire” in the NSW Rural Fire Service took her to places like Armidale and Narooma and, along with fellow members Ms Palmer, Shaunagh Willman and Maree Law, was encouraging other women to join up.

“Come and try it because I think you will get hooked and you will soon find that you can fit it in,” she said.

Having previously been part of “every committee you can think of” Shaunagh Willman was similarly enjoying being part of a great team.

“You are really doing something useful and I feel like this really has community value,” she said.

“It is such a disparate group of people. It’s fantastic.”

Captain Daryl Watt was on a mission to recruit new members now the bushfire threat had subsided said the brigade had been working hard to foster a more inclusive environment.

“Having women here has improved the culture and attitude of the brigade over the last few years. It is a much better place for it,” he said.

“The more members and the more diversity we have the richer the culture of the brigade becomes, and that is what we are seeing now.”

All four women were on the same page when it came to settling into the brigade and Ms Schofield said the great environment came from those in charge.

“It really flows from the top,” she said.

“Having great leadership to bring that culture has allowed us to fit right in, we are just one of the crew.”

They group also talked about managing to fit volunteering into a busy life, an issue they recognised could be a barrier for some.

But as Ms Schofield explained, once potential members saw the skills that could be gained and they became part of the team, people would find themselves “hooked”.

“It doesn’t become something that is a hassle, it becomes something that you will find the time for because it is awesome,” she said.

“It pushes you out of your comfort zone, right now I am learning to drive the trucks – because I can.”

Anyone interested in joining Glenreagh - or any other RFS Brigade is encouraged to go online to rfs.nsw.gov.au/volunteer or visit your local station.