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CFA celebrates International Women's Day

On Sunday 8 March 2020, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. This year the CFA wanted to pay tribute to women involved in the organisation, inspired by women and inspiring others.

With this year’s theme ‘An equal world is an enabled world’ we sat down with one of our Board Members and volunteer Dawn Hartog.

From her earliest days at university studying education, the Captain of Toolangi Fire Brigade Dawn Hartog knew she wanted to be on the ground, working with communities. She didn’t want to just be desk-bound. 

Then, in the way of all things, on the ski slopes in America, she met an Aussie bloke and found herself at CFA as a Community Development Coordinator. 

Today she is a member of the CFA Board, works full time for DELWP, as well as working at the State Control Centre during incidents and emergencies, on CFA’s District 12 Planning Committee and captaining her home CFA brigade at Toolangi.

“I’ve been so lucky to work on tangible examples, to see the principles of emergency information and fire safety communicated better through our communities. It has been hugely gratifying to work in a career I love, that provides job satisfaction whilst doing my part to keep our communities safe, to keep our beautiful Victoria safe,” Captain Hartog said.

"I’ve been inspired along the way by so many of the women I’ve worked with, that have empowered, mentored and shaped who I am, and the way I now support my (contemporary) peers.”

As a former resident of Kinglake, Captain Hartog’s toughest challenges, and most inspiring moments, came during Black Saturday as the coordinator of a group of residents through their community fireguard group.

“Everyone put into action what we had learned, from the lead up, to the support after. It brought home several ground truths for me. We were very lucky to come out of it with no significant losses. I attribute this to the bonding together, the camaraderie we had, the knowledge that we had each other’s backs. I felt a deep sense of responsibility for everyone’s safety.”

During this summer, Captain Hartog’s own brigade, Toolangi, was lucky not to have any fires close to home. So, they went to help New South Wales and north-east Victoria instead.

“We were proud to support the efforts during those prolonged fires. To be deployed and be part of the fires - whether through the State Control Centre or rotation through the ranks - to be part of the fight, with boots on the ground meant a lot.”

The style of leadership that most inspires Captain Hartog is one that empowers strong women into leadership positions. Last year she was elected onto the CFA Board for the first time.

“I am so proud to be on the Board of an organisation I have previously worked many years for, and an organisation that I love. I’m proud to join some pretty incredible women on the Board. I have always drawn my strength and inspiration from my peers. They shape and inspire me on a daily basis,” she says.

“On the ground, I actually wish that I joined a brigade 10 years before I finally did. Toolangi Fire Brigade is an amazing group of people. The camaraderie is uplifting. People roll out the door as a team, we know our lives are in each other’s hands. All of us are simply there to try and do our best.”

What Captain Hartog loves most about her brigade is it is a true microcosm of her community. Many junior members, both male and female, go on to have careers or volunteer in fire management. Several of the members and office holders of the brigade are mums.  A few of these ladies joined as a result of their children. Now she’s hoping her own next generation - her daughter - will be inspired to join the CFA.

“It’s not mandatory or completely expected obviously… but I do hope so!”

This article has been republished from CFA News and Media. 

About VFBV: VFBV is established under the Country Fire Authority Act and is the peak body for CFA Volunteers in Victoria. VFBV works tirelessly to represent, advocate and support CFA volunteers to the CFA Board and management, governments, ministers, members of parliament, councils, instrumentalities, business and the public. Our vision is for Strong Volunteerism, Embraced to Build Community Resilience for a Safer Victoria.

This article is part of our series celebrating women in CFA for International Women's Day.


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CFA Volunteers are the unpaid professionals of our Emergency Services. VFBV is their united voice, and speaks on behalf of Victoria's 60,000 CFA Volunteers.