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Visual representations of female fire fighters, and women in relationship to fire fighting.
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Visual representations of female fire fighters, and women in relationship to fire fighting.

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This presentation was designed to share visual representations of females in relationship to fire and fire fighting with female fire fighters attending WAFA 2012. The formal stuff: Dr Merilyn Childs, ...

This presentation was designed to share visual representations of females in relationship to fire and fire fighting with female fire fighters attending WAFA 2012. The formal stuff: Dr Merilyn Childs, A/Prof of Higher Education, Charles Sturt University. Presentation to the WAFA Conference 2012 - 'Achieving Success: Courage and Confidence Under Fire’ 26 - 28 July 2012, Hotel Grand Chancellor , Adelaide. The "NSWFB" referred to on slide 2, is the New South Wales Fire Brigades, Australia.

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    Visual representations of female fire fighters, and women in relationship to fire fighting. Visual representations of female fire fighters, and women in relationship to fire fighting. Presentation Transcript

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    •  Ninna Marni - (A Kaurna phrase for "Hello, how are you?") I would like to acknowledge this land that we meet on today is the traditional lands for Kaurna people and that we respect their spiritual relationship with the country. We also acknowledge the Kaurna people as the custodians of the Adelaide region and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still as important to the living Kaurna people today. I also want to pay my respects to Kaurna women who are likely to be amongst the first fire management experts using fire sticks on this land. 2
    •  I provided promotional programs for SFF and SOs in the areas of leadership and decision making to the (then) NSWFB during a 10 year period (1996-2006) and graduated a generation of operational leaders in that fire service. I worked with, but not for, the NSWFB. I was at the time the Co-Director of the Centre for Learning and Social Transformation at the University of Western Sydney. There, I conducted applied research into higher education, workbased learning, and social and labour market participation. I also taught undergraduate and postgraduate programs in the social sciences and adult education. 3
    •  The absence of women in my work with the NSWFB over a decade troubled me greatly. I resolved this “trouble” by instigating and convening the first WIFF Conference in Sydney in 2005. It was seeded by a small grant from the NSWFB, the support of women in the industry, the FBEU (NSW) and a number of agencies around Australia. As Enarson & Morrow argued (1998): gender matters in disasters. It also matters in fire fighting – not simply as we look at the impact of incidents, but also as we look at the people who respond to them. 4
    •  The issue of women and fire fighting can be vexed, and sometimes researchers such as myself have to speak publically about difficult issues. Academics should speak with courage and confidence, even when under fire, drawing on sound evidence. I am currently updating my research from 2005 and 2006, and hope to publish again in 2013. If you wish to access my archives, see http://womeninfirefighting.blogspot.com.au/ Robust research related to gender and fire fighting, and gender and disasters remains important, but is lacking in Australia. But note: Cindy Branch-Smith et al’s work eg 2009-2010 http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=308413921879747;res=IELHSS Tyler et al (2012) Gender matters http://www.bushfirecrc.com/managed/resource/gender_matters_working_paper_no- _3.pdf Jim McLennan et al’s 2005-2006 work http://www.bushfirecrc.com/resources/poster- presentation/volunteer-firefighting-suitable-job-woman 5
    • Delegates – Inaugural Women inFire Fighting Conference, Sydney2005 6
    •  There are so many research questions that could be asked about the gendered nature of fire fighting (EMS labour, disasters) But for now..... One way is to better understand the larger forces at work in society, in order to imagine new possibilities. C. Wright Mills (1959) called this the “sociological imagination”. I use visual images to better understand the way society might “see” fire fighting labour. 7
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    • Many of the ranks of the NFS weremade up of women - in March 1943there were 32,200 women servingwith the National Fire Service. Forthe part time fire fighters, men wereon duty every fourth night andwomen every sixth night.http://www.wartimememories.co.uk/afs.html 24
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    • In 1945 a law was passed in Australian that made it illegal for women to beEmployed in many occupations, including as firefighters. This law was not changeduntil the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984. In the post-war period women were shownin sexualised, domesticated and consumerist iconography in relationship to fire fighting. 32
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    •  http://girlsonfire.com.au/recruitment/ http://archive.instituteartistmanagement.co m/offer/222 Lauren Greenfield 38
    •  This presentation was in part a rare visual celebration of representations of women and fire fighting that changed in relationship to historical events and the utility of women in war time. But it was also about the ambiguous encounters that emerges in the social imagination between women and fire fighting as a result of industrial organisation. Would it help if there were iconic portrayal of female firefighters, as there have always been for male fire fighters? Or is the focus on the iconic unhelpful in changing the gendered nature of fire fighting? In 2006 I established that less than 5% of the paid Australian fire fighting workforce in Australia was female (Childs, 2006). Whilst this study now needs to be updated, the facts in 2006 remain interesting. Further research – and social and industrial change – is needed! 39
    •  Images used in this presentation were drawn from my personal collection of photographs and images over 50 years old, and now in the public domain Please visit my Women in Fire Fighting (Australia) Blog (under development in 2013) at http://womeninfirefighting.blogspot.com.au/ 40