During the cooler months this year, we spoke to Mount Eliza’s Jaymie Moynihan about Scarves for Social Change, her community project focused on knitting hundreds of items for people in need and which has raised more than $9500 for youth projects. Now, as we approach another fire season, 22-year-old Jaymie is preparing to swap her knitting needles for her safety gear as a volunteer CFA firefighter.
It all began in mid-2017 when Jaymie followed in the footsteps of her uncle – a volunteer firefighter who she’d always looked up to. Jumping at the chance to join the CFA, Jaymie originally thought that she’d help behind the scenes. She quickly learnt there were no gender barriers – if you’re willing to do the job, women are provided with the same hands-on work as men. Consequently, when Jaymie was asked if she wanted to complete the training to be on the frontline, she said: “Why not?” Together the handful of women at the Mount Eliza CFA have become close friends and thrive on supporting each other.
“I struggled when I came back from my most recent time away,” said Jaymie. “It was a four-day stint in Gippsland, but I spoke to other firefighters who helped me. I’d never been in a bushfire of that large scale before. It was unfathomable. The best thing to do was to get back on the truck after a couple of months. We’re the most equipped people out there and I had an amazing crew with me when I was terrified, which made the situation easier to bear. If needed, I’d do it again. I’m keen to get back out there now.”
After regrouping and having a few months off, Jaymie decided to return. While COVID-19 halted the brigade’s weekly training sessions, operations have restarted with masks and gloves, and pre-summer training has commenced. Drills are pivotal as a refresher and making sure that everyone’s skills are up to scratch after a quieter off-season. After the horrendous Black Summer bushfires, Jaymie’s happy to see lots of her fellow volunteer firefighters return.
“You’ve got to be ready. You’re on standby, and you can apply to be assigned interstate. Mount Eliza CFA is great because they allow you to commit what you can, and your experience is always valued.”
To get started, Jaymie stopped by www.cfa.vic.gov.au/volunteer-careers, signed up for her local brigade and chose the role she was interested in. You can do this too. “If you’ve been on the fence about volunteering, all I can say is ‘Do it!’ It’s helped me to see that there’s nothing men do that women can’t, plus all skill sets are advantageous because there’s many areas that you can support. It’s given me the opportunity to meet people from all different walks of life. I’m passionate about promoting women joining the service in what is often perceived to be a male-dominated field.”