The South Australian Fire & Emergency Services Commission (SAFECOM) has reached out to the Women in Business Regional Network to discuss options for getting more volunteers involved in regional emergency services such as the Country Fire Service, State Emergency Service and SA Ambulance.
Network founder Carolyn Jeffrey met with Helen Smith from SAFECOM who is undertaking a project to research how to get better volunteer engagement in the three services, particularly to ensure their sustainability in regional areas.
Her report is due to be finalised in April next year when it will be presented to the Minister for Emergency Services Corey Wingard.
Carolyn said it was clear that one of Helen’s passions was to see more women become involved in the services as volunteers.
“We discussed the fact that many women are put off because they think the roles are only of a physical nature at the scenes of disasters and problems,” Carolyn said.
“However, there are many roles behind the scenes too that women would find rewarding and feel they can contribute too.”
Among the roles discussed at this week’s meeting in Victor Harbor was providing administration and radio assistance, and the possibility that businesswomen could get involved in providing these services under the banner of their business.
“It seemed apparent from the discussion that dwindling volunteer numbers, and issues with emergency services unable to attend incidents in regional areas, has meant the state government has needed to have a serious look at the future of volunteer emergency services,” Carolyn said.
“It’s good to see a range of options being considered that could make volunteering more attractive to women in business in regional areas. This could include being able to promote our businesses as part of the service we offer, and also helping to promote the valuable work our volunteers provide to our regional communities.
“On behalf of the network members I’m excited that we’ve been asked to provide input and the opportunities that may arise in the future for not only the women, but for the communities they live and work in.”
Carolyn said she had pointed out that regional women in business already do so much more than just run businesses.
“The reality is we still tend to take on the domestic and childcare responsibilities, as well as provide volunteer resources to a range of community and sporting organisations to keep our regional towns going,” Carolyn said.
“Declining volunteers in regional emergency services is clearly a major concern for our communities, but the state government will also need to realise that the time available for regional women in business to take on further responsibilities is limited unless there are other opportunities to counterbalance the commitment.”