Tuesday 15th March, 2022
Author:   Bianca Bassett

Tuesday the 8th of March many women celebrated International Women’s Day. The United Nations theme for 2022 was Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow.
Around fifty CFA female volunteers and staff from all over East Gippsland came together to enjoy a night of celebration and reflection. The ladies were treated to amazing food by New Leaf café and The Old Station Café in Bairnsdale. As well as custom made cupcake and biscuits from local producer Pretty Little Cookies.
Kylie Findlay BASO from District 11 headquarters was the powerhouse behind organising the event. She said “It was attended so well, and the feedback from the participants was the event was a resounding success, and will pave the way for more events in the future.”
The event hosted two inspiring guest speakers, CFA Commander Emma Conway and CFA member Bianca Bassett. Emma reflected on her time in the Australian Navy and how she grew her successful career in a very male dominated industry, then making the tough decision to leave the Navy and how she landed into working for the CFA. Her experiences reflected her strength and resilience and how she overcame many obstacles her male counterparts weren’t faced with. Emma bravely shared some tough personal struggles which resonated with audience, and helped to create a safe space for healing and others to share their experiences throughout the night.
Bianca shared her story about being born with a rare blood disease, raising kids and loosing her leg in 2016. She reflected on the achievements of women in the CFA who paved the way and acknowledged the tireless work of the women in the room. "Being a woman in a male dominated industry is like being in rehab. It’s bloody hard work! Sometimes we feel like we’re not achieving much, then suddenly we reach the point where we’re walking.” Bianca said “I hope one day we’ll all be running.” Using her experience in learning to walk again and reminding the audience it starts with one step.
Ronda from Omeo CFA shared about the generosity they’ve experienced by the public, in particular a relationship they built with a real princess! She reminded everyone about the generosity East Gippslanders experienced during the 2019/2020 Black Summer Fires and encouraged the group to give back to help those affected by the floods in NSW and QLD.
The evening was a reminder about the importance of coming together, share stories and connect with each other. It was clear that communities all over East Gippsland continue to recover from the 2019/2020 Black Summer Fires and there is still a lot of work to do to support the people living across the Shire.