Female firefighters

Only 6% of the fire services are women. That’s today – in 2014! I was shocked! Women comprise 14% of the police force and 32% of paramedics, so why are the fire services so low?!

We’ve been hired by Women and Firefighting Australiasia (WAFA) a non-profit professional organisation that supports women in the Australasian firefighting industry. They’re looking to boost recruitment of female firefighters and speed up the much needed attitudinal shift regarding women in the fire services.

Tess Tran from Breathing Light Photography and I went down to Canberra for 3 days to cover a conference hosted by WAFA, ‘Women at the fire front: Innovation, Motivation & Inspiration’.100 female firefighters and a handful of forward-thinking male firefighters from all around Australia and New Zealand attended.

Day 1 was at the training college and had the women honing their skills in large animal rescue and other things.

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 WAFA Day 1_089

Day 2 was focused on culture change in the firies. It seems there are still sexist ideas about women not being physically or psychologically fit for the job, both within the fire services and in the community. Comments I heard over the days countering these ideas;

“we work in teams, the job never comes down to one person’s strength”

“some jobs are suited to tall people, others small people”

“we only spend 7% of our time actually ‘on the hoses’ anyway, there are loads of different jobs that need doing the other 93% of the time”

‘it’s proven that diversity in the workplace improves service and innovation”

“i’ve been on the scene inundated with hysterical people and the blokes didn’t know what to say to them, it was me who talked to them and calmed them down”

WAFA Day 2_258

 

I met some real trailblazers at the conference. Like Dawn Maynard and Michelle Young who  were two out  of the four first female firies in Australia to be recruited into the brigade in  1984. You could just tell they  were stalwarts – good-natured but determined.

While there are definitely incidences of sexual harassment in the firies, like the woman who  was secretly  filmed by a colleague in the change rooms, the majority of the women said that  the guys in their platoon  were supportive. My favourite comment was, “the guys at my  station let me be a firefighter and a woman.”

Something everyone seemed to agree on though was that for women in the brigade it was a  case of  ‘incapable until proven capable’. I got comments again and again that women had to  prove themselves  more than men with one woman saying, “to get the same recognition as  men you have to prove yourself to  be twice as good.”

Other foibles of the job included logistical problems with uniforms made for men with no designs suitable for women. This means that when women are out on a job, fighting a fire or otherwise, they have to take their whole uniform off to go to the bathroom – which can be rather undignified if they’re working on a highway with no bathroom nearby. One of the women whispered to me that she has a shewee in her kit, allowing her to urinate privately and hygienically while standing up.

I’m excited about this proWAFA_jordanject. Yay for gender equality in the firies and yay for an action packed project

 

 

– Jordan

Photographs by Tessa Tran at Breathing Light Photography.

Unveiling The Grey Beast

In 2012, the rate of imprisonment of Indigenous offenders was 19 times higher than the non-Indigenous population.

In 2013, 55% of prisoners had a known prior adult imprisonment.

Between late September 2012 and late March 2014, the NSW prison population rose by 13 per cent, reaching a record high in March this year of 10,917.

According to a 2010 inquiry, 75% of offenders have completed only up to year 10 of schooling.

These are just some of the alarming statistics included in Beauty and the Grey Beast: Surprising Tales From Prison  – a documentary, zine and installation, on display for the first time at Object: Australian Design Centre as a part of Idea Bombing Sydney‘s Gallery Edition. The multi-platform project is designed to raise awareness around the realities of life in prison as well as an attempt to facilitate constructive contact between the inmates and the outside.

Wednesday was a big night for Off The Record. Big because it’s not every day you  lug a replica of a cell block up three flights of stairs. Big when you’re negotiating with a prison down to the wire about what content is suitable for an exhibition and which inmates can have their faces shown to the public. Big managing the many pitfalls of last minute printing mishaps that miraculously all come together at the last minute. But more importantly big because of the culmination of months of work to pull each element together on time.

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On top of all this it was the first time Jordan, Oliver and I got up on the mike together as Off The Record (cue moment of sentimentality). We were all pretty excited and it was amazing to see so many faces there, familiar and otherwise. Never one to pass up the chance for some lively discussion, Jordan had the idea to use the exhibition as an opportunity to hear what the audience thinks about prison and inmates and some interesting conversation ensued. With Oliver on sound we’re hoping to use the thought provoking dialogue as the basis for a radio piece later in the year.

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Specials thanks go to:

John from Idea Bombing for hosting us as part of The Gallery Edition.

Claire, Cyn and Su-Wen from Object for all their hard work setting us up in the space.

Simone and Renzo from Amigo and Amigo for their kick-ass build for the Grey Beast.

Chester from Workshop for donating the ultimate lucky door prize – a double pass to a class at Workshop. You name it – Workshop teaches it. Everything from sausage making to stencil art to ukulele playing to Fight Club. That’s right – Fight Club. If you’re wondering how to make a terrarium or how to public speak good – look no further.

Josie from Hachette Australia for donating the second lucky door prize with a fantastic selection of books.

Dayna our researcher/everything wonder woman for generally being awesome!

Sophie and Blake for their photo and video expertise and making us look good.

Jarmaine from Bondi Beach Radio on the decks.

Oliver’s mum Liz and brother Luke keeping everyone fed and watered.

And you! Everyone who came to support us and check out the Grey Beast!

And last but not least on the back of the success of the launch we heard yesterday that Idea Bombing and Object want to host Beauty And The Grey Beast for another week so we are happy to announce we’ll be staying in the gallery until Saturday 23rd August. Come check out the installation and zine in Surry Hills!

– Julia

Beauty And The Grey Beast: Surprising Tales From Prison, Idea Bombing Sydney, The Gallery Edition, Object: Australian Design Centre, 13th – 23rd August

 

Inmates on the record at Object Gallery

Beauty and the Grey Beast: Surprising Tales from Prison

WHEN: Wednesday 13 August – Saturday 16 August 2014, Opening Hours: 11am-5pm.
WHERE: Object Australian Design Centre, 417 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010.
ABOUT: Presented as part of Idea Bombing Sydney: The Gallery Edition.

Beauty and the Grey Beast: Surprising Tales from Prison springs from interactions with inmates and correctional staff at Junee Correctional Centre. It takes a ‘triptych’ approach to building a conversation around prison and the potential of art and cultural activities as gateways to self-development.

“Since 2012 the NSW prison population rose by 13 per cent, reaching a record high in March this year. 55% of those people have served time before,” says Jordan Bryon, creative director of Off the Record, “we love storytelling because it turns complex issues and statistics like this into real people that we can connect with. And building connections between people from different groups is the key to changing social views.”

The three elements of the project are:

‘The Grey Beast’, an audiovisual installation taking the form of a custom built ‘cell’ created in collaboration with Amigo and Amigo, which invites audiences to explore different perspectives on life inside and to provide their own questions, answers and feedback. Responses will be taken back to Junee for inmates to reply in their chosen art form.

a hard copy zine featuring artwork and writing from the prison. Copies of the zine will be available for the first 20 people through the door at the exhibition each day.

a documentary film
*based at Junee Correctional Centre (currently in post-production) highlighting the importance of the prison’s Cultural Centre programs. *The documentary won’t feature at the exhibition but if you would like to know when it’s screening, or to hear about our upcoming projects, please email jordan@offtherecordproductions.com.au with ‘GO ON THE RECORD’ in the subject line.

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