Date of Award

2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Julie Ann Pooley

Abstract

Recent events have shown how invaluable Australia's volunteer firefighters are to communities, for example, Black Saturday. Volunteer numbers appear to be declining nation-wide and a majority of volunteer fire services report under-representation of women in operational roles. To ascertain an understanding of experiences and issues faced by women in volunteer fire services, the aim of the current study was to explore female volunteer firefighters' experience, and how their experiences impact on their perceptions of themselves as firefighters. A qualitative research methodology was employed, which enabled investigation of issues and challenges related to the firefighting experience. A total of 12 women participated in semi-structured interviews, which were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. A total of two dominant themes and six sub-themes were identified: (1) positive experiences and outcomes (life meaning, facilitation of confidence, positive atmosphere, competence in getting the job done); (2) negative experiences and outcomes (negative behaviour towards women, 'few guy' syndrome). The findings have provided insight into the way in which women perceive themselves as firefighters, and the influences of past experiences which impacted on these perceptions. Furthermore, this study contributes towards the understanding of how to effectively engage and empower women, and also to the development of programs and strategies conducive to the enhancement of women in Australian volunteer-based fire agencies.

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