ACT Fire & Rescue recruits women to College
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ACT Fire & Rescue recruits women to College

Kari Harlovich was no stranger to male-dominated workforces by the time she became a firefighter.

She was working the mines in Western Australia when she turned her mind to the job. By the time she moved back to Canberra, she knew what she wanted to do - so she did it.

Senior firefighter Kari Harlovich.

Senior firefighter Kari Harlovich.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

"I managed to get lucky and get in first time which is pretty good," she said.

Ms Harlovich is one of just 10 women among Canberra's 335 firefighters.

The ACT government hopes half the 16 participants in the next round of training at the ACT Fire & Rescue Recruit College are female.

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"ACT Fire & Rescue experienced a 500 per cent increase in applications from women in the previous recruitment process following the delivery of a targeted marketing campaign," ACT Fire Rescue acting chief officer Ron Weston said.

"This time another eight positions will be available to women who meet the necessary standards."

Ms Harlovich, now a senior firefighter at the south Tuggeranong station, might put her recruitment down to luck - but it's clear there was more at play.

In the gruelling 12 months leading to her application Ms Harlovich hired a personal trainer to build her strength and visited fire stations throughout Canberra to get a feel for what the job required.

Her gender was rarely mentioned, Ms Harlovich said, though she supported the push to get more women involved.

"It's important to better reflect the community that we serve," Ms Harlovich said.

"It's not just about getting women in, it's got to be about all sorts of cultural backgrounds and people from diverse areas of society and different upbringings because they can all bring something different to the role."

The ACT last year became the first jurisdiction to employ affirmative action in its firefighter recruitment process. An aspiring firefighter has filed a challenge to the policy, arguing it is discriminatory against men.

  • The recruit positions were advertised on the Jobs ACT website on Friday. Applications are open until 9am on September 18.

Emily Baker is a reporter for the Sunday Canberra Times. She previously reported on education for The Canberra Times.

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