The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has been recognised with a Premier's Award for Excellence in Public Sector Management for improving Aboriginal Outcomes with the Aboriginal Firefighter Cadet program.
The award recognises the training program which is designed to increase the competitiveness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ applications within the firefighter recruitment process.
Manager Strategic Aboriginal Programs Review Heidi Mippy said the program is the first of its kind and aims to increase the number of Aboriginal employees within the fire service.
“Aboriginal firefighter cadets are employed full time for a year and provided with on the job training and experience, as well as a personalised fitness schedule,” Heidi said.
“Throughout that year they are required to achieve a number of relevant qualifications such as their Heavy Rigid Driver’s License, Introduction to Firefighting, Introduction to Bushfire firefighting and a Certificate II in Resources and Infrastructure.
“They have also been participating extensively in community engagement activities throughout the State to build on their skills.
“Key elements of the course include leadership, conflict resolution, teamwork and communication techniques, as well as a strong focus on cultural identity and self worth.”
Assistant Commissioner Darren Klemm said cadets receive support and personal guidance from mentors and qualified assessors to help them throughout the process.
“In terms of applicants for firefighter recruitment in recent years, only 1.2 per cent have identified as Aboriginal,” Assistant Commissioner Klemm said.
“This program is about helping the Aboriginal firefighter cadets in every possible way to meet all the requirements to become a trainee firefighter, and to therefore become more competitive in the selection process for the trainee firefighter school.
“It is a highly challenging but rewarding opportunity for cadets and should lead to an increase in the number of Aboriginal employees within the fire service.”
Aboriginal firefighter cadet Phillip Sibosado said that starting the cadetship has increased his knowledge and pride in his cultural background.
“I grew up in a small community but then moved to Perth and I lost a lot of the culture I grew up with,” Phillip said.
“All the knowledge on Aboriginal culture makes you take a look at yourself quite deeply, who you are, who you want to be, what direction you’re going in. Having that knowledge about who you are builds up your confidence.
“For me personally, I found it quite spiritual to connect with the land and everything around us. I feel we can bring that into our journey as we try to become firefighters.”
The program commenced in January 2015 with cadets due to graduate in December 2015.
Heidi said five of the cadets are currently in the interview stage of the firefighter recruitment process.
“All of the cadets are embarking on work experience placements and project work to gain insight into broader roles and areas of responsibility within DFES – this will give them awareness of other opportunities at the Department outside of career firefighting.
“We are also looking at individual employment options such as university and vocational study.”
A formal evaluation of the program is due to commence shortly, with plans to offer further rounds of Aboriginal firefighter cadetships in future years.