Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Indigenous Fire and Rescue Employment Strategy (IFARES) program - FRNSW headquarters - Greenacre
Published: 09 Dec 2021 10:00am
A class of 22 indigenous students has graduated from a challenging Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) pathway program that will fast track their opportunities to become firefighters.
The participants, from across New South Wales, have endured disruptions caused by the horrific 2020 Bushfire season and COVID-19 to complete the Indigenous Fire and Rescue Employment Strategy (IFARES) program over two years, instead of the regular 12 months.
The course raises the students’ fitness levels and provides them with critical knowledge, tertiary education and practical experience in relation to the recruitment processes, skills and roles available within FRNSW.
The program, jointly run by TAFE NSW and FRNSW, offers members of the state’s indigenous communities a chance to explore and ready themselves for a firefighting career to which they might not normally have access, particularly in rural areas and remote communities.
The students today celebrated their success with an indigenous dance, accompanied by a didgeridoo performance, during their graduation ceremony, attended by NSW Emergency Services Minister, David Elliott, and FRNSW Deputy Commissioner, Megan Stiffler, at the service’s Greenacre Headquarters.
The graduates are now set to apply for enrolment in the FRNSW Emergency Services Academy at Orchard Hills.
Deputy Commissioner Stiffler expressed her pride in the program which reinforces FRNSW’s determination to reflect the communities it serves.
“Since its introduction in 2014, IFARES has continued to represent FRNSW’s commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
TAFE NSW Aboriginal Student Support Officer and FRNSW Station Officer, Bill Spek, said IFARES quickly identifies those who are serious about a firefighting career.
“We’re not just giving them numbers for the sake of numbers…we’re not just ticking boxes, we’re giving them firefighters who are going to go out there and hopefully do the job and do it well, but we’re also able to give back to the Aboriginal communities within NSW,” Bill explained.
“They become role models for the younger members of their mob…people look up and go ‘it’s not impossible to get into Fire and Rescue NSW…it’s not impossible to see an indigenous person on the back of a truck.’”
The 2021 graduates, comprising 16 men and six women, are supported throughout their journey by Senior FRNSW officers and recruitment staff.
23-year-old IFARES graduate, Joshua Nickisson, from Newcastle, is keen to follow in his father’s footsteps and protect the community as a firefighter.
“I have wanted to be a firefighter for as long as I can remember,” Joshua said, “It has been very exciting to meet my classmates and make lifelong bonds with them.”
28-year-old Jessica Reeves, from Camden, applied for the IFARES program because she enjoys helping other people.
“I have always had an interest in firefighting and the duties involved, I am willing to be challenged, to grow, and learn.”
Canberra graduate, Blake Murray, aged 26, simply wants to give back to his community.
“Many of the core firefighter values are similar, if not the same, as the values I live my life by, I believe being a firefighter is the perfect job for me.”
More than 80 graduates have become Fire and Rescue NSW firefighters over the life of the IFARES program.
Updated: 25 Oct 2022 01:46pm
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