IFARES participants (l-r) Jessica Reeves, Amanda Scannell and Tahlia Hunter.
Wiradjuri mum-of-two Amanda Scannell hopes one day soon she’ll be helping protect her community and proudly representing her mob as a full-time firefighter.
The 32-year-old is taking part in the Indigenous Fire and Rescue Employment Strategy (IFARES) program, which equips Aboriginal men and women with a Certificate III in Fitness and the necessary skills and qualifications to apply to become a firefighter.
Amanda is one of 24 people undertaking the program, which is a collaboration between Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) and TAFE NSW.
“I have never been as passionate about something as I am about becoming a firefighter. Achieving this would change my life and my family’s lives,” said Amanda, who lives in Noraville on the Central Coast with her husband and two young sons.
“When I was growing up, becoming a firefighter seemed too far-fetched and something I could only ever dream of. The IFARES program has changed that and given me opportunity and hope for my future.
“I am so excited to have the chance to work in a team and make a difference in my community.”
IFARES participants come from across NSW, studying online and attending six blocks of practical training at TAFE NSW Campbelltown and Macquarie Fields, as well as undertaking specialised training at the Emergency Services Academy in Orchid Hills.
They are further supported by TAFE NSW’s established ‘Learning Circle’ which provides logistical assistance and ongoing cultural support through contact with Aboriginal Elders and mentors.
“The IFARES program is one of the best things I have ever done – and everybody in the class would say the same thing,” Amanda said.
“We are all so grateful to have had this incredible experience. It has definitely given me more confidence and self-belief. We were a bunch of strangers thrown together, and after three days we had become an instant family. The camaraderie we have is strong; it’s just the best.
“We have also been lucky to have had some beautiful cultural experiences. We have spent time with previous IFARES participants and they shared with us their knowledge, their success and their stories, and have encouraged us beyond belief.”
Since it was launched in 2014, the IFARES program has enjoyed a phenomenal 98% completion rate, resulting in 206 graduates.
Head Teacher David Cencigh said over 60% of participants have secured employment with FRNSW while others have gone on to become gym instructors or fitness industry professionals.
“It’s beyond successful – and that’s because of our dynamic delivery,” Mr Cencigh explained.
“When you surround Aboriginal people with the right support – with their peers, with Aboriginal mentors, with supportive teachers, and with industry that is willing to give them a go – we see absolutely amazing outcomes.
“What’s even more valuable, is they go back and share their success with their families and their communities, and they inspire others to create their own success stories.”
FRNSW Aboriginal Inclusion and Diversity Officer Craige Aldridge said the strength of the IFARES program lies in empowering Aboriginal men and women with knowledge and skills.
“It gives Aboriginal people who want a career as a firefighter an incredible insight into how to achieve that ambition,” Mr Aldridge said.
“Although completing the program doesn’t guarantee a position with FRNSW, it gives participants lifelong skills and a unique insight into the job and the application process.”
Amanda wants to set an example for her two young boys and her four nieces and nephews, showing them that Aboriginal people can be whatever they choose to be.
“I am determined to be a positive role model and inspire them – if they see that Mum or Aunty Amanda can be a firefighter, they’ll know they can do anything too,” Amanda said.
“I am doing this for them, my family, myself, and for all the Indigenous children, women and mothers out there. I want to be able to give them inner strength, hope, and courage that you can follow your dreams.”
Explore hundreds of courses and pursue your passion with life-changing training at TAFE NSW. For more information visit www.tafensw.edu.au or phone 131 601. To find out more about IFARES, visit www.fire.nsw.gov.au.
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