Bright sparks for the future

  • NAB Foundation

NAB has partnered with Girls on Fire, a not-for-profit organisation aimed at improving gender diversity and inclusion in the emergency services sector.

  • 14.06.2023
  • Time to read 1 min read
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Being Bronnie

Growing up in the town of Rotorua on the North Island of New Zealand, and now as a Station Officer with Fire and Rescue NSW and the Founder of Girls on Fire – Bronnie Mackintosh has experienced first-hand the importance of community, connection and camaraderie.

“It was very multicultural and diverse where I grew up and we learnt from a young age the importance of country, the importance of family, the importance of culture and treating the land and each other well.”

After moving to Australia and becoming a firefighter at 32 years of age, Bronnie was confronted by the lack of gender diversity in emergency services and the lack of connection to land instilled in young people from school age.

“Where are the women in the emergency services, where are the female firefighters, where is the diversity. Why is there not culture embedded in all our learning programs?” Bronnie questioned.

She set about researching the best ways to increase diversity in the emergency services sector and empower young women and culturally diverse people to make an active contribution to help their communities prepare or recover from fire and other emergencies.

“I went on this round-the-world crusade to find out that all emergency services are facing this same problem. They all were built on a fantastic model that served us well back in the day, but hasn’t been fit-for-purpose as our communities have changed, and as we learn more about the importance of country and interconnectedness and collaboration,” she said.

Girls on Fire

Bronnie came up with the idea for Girls on Fire after volunteering at similar programs in the United States and Canada in 2016 as a Winston Churchill Fellowship recipient.

“I researched the ways overseas fire services were increasing their diversity. In my recommendations I incorporated the girls fire camp as one of the strategies to consider for long-term social change.”

Since then, Bronnie has set up fire programs and workshops as part of Girls on Fire. The programs are designed to increase the confidence and resilience of teenage girls and non-binary people. Through attending a ‘Girls on Fire’ program, participants build personal resilience skills and make meaningful connections for future volunteering or careers in the fire and emergency services.

“It’s about community resilience and making people more prepared for what’s happening in the world and the state of uncertainty we’re living in – with earthquakes, floods, fires, natural disasters and the pandemic,” she said.

 

NAB’s support and partnership

Girls on Fire was awarded a NAB Foundation Community Grant in 2021. The Community Grants are part of the NAB Ready Together program which supports Australians to withstand and recover from natural disasters.

In March 2023, NAB proudly partnered with Girls on Fire to help fund the national expansion beyond New South Wales.

NAB Group Executive Rachel Slade said the bank’s support of ‘Girls on Fire’ is about diversity in leadership as well as helping Australia withstand and recover from natural disasters.

“Bronnie’s powerful personal story of finding her voice within the emergency services industry as a leader compelled us to get involved. Over the past two years, our relationship has grown as we’ve supported their work to break gender stereotypes and empower young people to become leaders in their communities,” Ms Slade said.

“NAB is proud to partner with trailblazers like Girls on Fire to help protect Australian communities.”

Rachel Slade, NAB Group Executive, Personal Bank

Real impact

Already, the partnership is having a transformative effect for young people in the community.

Participants at a Girls on Fire camp held in Victoria to celebrate the launch of the partnership with NAB shared their reflections of their experience.

 

NAB’s support and partnership

For Bronnie, these letters speak to the power of community. She said the partnership with NAB would allow Girls on Fire programs to expand nationally and reach more young people.

“Communities move beyond surviving fire and natural disaster to thriving with the right kind of leadership, and the right kind of leadership is one that reflects the community it serves,” Bronnie said.

“Engaging with Girls on Fire not only encourages greater diversity and participation from girls and women, it helps create a culture of connection. We’re excited to take our programs across the country to empower more young people and increase gender representation in emergency services.”

To learn more about Girls on Fire and upcoming programs visit their website. More information about NAB Foundation Community Grants is available on the NAB website.

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