Inspiring Women this International Women's Day

Innovating, leading and uplifting women at Parks Victoria  

Friday 6 March, 2020

Every day, we are inspired by the incredible women of Parks Victoria who work hard and push the boundaries of possibility to achieve their very best. This International Women’s Day, we want to share the stories of some of our inspiring women.

Our purpose at Parks Victoria, is to inspire the community to conserve and enjoy Victoria's unique natural and cultural heritage.

Each of these inspiring women, demonstrate this, and contribute to our organisational direction of ensuring all employees receive the same support, development and tools necessary to create successful careers.

Rhonda McNeil is an Area Chief Ranger for the Grampians (Gariwerd) landscape. Rhonda loves all aspects of her role from environment conservation, cultural and fire management to community education and staff development.

One of the most rewarding components of her role, is understanding and learning about the indigenous cultural landscape and working with Traditional Owners.

Rhonda began her career in land management in 1994, as one of only three female rangers in her region, and one of only a handful across the state.

“I love every aspect of park management and my role at Parks Victoria. But as my career has progressed, I have realised my important role in becoming a positive role model for other women within the organisation”.

My goal is to continue to help the women around me break down both the visible and invisible barriers and reach their full potential”, she said.

In her time, she’s seen significant change within the organisation to improve gender equity, with several barriers removed, including the introduction of female cut trousers in the uniform catalogue. 

“I have spent most of my career as the only female in work centres, team meetings, on the fire line and activities such as the opening of duck hunting season or major events like the Southern 80 Ski Race along the Murray River.

I can now see change, in the last few years, there’s been an increase of women doing the same job as anyone else.”

These days, in her senior position, Rhonda aims to make further change happen within the organisation and use her voice to encourage more women to break down invisible barriers or stereotypes holding them back.

“I believe I have a responsibility to others who may have not had the opportunities and support that I have had, and as Melinda Gates once said, ‘Women speaking up for themselves and for those around them is the strongest force we have to change the world’”, said Rhonda.

Ariana Henderson wears many hats, from Manager Fire and Emergency Recovery to operational fire roles such as a general fire-fighter, crew leader and the first female Operations Officer with the Melbourne Fire Crew.

“I’m really lucky to work for Parks Victoria, and proud to say that in my field, I have never felt land management was just ‘blokes work’, however there is no doubt the organisation has evolved and improved over recent years”, said Ariana.

A taskforce leader assisting with the East Gippsland Fires, Ariana’s recent days have involved managing and leading her crew along the vicious fire front.

“Historically, land management and emergency management fields have been a male dominated domain. I’m really proud to see this change, however, the demographic of most of our decision makers remains the same.

A key area that I see an opportunity for improvement is leadership training and career development pathways for women.”

Previously, Ariana has also led recovery teams to assist regions in undertaking assessments of impacts to parks after an emergency such as flood, storm or bushfire and then plan and develop recovery programs.

Ariana is also elected as Executive Officer for Women and Firefighting Australasia (WAFA), an organisation who work to build confidence and empower women to achieve their full potential and be supported as women, in their roles within the firefighting sector.

“I am regularly in meetings as the only female, especially in fire and emergency operations, to me equality means, there would be more women at the table, and those women would be in leadership roles.

Through this and her role and experience at Parks Victoria, Ariana is excited to continue to use her voice to empower women within the organisation, with culture continuing to improve into the future of women at Parks Victoria and fire operations.

“I use every chance I get to raise the profile of women, particularly in the fire and emergency area. I constantly speak up, call out and raise issues, recognise and try to remove barriers and highlight unconscious bias.

And most importantly I speak to every young girl I can and tell them that if I can be a Park Ranger or a Firefighter, they can be anything they dream of being.”

 

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