These incredible women are a part of the Lakes Tyers Aboriginal Trust Country Fire Authority that was started two decades ago and is the first all-Indigenous, all-female fire brigade in Australia.
The bushfires in Australia have now been burning for four months and have turned the continent into smoke and ashes. Firefighters and volunteers from across Australia and even Canada are trying their best to put off the fires. One of the most affected regions by the fire is the state of Victoria. Here, you can find a group of indigenous women clad in bright yellow suits fighting fires. These women are a part of the Lakes Tyers Aboriginal Trust Country Fire Authority that was started two decades ago and is the first all-Indigenous, all-female fire brigade in Australia. They were a group of women who came together to combat people lighting fires intentionally in their township.
Charmaine Sellings, a Kurnai woman, set up this trust when a house in her region was burnt down because a fire truck couldn't reach the place on time since the nearest one was 45 minutes away. "After the last bad incident, I stood up and said we're going to get a crew together," Sellings told ABC News. Now the group mainly combats bushfires caused by illegal campers since intentional fires seldom happen. Sellings believes that after the Lakes Tyers Aboriginal Trust was formed, the township has become a safer place to live.
Charmaine Sellings & Rhonda Thorpe run an all-Aboriginal woman #firefighters team, the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust CFA. The Kurnai women are grandmothers in their 50s & have fought fires across Victoria, plus they protect national parks & educate community https://t.co/y1AcSCUGjA pic.twitter.com/dd5RW2G6m3— Dr Zuleyka Zevallos (@OtherSociology) 7 January 2020
"We are the lifeline if anything goes wrong, so we have an important role to play, and I think people are generally very grateful for what we do," Charmaine told Women's Weekly. "There was a sense of helplessness before we came along but we feel empowered that we can look after ourselves and our people whatever the situation. The community is proud of us and they value us." The locals call them "Banana Women" because of their bright yellow outfits - and the name stuck, reports the Daily Mail. They drive fire trucks and use power tools including chainsaws to clear bush tracks. As fully trained firefighters, they helped put out the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 as well as blazes in Wilsons Promontory National Park and the town of Omeo.
Lake Tyers Fire Brigade Firefighter, Charmaine Sellings is pictured with the brigade’s new Ultralight vehicle that adorns CFA commissioned artwork ‘Working Together’. Lake Tyers brigade is CFA’s only Indigenous brigade, led by a team of Gunaikurnai women. pic.twitter.com/pQIhsHeaoG— CFA Chief Officer (@CFAChiefOfficer) 4 November 2019
The 52-year-old grandmother of three started the group of firefighters with eight people initially. Now the group has four permanent members, three women, and one man. "It's not that men aren't welcome – in fact, we'd love the fellas to join us and help out!" Charmaine said. "Every now and then a fella comes along but they don't seem to last too long. I don't think they like taking orders from me."
They are now playing a major role in fighting the bushfires that have destroyed 1.2 million hectares in Victoria and claimed three lives. "Lake Tyers Trust is a really encouraging and successful brigade for us," said Trevor Owen, assistant chief fire officer for the south-east region. "It's great to have a local community interest in their local brigade because they know their own local community and the members within that."