International Women’s Day

2024 ‘Inspire Inclusion’

On 7 March 2024, ESF hosted the annual International Women’s Day forum at Arts Centre Melbourne to continue to support and advocate for women and gender diverse people in the Victorian emergency services sector. 

The theme for 2024 was ‘Inspire Inclusion’.

When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better world. And when women themselves are inspired to be included, there’s a sense of belonging, relevance and empowerment. 

We heard from and were inspired by:

  • Reflections from the first female chief commissioner in any Australian state police force Christine Nixon
  • Champions of Change Michael Morgan and Cassie Lindsay
  • A panel of people with lived experience of challenging diversity and inclusion in the sector
  • Angela Harbison talking about how separation and divorce affects how we work
  • The winners of the inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Awards speaking with judges Ro Allen, Niki Vincent and Rick Nugent

2024 International Women’s Day & Diversity and Inclusion Awards

In 2024, ESF introduced a Diversity and Inclusion Awards Program to be presented at the IWD event. This initiative is dedicated to recognizing and celebrating leading practice in promoting inclusion and gender diversity amongst ESF’s 15 member agencies.

There are three awards.

  1. Gender Inclusivity Initiative 
  2. Women’s Equality Initiative 
  3. Diversity and Inclusion Champion 

The judging panel included:

  • Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, Ro Allen
  • Commissioner for Gender Equality in the Public Sector, Dr Niki Vincent

The list of winners and highly commended awardees can be found here.

2023 'Embrace Equity'


ESF hosted an event for Victoria’s 15 emergency service and management organisations on 6 March 2023. 

Equity isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. A focus on gender equity needs to be part of every society’s DNA. And it’s critical to understand the difference between equity and equality. The IWD 2023 campaign theme drives worldwide understanding why Equal opportunities aren’t enough!

Below is an amazing artistic representation of the day by Sally Mazak of Salmaz Studios.

2022 'Break the Bias'

ESF hosted 300 people representing Victoria’s 14 emergency service and management organisations at our annual IWD event on 7 March 2022. They came together to learn about action that is occurring across the sector to improve gender equity and to share ideas on how they can collectively act to break the bias.

With a special thank you to the Victorian emergency service/ management agencies and their representatives for featuring in this campaign.

The theme for IWD 2022 is break the bias.

Imagine a gender equal world.

A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions

But together, we can help break the bias 

Below are recordings of the day’s presentations.

2021 'Choose To Challenge'

The IWD 2021 campaign theme was #ChooseToChallenge. 

Building on the success of ESFs inaugural IWD event in 2020, women across the emergency management sector celebrated the 2021 International Women’s Day at events in Bairnsdale, Wangaratta and Melbourne.

The need for events such as these is based on research findings that the impact of emergency response work is different for women and men. As well as celebrate, connect and ‘edutain’ women ESF hosted events will harness the opportunity IWD provides to understand and generate ideas to overcome gender-specific factors that influence mental health outcomes, including work-life juggles, aspects of resilience, and stigma and health seeking behaviours (Beyond Blue 2018, Boyle et al 2020). 

In hosting these events, ESF specifically responded to two recommendations on a study of women in the Victorian Emergency services, to:

  • bring women across the sector together to create events/forums that increase camaraderie, support, and acknowledgement
  • to explore how regionalized thankyou events could be generated for emergency service employees and volunteers

No other forum exists in the Victorian sector to bring women together in a way that gives them a collective voice and celebrates their difference and contribution.

Recordings from the events on 27 February in Bairnsdale, 12 March in Wangaratta and 16 March in Melbourne will be made and posted here so they are accessible to a broader audience.

The Age – “How women are leading a ‘remarkable’ change in emergency services”

The Melbourne #ChooseToChallange forum was recorded to allow reach to a winder audience. Please see complete videos below. Captioned versions are available on our YouTube channel here

ESF IWD – Juliet Bourke Slides

2020 'Each for Equal'

In 2020 emergency service women were celebrated on IWD on the big screen at the MCG at the women’s T20 World Cup Final.

Scholarships for Leadership Development

For more than 16 years, Women & Leadership Australia (WLA) has been supporting female leaders across all sectors and industries.  Through its Industry Partnership Framework, WLA works with associations and professional bodies in creating greater awareness and action around gender equity.  With the support of these organisations across the country WLA is helping to create meaningful opportunities for current and future female leaders.  For more information, please visit

In 2021 development scholarships of up to $5,000 per person are being made available for women in the police, defence, veteran and emergency services sector.  To help encourage more women to step into leadership in this sector.   WLA is offering scholarships for three leadership development courses.

The present round of funding is available to women across all states and territories and must be allocated by the end of March.

Expressions of Interest in the Scholarships are open until 19th March (unless allocated prior). 

You can apply via this link:

Further information on Women & Leadership Australia can be found at their Website