South Otago front­line women in­spire

Re­porter MARY-JO TOHILL talks to three women in front­line emer­gency ser­vices.

Clutha Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE -

Stacey Ver­heul is a main­te­nance su­per­vi­sor for Ful­ton Ho­gan in Bal­clutha, and is Bal­clutha Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade’s first fe­male sta­tion of­fi­cer.

She reck­ons women are work­ing their way up the ranks. Stacey has been a brigade mem­ber for eight years and is proudly Bal­clutha born and bred.

‘‘When I was lit­tle I wanted to be a dancer but then got hooked on graphic de­sign and maths when I hit high school.

‘‘From this I de­cided I wanted to be an ar­chi­tect un­til my dad talked me out of it.’’ She went on to get en­gi­neer­ing and high­way tech­nol­ogy qual­i­fi­ca­tions, but wanted to help her com­mu­nity. This means she is on call 24/7.

‘‘I am lucky to have an awe­some part­ner who just rolls his eyes as I rush out the door when my pager goes. Some­how he sleeps through the pager when it goes off at night (I re­ally don’t know how, as it makes a hor­ri­ble noise) but he is very ac­cept­ing and un­der­stand­ing about my role in the brigade. Ul­ti­mately it is re­ally about hav­ing a bal­ance and in the end fam­ily does come first.’’

It can be tough work­ing in usu­ally male-dom­i­nated roles.

‘‘I have a dou­ble whammy as I work in a male dom­i­nated in­dus­try and I vol­un­teer for an or­gan­i­sa­tion that has a sim­i­lar makeup of male ver­sus fe­male. We face a lot of chal­lenges but it is about prov­ing your­self and know­ing when to stick to your guns. Women can do any­thing they put their minds to, so why let oth­ers tell you what you can and can’t do? I sure don’t and that has at­trib­uted to where I am today.’’

Women can have an ad­van­tage, as they can seem more ap­proach­able in high-stress sit­u­a­tions.

Her ad­vice to young women in choos­ing front-line jobs is to not let gen­der or what oth­ers think de­fine what you can and can’t do.

‘‘If you want to do some­thing, just go for it. We can do any­thing we set our minds to and it is up to us to make it hap­pen. Ca­reers such as mine can be daunt­ing. I have plenty of ‘oh sh...’ mo­ments when I worry about mak­ing the right de­ci­sion or get ner­vous be­ing in such a key role, but I learn from ev­ery call­out I go to and I have an amaz­ing group of mates who are will­ing to part with ad­vice if I get stuck.’’

MARY-JO TOHILL

Bal­clutha Fire Brigade sta­tion of­fi­cer Stacey Ver­heul.

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