Six firey females - Mariska Hawke

Six firey females - Mariska Hawke

Near Mount Gambier and the Victorian border lies the small, country town of Kalangadoo. It’s a rich, agricultural district and also home to Mariska Hawke, a CFS volunteer whose star is on the rise.

Mariska Hawke’s great, great grandfather moved to Kalangadoo by accident. He was passing by on his way to the Victorian goldfields … and loved it so much, he never left.

As the fifth generation of Kalangadites, Mariska – who works as a Chartered Accountant at a busy firm - also has no intentions of leaving.

“It’s a beautiful part of the world and I’ve never wanted to move to the big smoke,” she said. “I also never had intentions of joining the CFS nine years ago but well, look at me now!”

The catalyst for the 39-year-old was when her husband was approached by a work colleague who urged them to join the local brigade, which was in desperate need of more firefighters.

“We knew nothing about it, but we instantly felt a connection and liked the idea of helping the community,’ Mariska said. “My husband has since gone on to become a Lieutenant. As for me, less than two years in the captain said, ‘I need to move on and do other things - I think you should take over.’ To which I said, ‘Me? Are you sure?!’ I didn’t feel like I was experienced enough, so it really was a baptism by fire.”

Clearly, the captain and crew saw leadership potential and talents in Mariska and within a few months the brigade grew from 6 people to 14 people.

We developed a really good culture at Kalangadoo CFS and word of mouth helped too. In fact, the last couple of recruits approached us when they moved into town. And of course, we welcomed them with open arms.

Mariska was asked to step up to support the Wattle Range group, and once again her talents were not overlooked.

“The Group Officer said I think you’d be great to put forward at the next elections,’ and once again, I was like ‘Oh, really?!’

Six months ago, Mariska was voted in for the important role of Deputy Group Officer, which provides support to both the Group Officer and directly to the regional brigades in human resources, finance, logistics and the broad spectrum of incidents - from minor right through to large bushfires.

“I basically help the brigades to help themselves and make sure everyone feels confident in their roles and responsibilities so that everything runs smoothly,” Mariska said.

For someone who had no intention of joining the CFS, it’s amazing how things change.  

“So, I’m Deputy Group Officer today, perhaps Chief Officer tomorrow… but only if they move the whole headquarters down here to Region Five! I love it here too much,” she said.

07 March 2024