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Shirley May Berger

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Shirley May Berger

Awarded for service to Emergency Services

Born: 24 September 1964

Entered on roll: 2008

On 23 May 2007, Shirley Berger completed the necessary qualifications and assessments to become the first female career Leading Firefighter in the Tasmania Fire Service, making her a trailblazer for women in this male dominated profession. As a Leading Firefighter she is also qualified as a Station Officer and is able to act in this position as required.

Shirley grew up as one of 12 children on a farm in West Ridgley and was educated at Ridgley Primary School and Parklands High. After a period of travel, and working at various jobs Shirley settled on the North-West Coast and married Ueli. She has three children, two girls, Melanie and Holly and a son Toby. While the children were growing up Shirley worked from home and ran a successful hydroponic strawberry farm along with a piggery and small farming operation.

Shirley undertook university studies as a mature age student and started work with the Education Department. Looking for a career change, in 2001, she joined the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) as a recruit firefighter. After her initial training she spent time at the Launceston Fire Brigade, before transferring to the North-West Coast in 2002.

As the first permanent female firefighter on the North-West Coast, there were significant challenges for her and she had to work hard to become accepted in a stereotypical male domain. In 2001, her leadership skills were already evident and she was selected in the contingent that went to assist fighting the devastating Christmas fires in New South Wales.

Shirley has worked hard to achieve competencies during her career and undertook TAFE studies as well as in-service training. She was the only TFS Senior Firefighter to achieve Certificate IV in Firefighting (Supervision). Shirley actively promotes fire safety and is involved with the Junior Firelighter Intervention Program, and is also involved in community juvenile diversionary conferences.

Shirley is a peer counsellor in the Tasmanian Emergency Services Critical Incident Stress Management program where she provides support to emergency service personnel after traumatic incidents. She is a strong advocate for fairness and equity in the TFS and has assisted a number of applicants in their efforts to pursue their careers in the Service. Shirley participates in career expos and has spoken to many school and community groups, promoting the job of firefighter.

Shirley is particularly interested in fire investigation and has been involved with a number of complex investigations. She has pursued opportunities in a wide range of fire service activities, including Sector Commander training. As a result, Shirley was deployed to the East Coast fires in 2007 and appointed Sector Commander, working with a combination of local and taskforce crews. Shirley also acted, under supervision, as Incident Controller at the multi-million dollar fire at the Adult Education Centre in Burnie, where she coordinated career and volunteer crews at the fire.

Shirley owns, breeds and competes with her thoroughbred horses, breeds Labrador dogs, is an active advocate for animal welfare and regularly takes in horses and dogs at her Stowport farm.

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