Independent Equity and Diversity Review of the Country Fire Authority and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade

About the Review

In December 2015 the Victorian Government asked the Commission to investigate equity and diversity in the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB). Specifically, it asked the Commission to:

  • examine the nature, prevalence, drivers and impacts of discrimination (including attribute-based bullying), sexual harassment and victimisation
  • make recommendations to improve safety and respect, including addressing barriers to equity and diversity, and drive cultural and practice change. 

The Review is limited to the experiences of current CFA and MFB personnel and those personnel who left the agencies in or after 2010.

The Review is intended to build on the findings of the Report of the Victorian Fire Services Review: Drawing a line, building stronger services, commissioned by the Victorian Government in July 2015. Conducted by Mr David O’Byrne, that review identified significant issues in the workplace cultures of CFA and MFB. In March 2016, the Victorian Government responded to that report, advising that the Commission would undertake an Independent Review into equity and diversity in CFA and MFB.

Information sources

The Commission analysed a range of qualitative and quantitative information to inform its Review, including: 

  • a survey of CFA and MFB personnel
  • confidential interviews with current and former CFA and MFB personnel
  • small focus groups with particular cohorts of CFA and MFB personnel
  • written submissions from CFA and MFB personnel
  • visits to CFA and MFB workplaces
  • consultations with people with expert knowledge of discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation, and/or the fire agencies
  • data about CFA and MFB workforces.

The Commission also reviewed governing legislation and considered relevant secondary sources, including scholarship and industry policies and reviews. 

The Commission appointed an Expert Panel and a Project Governance Group to guide the conduct of the Review.

Current status of the Review

In June 2017 the United Firefighters Union of Australia (Victoria Branch) applied to the Supreme Court to prevent publication of the final report of the Review.

In December 2017 the Supreme Court of Victoria rejected the UFUV’s legal challenge. It found that the Review was validly constituted and that the matters being investigated by the Commission are within its statutory powers. It also found that the methodology used was reasonable and appropriate, and acknowledged that the Commission had followed best practice.

See the Commission's media release from 15 December 2017, Commission prepares to release CFA and MFB review following court ruling.

The UFUV subsequently appealed the ruling. The Court of Appeal heard arguments related to that appeal on 16 April. It reserved its decision, which will be issued at a later date. 

See the Commission's media release from 16 April 2018, Court hearing today on the Independent Equity and Diversity Review into CFA and MFB and 18 April 2018, Update regarding Court of Appeal hearing on the Independent Equity and Diversity Review into CFA and MFB.

The Commission will provide a further update relating to the final report of the Review at the earliest opportunity following the Court of Appeal’s decision.

Protecting your wellbeing

If you need to speak to a counsellor or support person, please contact one of the support services below, which can assist you out of hours.

If you are in danger, please contact 000.

Country Fire Authority (CFA) support services

CFA provides a range of confidential support services and resources available to assist all members and their immediate families:

Peer Support Program

The peer support program is made up of trained members offering support and guidance – they can be contacted through your local Peer Coordinator.

The Member Assistance Program

This service offers a 24-hour external and confidential counselling service. The Member Assistance Program can be contacted on 1300 795 711.

Chaplaincy Program

The Chaplaincy program offers 24-hour pastoral care by calling 1800 337 068.

Other information and advice

Information and advice on managing mental health and relationship issues for members is available in the HeadsUP online toolkit: cfa.vic.gov.au/headsup

Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) support services

Please be aware that all these services are free, confidential and voluntary.

Peer Support – for MFB Staff and Immediate Family

The MFB Peer Support program has a group of staff who have undergone brief mental health and wellbeing training. They are a point of contact for you if you have ‘average’ levels of distress, and feel as though talking to another staff member could be a helpful option. If they think your situation requires more support, they may recommend counselling.

Their contact details are available through the MFB Intranet (Department Directory – Emergency Support – Employee Support program), in your Green Wall Wallet, or you can contact the MFB Peer Support Coordinator (0429 771 849).

Counselling – for MFB Staff and Immediate Family

The MFB has two counselling options, which can be of assistance if your distress is more significant, or more support is needed. These options are:

  1. Internal psychologists/social workers consult from private rooms. These staff are highly trained in trauma and emergency services work.
  2. External psychologists are available through the MFB Employee Assistance Program provider OPTUM. OPTUM’s direct number is 1300 361 008. This is a free confidential service (up to six sessions per person per year) where you can request to see a psychologist in your local area. OPTUM also has 24 hour crisis counsellors, as well as a Manager’s Hotline.

Further information on this option can be obtained from the Green Wall Wallets, the MFB Employee Assistance Coordinator (0407 665 174) or the MFB Peer Support Coordinator (0429 771 849).

MFB Workplace Behaviour Line

The MFB Workplace Behaviour Line is run by Davidson Trahaire Corpsych. It is independent of the MFB and is an additional option to the existing Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services, including external counselling run by Optum.

The MFB Workplace Behaviour Line means you can call 1300 765 612 – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – to access psychologists who may: 

  • ensure your immediate safety and wellbeing 
  • respond in a professional, confidential, supportive, sensitive and ethical manner 
  • provide support – where required – to make a formal complaint to the MFB if you choose to do so
  • make referrals to other and specialist support services (including the MFB EAP) where appropriate

You can also contact the MFB Workplace Behaviour Line via email on mfb-wbl@davcorp.com. Information you provide is confidential.  

Chaplaincy – for MFB Staff and Immediate Family

The MFB chaplain provides non-religious, spiritual support for work and/or personal issues. The Chaplain can be contacted on 0439 972 030.

Specialist external agencies

Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA)

CASAs are non-profit, government funded organisations that provide support and intervention to women, children and men who are victim/survivors of sexual assault and who have experienced or been affected by sexual harassment. You can be referred to your local CASA or contact them directly.

The Commission has a formal referral agreement with CASA for this Review, and Review;staff can contact them for you with your express consent. CASA workers are required to maintain the strictest confidentiality and are sensitive to the particular challenges for emergency services personnel accessing their services.

CASA House (Melbourne CBD)
Ph: (03) 9635 3610 (business hours)
Web: casahouse.com.au
Email: casa@thewomens.org.au

Sexual Assault Crisis Line
Ph: 1800 806 292 (24 hours) This number diverts to local CASA services after hours.
Web: sacl.com.au

Victims Support Agency (VSA)

The Victims Support Agency have agreed to assist the Review by providing support to people. The Victims of Crime Helpline can give you advice about reporting a crime, find other services that can help you, give you information about your rights, give you information about how courts work, and help you apply for compensation and financial assistance.

The Commission has a formal referral agreement with VSA for this Review, and Review staff can contact them for you with your express consent. VSA workers are required to maintain the strictest confidentiality and are sensitive to the particular challenges for emergency services personnel accessing their services.

Ph: 1800 819 817 (8am -11pm, 7 days a week) or text 0427 767 891
Web: victimsofcrime.vic.gov.au

Other external support

BeyondBlue

Ph: 1300 22 4636 (24 hours/7 days a week)
Web: beyondblue.org.au

Beyondblue provides mental health information and support to anyone in Australia, whatever their age or wherever they live. All calls are one-on-one with a trained mental health professional, and completely confidential. 

Lifeline

Ph: 13 11 14 – 24hr Telephone Crisis Support
Web: lifeline.org.au

13 11 14 is a confidential telephone crisis support service available 24/7 from a landline, payphone or mobile. Anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide can contact Lifeline.

1800 RESPECT: National sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service

Ph:1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
Web: 1800respect.org.au

Qualified and experienced counsellors provide telephone and online counselling, information and assistance to access other services to all people in Australia affected by sexual assault and domestic and family violence, including family and friends. Open 24 hours, seven days a week.

Safe Steps (formerly Women's Domestic Violence Crisis Service)

Ph: 1800 015 188 (freecall) or (03) 9322 3555
Email: wdvcs@wdvcs.org.au
Web: wdvcs.org.au

A statewide not-for-profit service for women and children experiencing abuse from a partner or ex-partner, another family member or someone close to them. Provides emergency accommodation, a free 24-hour crisis line, outreach services, advocacy, referral and information and support services.

No to Violence Men’s Referral Service

Ph: 1300 766 491
Web: mrs.org.au

No to Violence Service provides anonymous and confidential telephone counselling, information and referrals to help stop men using violence and controlling behaviour. 

Kids Helpline

Ph: 1800 55 1800
Web: kidshelpline.com.au

Kids Helpline is a free, private and confidential, phone counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25.

If you are under 18, you can call any of the services listed here. If you want to speak to a youth-specific helpline, you can call the Kids Helpline.

Making a complaint

If you wish to enquire about, or make a formal complaint of discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation, you can call the Commission on 1300 292 153, chat with us online or submit an online complaint form.

Media contact

Anna Craig
Mobile: 0447 526 642
Email: Anna.Craig@veohrc.vic.gov.au

 

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