By Paul Sakkal, Brisbane Times:
The nation’s volunteer firefighting force has been reduced by about 18,000 members over the past decade, with volunteer chiefs blaming an aging cohort and toxic workplace cultures.
The biggest decreases occurred in Victoria and Western Australia, with a more modest reduction on average in NSW, raising concerns about state fire services’ ability to combat fires during prolonged bushfire seasons.
Victoria’s Country Fire Authority shed more than 5000 volunteers in eight years, while NSW’s Rural Fire Service has lost more than 3000 in four years.
“We’ve had a lot of bullying and harassment claims, as highlighted in a recent upper house inquiry … and it’s influenced people leaving, absolutely,” said Mick Holton, president of NSW’s Volunteer Fire Firefighters Association.
“As a service, the RFS should be engaging [with the issue] – they shouldn’t be using the boys’ club to direct things, they should be setting an example.”
Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria chief executive Adam Barnett said a long-running schism between volunteer and career firefighters was turning people away from volunteering.
“How [volunteers] have been treated over the last few years goes to the heart of the question of why anyone would volunteer … people are fed up,” he said.
Read the full story here.