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Enough is Enough- Statement from the Board of WAFA

Enough is Enough.

Fol­low­ing the 2018 Women and Fire­fight­ing Aus­trala­sia (WAFA) Con­fer­ence Shap­ing the New Norm” the WAFA Board com­mis­sioned an Out­comes State­ment[1] which was sup­port­ed by the Gen­der and Dis­as­ter Pod and was gen­er­ous­ly fund­ed by Emer­gency Man­age­ment Aus­tralia. The out­comes state­ment is a lega­cy state­ment and pro­vides insights on cur­rent best prac­tices, future direc­tions, actions and oppor­tu­ni­ties for women in fire­fight­ing. Dis­crim­i­na­tion and sex­u­al harass­ment against women in fire­fight­ing and emer­gency ser­vices were iden­ti­fied as a key area of con­cern. It con­tin­ues to be an ongo­ing area of con­cern for women in the sec­tor and as such should be a key focus for agen­cies and organisations.

Expe­ri­enc­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, harass­ment and/​or assault with­in a work­place can cause great harm, both to the women involved, and bystanders and can result in women leav­ing the sec­tor. When women do report, some expe­ri­ence fur­ther harass­ment and iso­la­tion. In addi­tion, good men who want to be allies are sim­ply not aware of how often dis­crim­i­na­tion, harass­ment vic­tim­i­sa­tion and assault are occur­ring or they lack the tools to be an effec­tive ally.

Bul­ly­ing, sex­u­al harass­ment, assault and intim­i­da­tion are not accept­able regard­less of gen­der, rank or agency. The actions of the few should not ruin the rep­u­ta­tions of the majority.

WAFA acknowl­edges the work of organ­i­sa­tions like the Aus­tralasian Fire Author­i­ties Coun­cil (AFAC), the Bush­fire and Nat­ur­al Haz­ards CRC (BHN­CRC) and the Cham­pi­ons of Change group who con­tin­u­al­ly work in the gen­der equi­ty space to assist agen­cies with cre­at­ing mean­ing­ful change.

Recent reports how­ev­er high­light the fact there is still a long way to go in some areas. In par­tic­u­lar sup­port­ing vol­un­teers, to ensure that they have appro­pri­ate path­ways to report inap­pro­pri­ate behav­iours with­in the work­place and ade­quate sup­port, regard­less of their deci­sion to report.

WAFA will con­tin­ue to advo­cate for safe work­places for all and to ensure every­one feels sup­port­ed and empow­ered with­in our sector.

Prac­ti­cal Steps to End Sex­u­al Harass­ment and Discrimination

  • Good response struc­tures to effi­cient­ly address inci­dents includ­ing a pol­i­cy for safe report­ing (includ­ing option­al inde­pen­dent third-par­ty report­ing mech­a­nisms), ongo­ing sup­port and a work­place cul­ture that stands up against harass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion. In a vol­un­teer con­text, these report­ing and sup­port struc­tures need to con­sid­er the ongo­ing safe­ty of the woman in the con­text of liv­ing in the same com­mu­ni­ty as a perpetrator(s).
  • Bystander train­ing to empow­er peo­ple to call out bad behaviour.
  • Respond­ing well is not enough. Best prac­tice to reduce harass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion aims to stop harass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion at the start. Pre­ven­tion strate­gies include gen­der equi­ty train­ing – tai­lored ses­sions for senior man­age­ment, mid­dle man­age­ment and human resources sec­tions to rein­force gen­der equi­ty in the work­place. In a vol­un­teer con­text, brigade man­age­ment must also be considered.
  • Even with these strate­gies in place, women may still be exposed to sex­u­al assault, dis­crim­i­na­tion and harass­ment, and a as result leave the ser­vice. To gauge the preva­lence of inci­dents, and the impact they are hav­ing on women leav­ing emer­gency ser­vice work, exit inter­views might include a ques­tion specif­i­cal­ly on dis­crim­i­na­tion and sex­u­al harassment.
  • The inclu­sion of anony­mous report­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties in staff/​volunteer sat­is­fac­tion sur­veys might pro­vide more details about the preva­lence and impact of dis­crim­i­na­tion and sex­u­al harassment.

[1] WAFA Out­comes State­ment 2018