‘Women do not belong in brigade’

‘Women do not belong in brigade’

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The Oakford Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade where captain Don Wright has been accused by a member of bullying. Photograph – Aaron Van Rongen.

A formal complaint has been filed against Oakford Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade captain Don Wright following allegations of bullying.

The complaint, made by a Darling Downs resident who asked to remain anonymous, was filed with the shire earlier this year.

She said she was fearful Mr Wright would be appointed as Deputy Three in a few weeks.

“Deputy Three will give him power over all the fire brigades in the shire,” she said.

“I’ve had enough of this and I want to speak out, I’m no princess and I can handle things but enough is enough.”

She said there have been a number of alleged incidents such as his tone of voice, rudeness towards female members of the team and his attitude of ‘boys will be boys’.

“This is a volunteer group,” she said.

“We are all here to serve the community but the bullying and negligence has gone on for too long.”

She has also alleged one of the members of the Oakford Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade was accidently issued an HR unrestricted licence by the Department of Transport.

Although the mistake was corrected the woman has alleged he had the wrong license as he did not sit the correct test for the licence he had.

“I kept thinking to myself people’s lives were in danger,” she said.

“He was not qualified to have that license or drive the vehicle, I brought it up with the others and I got yelled at by Don.”

She said Mr Wright stood her down after she refused to get into the vehicle with the person carrying the incorrect licence.

“Don has been there for 20 years,” she said.

“He needs to be stopped, I’ve heard him say women don’t belong in the fire brigade.”

The Examiner contacted Oakford Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade captain Don Wright but he did not comment on the questions posed to him.

He said to refer all enquiries to the Emergency Services Department at the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale.

Shire president John Erren said the shire took incidents of bullying and grievances seriously.

“There are policies and procedures in place for staff and volunteers which have been adopted by council,” he said.

Mr Erren said once a formal complaint has been received confidentiality for all parties was maintained.

“In accordance with council’s policy and procedures, issues relating to any grievance may only be discussed with the grievance officer and with the consent of all the parties concerned,” he said.

“The shire is unfortunately unable to comment further due to confidentiality reasons affecting individuals.”

Mr Erren also said an operational fire control officer would be expected to have extensive knowledge and skills within the realms of bushfire management.

“The appointment of the deputy chief bush fire control officer three is in accordance with Section 38 of the Bushfires Act,” he said.

“They are the third ranking deputy within the chain of command in bush fire management, on this basis a recommendation is provided to the chief executive officer.”