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Frustrated volunteer firefighters ditch RFS brigades for independent ‘mozzie’ teams

Cathy Noakes walked away from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) in 2014, but she never quit firefighting.

After more than a decade of active service, three of them as captain of her brigade in Farringdon, Ms Noakes stepped down in frustration with the RFS bureaucracy.

“You weren’t allowed to just go and put out a fire,” she said. “You always had to wait for approval. So, as you waited, the fire just escalated.”

Instead, Ms Noakes joined the “mosquito army”, a network of community-based firefighting teams, that went on to play a vital role in firefighting efforts during the 2019-2020 bushfires around Braidwood in the NSW Southern Tablelands.

With their own firefighting gear and radios, local knowledge and experience, the “mozzies” worked in close partnership with their local brigades when RFS resources were stretched beyond their limit across the state.

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The Victim Summaries

The Victim summaries contained in this document are from volunteers and staff who have bravely contacted the author to express their destressing and desperate plights. What is clear in every case is that the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) knowing showed an arogenate disregard of its duty of care as an employer. It, the RFS, fosters a culture where reports of Bullying, Harassment, Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct were ignored, supressed or dismissed. Complaints and grievances are systematically lost and investigations delayed and incompetently mishandled to the point complainants simply give up and leave the service. Retaliation is a common occurrence for victims of the RFS. It is common for a complainant to be the subject of a new counter complaint especially when the original complaint is about a Captain or other senior member of their Brigade. Dog Whistling and Gaslighting are common place and go unchecked even in the presence of senior RFS staff.

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Survey – Impact of Firefighting chemicals on Species and Ecosystems in Australia

A team of researchers at Griffith University are conducting a survey to try and identify knowledge and knowledge gaps in relation to the impact of fire-fighting chemicals on species and ecosystems in Australia as part of a larger project.

They are looking for the opinions of people from groups involved in fire management in Australia.

These groups might include fire services, researchers, policy makers, land managers, government and chemical manufacturers.

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Scientist investigating Australia’s past says Indigenous cultural burning key to controlling bushfires

Nestled beside one of Melbourne’s busiest roads, sits the Bolin Bolin Billabong — a site of immense cultural significance for the traditional owners, the Wurundjeri people.

Part of a once-vast wetland that flowed into the Yarra River, it’s known to them as Birrarung.

It used to be rich in native foods such as waterfowl, fish, eels and plants.

For associate professor in earth sciences and Wiradjuri man Michael Shawn Fletcher, it’s still rich — in priceless data.

His scientific analysis of this muddy waterhole gives an extraordinary window into the past.

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2021 Peer Support Training Opportunity

RED Friday Peer Support Team Training is available for up to fifteen NSW RFS Volunteer Firefighters (fully sponsored by RED Friday).

RED Friday has created a program schedule specifically for NSW RFS Volunteers.

Note: You don’t have to be a member of the VFFA to participate.

The primary focus of the program is the development of the skills needed to provide a reliable internal support system at a Brigade level and a crisis response plan (external support programs) as needed.

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Leadership styles on volunteer firefighter mental health and wellbeing – Research Study

Project title

Exploring the influence of leadership styles on volunteer firefighter mental health and wellbeing.

What does the research involve?

This study seeks to explore the impacts of COVID-19 on volunteer firefighter’s mental health and wellbeing. Specifically, the researchers are interested in whether these changes influence firefighter burnout and engagement in the workplace, and what factors foster positive outcomes during these uncertain and turbulent times. Factors which may improve volunteer firefighter mental health include resilience and exposure to leadership from supervisors.

If you consent to participate in this study, you will complete a brief questionnaire taking approximately 10–15 minutes. The survey begins by asking for your basic demographic information, before moving on to a range of validated scales. For each of these scales, you will respond by indicating how well certain statements describe your current circumstances.

Researcher

Ashley McCuaig-Walton is a postgraduate student studying psychology at Monash University.

What are the benefits?

The benefits for firefighters who participate in this study include being able to contribute to new and practical research on firefighter mental health and wellbeing from a well-established university. As a small additional incentive, participants who complete the survey would also have the opportunity to enter a draw to win one of four $50 e-gift vouchers. Firefighters who take part in this study also can receive a copy of the results and a summary of the key findings from the study if requested.

How do I get involved?

The online survey has now closed and we thank everyone who participated.

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