By Derek Schlennstedt
A formal complaint has been made to CFA headquarters regarding bullying allegations at Healesville CFA brigade.
The complaint also implicates individuals at other brigades in CFA District 13.
A female complainant from Healesville, who asked to remain anonymous, joined Healesville brigade, and later lodged a complaint following alleged bullying which she received while at Healesville and while training in Mooroolbark.
She has alleged the bullying occurred on a regular basis and contributed to her informal resignation only four and a half months after joining.
“It was varying degrees of bullying, harassment, humiliation,” said the complainant.
“I was there for four and a half months and it started from day dot to the very last day.”
Having undergone training at Mooroolbark, the complainant and another female member were relocated to Healesville after they were allegedly bullied during training exercises.
The complainant described the move as “removing the victim from the situation, instead of removing the perpetrator”, and said the bullying still continued after she was removed from regular training.
At training, and at Healesville, she said comments and heckling often occurred, usually in front of other people.
“We had training at night, and I was in the car on the way back from training when one of the other operational members said to me, ‘how are you going to get your hair and make-up done in time to get down to the station on time for turnout?’”
“That was the first instance … I thought that’s a bit stupid to say … but then every week it was the same.
“Because it was in front of other people, too, it was embarrassing.”
The official statement from the complainant contains over 100 points from alleged incidents, which occurred both at Healesville brigade and while undergoing CFA training with recruits at Mooroolbark.
Another female who went through the CFA training at the same time as the complainant, and was a member at Healesville, has echoed the complainant’s experience.
She told the ’Mail’ that both of them received distasteful comments while at the brigade and described it as a “boys’ club“.
“From the start, there was a clear line drawn in the sand between the men and women of the brigade,” she said.
“It’s a boys’ club … they’ve all got each others’ back and no one’s willing to speak up about it.”
In one instance, when covering an event, both women allegedly received a comment from a member about the pair moving in together in the future.
“We were just having a general conversation on how we would become roommates … and one of the guys said to us ‘Well there’s trouble’, and we replied, all it will be is us drinking champagne.”
“He said, ‘That’s where it starts, it starts with the alcohol, and then you take it to the bedroom, and then the games start, people always take their clothes off but can’t put them back on the same way … there are girls’ parties that will happen there that include champagne and playing games in the bedroom.’”
The complainant said that although actions were taken by the CFA and Healesville brigade to address the issue, including involvement from District, it nevertheless continued.
“Every single week, it was always from someone different … so someone would say something, we’d complain and they’d get spoken to, and then someone else would say something, we’d complain and they’d get spoken to,” the complainant said.
“It’s no good telling someone they’ve done the wrong thing and then have it happen from someone else … it was sort of like a hopeless situation, nothing was going to change at all.”
The ’Mail’ has contacted the CFA, which was able to confirm the investigation was underway, but was unable to comment.
“CFA can confirm there is a formal investigation underway and we are unable to comment on any ongoing investigations due to the confidentiality afforded to all involved in the process,” a CFA spokesperson said.
The complaint was first raised to CFA headquarters on 16 November last year.