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Transcript: CEO Frances Diver on 3AW

By: CFA Media

Category: Other

  11.11 AM 6 December, 2017


Location: General

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Transcript of CFA Chief Executive Officer Frances Diver interview with 3AW’s Neil Mitchell on Wednesday, 6 December. 

NEIL MITCHELL:

I want to look at this CFA footage I mentioned a moment ago from the CCTV at a country station, Central Victoria, but I'm delighted to say that Peter Marshall from the United Firefighters Union must be alive and well, because I was starting to wonder, haven't heard from him for a long time. He has sent a text: please tell Neil this behaviour is not that of which professional firefighters engaged in, it is CFA volunteer firefighters. Thank you Peter Marshall.

In the studio with me is the chief executive of the CFA. Frances Diver, good morning.

FRANCES DIVER:       

Morning, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

OK, describe what you saw on the footage.

FRANCES DIVER:       

Look, on Monday morning, I was provided some CCTV footage from one of our volunteer brigades near Bendigo and that footage shows a young girl, a 17 year old girl, getting out of a truck with a group of men - mostly middle aged men - and they engage in physical behaviour with the woman: dragging her across the floor, pushing her over, holding her down, and harming her. So, I was…

NEIL MITCHELL:        

[Interrupts] They put her under the truck and turned the sprinklers on.

FRANCES DIVER:       

Yes they did, they did wet her with the fine spray of a truck. I was sickened by the footage I saw, I was horrified and very disturbed. My immediate reaction is for the girl, I'm very concerned about the girl and her family, and we immediately sent our integrity officer up to visit the family, contact the family and visit them and talk to them. The girl and the family don't particularly want to take this case further, but from my point of view whilst we want to protect her privacy and we wouldn't want to cause any more harm to her and we want to put as much support as we can around her, we need to take action and we have taken action.

NEIL MITCHELL:         

OK. Firstly, is she OK?

FRANCES DIVER:       

She is OK. She's not physically harmed, and she doesn't want to take the matter further, but we've sent a peer support worker in to see her yesterday and we'll continue to support her.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

Would you describe- it looked to me like a bastardisation hazing, perhaps some sort of initiation ceremony behaviour. Is that what it was?

FRANCES DIVER:       

Look, I can't tell you exactly what it was. I can tell you that it was completely unacceptable behaviour that absolutely sickens everybody that sees that footage, and we will undertake an independent investigation to determine exactly what is going on in that brigade that allowed that behaviour to continue. One of the most disturbing parts of the footage is that not only did one or two individuals engage in that behaviour, but a group of people stood by and watched the behaviour.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

I must say that's what I found one of the most horrifying things. She's being treated appallingly by one or two people, and others are just wandering past or standing there watching.

FRANCES DIVER:       

Correct, and that tells you that there's a cultural problem in that brigade that somehow people think that this is acceptable behaviour, and personally I don't get it. Anyone in management that we've shown that footage to doesn't get it, we don't understand. So, what we did is, on Monday, we referred the matter to Vic Pol. We also then summonsed the individuals into the local district office, asked them to explain, and we suspended them immediately pending the investigation.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

So, how many are suspended?

FRANCES DIVER:       

So, we've suspended four, the four that we could immediately identify, and then we're now undertaking the investigation. There's additional individuals that we've now identified who will be interviewed, and then we will do a broader review, because what concerns me is that we've got footage of this incident; what other incidents have occurred in that brigade? If this is…

NEIL MITCHELL:        

[Interrupts] Well, not in that brigade. Is this a cultural issue within the CFA?

FRANCES DIVER:       

Look, I've been saying ever since I arrived at the CFA, Neil, that we've got a cultural problem in the CFA. There is a cultural problem that we need to address. We have a problem of the CFA really- look, it operates a bit like a family and that has some positive attributes, but it also has some negative attributes and things are- I think, in the past have been swept under the carpet, and that is no longer the case and we have been very clear ever since the day I arrived, and the new board and the new chief officer, we are saying: this is a big problem in the CFA. We want to be a modern, agile organisation that welcomes women, that welcomes young people, that's a positive and productive culture, and certainly we've got brigades like that. Absolutely we have volunteers…

NEIL MITCHELL:        

[Interrupts] So, you think this wouldn't be isolated? You think there'd be CFA volunteer brigades where people - women and men - are being mistreated this way?

FRANCES DIVER:       

So, I don't know the answer to that, but what I've got is video footage of one brigade where that's occurred and one incident. I'll be looking to see if that's occurred at other times in that brigade, and I'm making it very clear wherever I go that this is not acceptable behaviour.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

Frances Diver - I won't ask her to take the calls - but if you're in the CFA, have you come across this sort of behaviour? Is it common or would you say this is isolated? 96 900 693 13 13 32. CFA volunteers, I happen to be MC’ing at an event at a CFA station myself at the weekend, and I guarantee the people I met there wouldn't be involved in this sort of thing, I would guarantee it. 96 900 693 13 13 32.

Is it fair, though- you say the girl doesn't want to take it any further but you referred it to police? Isn't that wrong for her?

FRANCES DIVER:       

I've got a responsibility. As soon as I saw the video footage, I thought that that might be criminal behaviour, then I've got a responsibility to refer it to Vic Pol. Vic Pol will then go and visit the girl and the family and it's then up to them to determine if they take it further.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

Are you willing to release the video?

FRANCES DIVER:       

Look, we've shown the video to you and we'll show it to some other journalists if they request it in terms of verifying what I'm saying, but the girl and the family really don't want this released. It's humiliating for the girl and I understand that. She's a young girl, she lives in a small town, it would be humiliating and my first interest is actually in protecting her, then I go to the point that CFA needs to be transparent about this sort of thing. It doesn't matter what it is in the CFA, where it's going wrong, we need to be transparent and we need to be clear with the community and also speaking to our 50-odd thousand volunteers that this is not OK behaviour. We will not tolerate it, there is a line in the sand to be drawn, I am horrified at the idea that a young girl has been brutalised in that way. I've got parents who are sending their kids into junior brigades and to work as 16 and 17 year olds in brigades, and I need to provide some assurance to those parents that we are taking this seriously.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

Is it likely to be, then, that the people involved in this will be thrown out of the CFA?

FRANCES DIVER:       

Look, there's a due process to go through. We certainly…

NEIL MITCHELL:        

[Interrupts] In fairness, you've pre-judged it a bit here.

FRANCES DIVER:       

Well, I've got video evidence that's pretty clear to me that what occurred was completely inappropriate. So clear that I felt obliged to refer it to Vic Pol - in fact, not only Vic Pol but I've also referred it to WorkSafe and I've provided the material to VEOHRC as well for their review in to equity and diversity in the fire services. So, I think we've made it really clear that we need to act; it's up to Vic Pol now to determine the next steps.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

Peter Marshall has been quick to make the point this is volunteers, not professional firefighters. Do you have concerns about professional firefighters as well as the volunteer culture?

FRANCES DIVER:       

Look, CFA is one service and the behaviour standard that we set is across the entire service. It doesn't matter whether you're a career firefighter, an administrative or professional support worker or a volunteer, there is one set of behaviours that is acceptable in the CFA. And I'm not making a- I'm not distinguishing between them. I'm also not- I guess what I'd also like to say is CFA is taking responsibility for this. For too long we've blamed other people; we've blamed the union, we've blamed the Volunteers Association, we've blamed others. The board has made it very clear that cultural change in the CFA is one of the number one priorities that we need to work on.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

Are you releasing the name of the station?

FRANCES DIVER:       

So, I think the name of the station is known. It's Eaglehawk Station, near Bendigo.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

Near Bendigo, OK. [Indistinct] that's a small volunteer station.

FRANCES DIVER:       

It is about 50 members of that brigade. They're supported by the Bendigo Fire Brigade as well. And we had a meeting- there was a brigade meeting last night where 30 or so members went to the meeting and we explained. The Assistant Chief Officer from the region attended as well as a peer support worker and explained to the brigade what had occurred and explained that there was likely to be media coverage. They were very concerned about the media coverage and they're very concerned about their town. And I'm sure they'll be very concerned about this being named. My point is that CFA needs to be on the front foot. We need to be transparent about this and we need to step up and deal with these issues.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

Well, if they want to speak to me they're more than able to do so. I'd welcome- they can do it anonymously. Anyway any CFA employees or volunteers; 96 900 693 13 13 32. It's particularly relevant to this; have you seen that report yet in to bullying and harassment that's been frozen in the courts by the union?

FRANCES DIVER:       

So, no I haven't personally seen it.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

Isn't it important when you see this to get it out there?

FRANCES DIVER:       

Yeah, CFA welcomes the report being released. So, we're working- we've worked with the Human Rights Commission to provide evidence and information for the report. The matter's with the courts at the moment and we're awaiting the judgement.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

Thank you very much for your time.

FRANCES DIVER:       

Thanks, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:        

Frances Diver, the Chief Executive of the CFA.

Last Updated: 06 December 2017