QFES forced to apologise after bullying scandal
A firefighter who helped design the rural brigade's logo was kicked out of the service, despite the Queensland Ombudsman saying the dismissal was wrong and forcing the commissioner to apologise to him.
The man, who has asked not to be named, has been fighting to clear his name since he was dismissed as a rural brigade officer in the Wide Bay region 2016, in what has become a bullying scandal that has prompted a review of legislation.
Following an election at his brigade in late 2015, the man says he was voted out of a leadership position and then prevented from renewing his Rural Fire Service Queensland membership by his colleagues, after raising concerns about station practices.
In one instance, the man says he was reprimanded after he criticised a fellow officer who had misused a chainsaw at height without the correct protective equipment.
The Queensland Ombudsman's Office found in 2019 that the man's termination was "not fair and reasonable", and appropriate procedures were not followed.
"The complainant was not afforded natural justice," Assistant Ombudsman Craig Allen said.
"The department's actions resulted in … a situation that was likely damaging to the complainant in terms of both his health and his standing within the community."
The man has since suffered mental health issues, which QFES says prevent him from returning to work.
QFES told The Courier-Mail this week that current legislation prevented it from interfering in the affairs of rural brigades.
That legislation is now under review.
In a letter to the man, Assistant Commissioner of the Rural Fire Service, Gary McCormack, said QFES regretted what happened.
"Queensland Fire and Emergency Services apologises for the inconsistencies in the process as identified by the Queensland Ombudsman," Mr McCormack wrote.
"It is acknowledged that, because of the legislative regime in place, those inconsistencies are not now able to be overcome.
"QFES regrets any distress caused to you through the complex process which resulted in your termination."
Last year, A Courier-Mail investigation uncovered a "toxic" culture in parts of QFES, in which exhausted volunteers on the front lines of bushfires were ignored and their requests for meetings about the problem were denied.
Volunteers at the time also said they felt bullied, with emails showing one officer was publicly condescended to in a return email written by an inspector which CC'd more than a dozen other firefighters.
Originally published as QFES forced to apologise after bullying scandal