5 April 2010 Letter to the editor Herald Sun diversity in the MFB

Everyone has their own ideas on how to nurture diversity and why it is important.  The current fracas over the pre-employment training initiative of the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB) presents a prime example.

Devised to help the MFB better serve Victoria’s increasingly diverse population, the proposed program has been criticised in some quarters as being tokenistic and potentially harmful to the standards of the fire brigade.

Yet all the program seeks to achieve is to better inform and prepare applicants traditionally unfamiliar with the rigours of the MFB application and assessment process about what they should expect.

In practice, it is little more than providing a range of translated directions to the starting line.  Contrary to the fears of some, it does not require special allowances be made so that women or ethnic minorities reach the finishing line easier.

All applicants who attend the pre-employment training sessions still have to meet exactly the same benchmarks and pass exactly the same tests of strength, skill and expertise.

The long-term benefits are obvious.  An emergency involving a Victorian from a newly-arrived community is going to be able to communicate more efficiently and effectively with a fire fighter who can speak the same language.

Our state is all too aware of the horrific toll that can arise when such immediate and knowledgeable communication is unavailable.

I urge the MFB not to abandon its push to make the ranks of our fire services as ready-placed and broadly prepared as possible.

Sam Afra JP


Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria

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