Published: 11th June 2010

Minister for Emergency Services, Steve Whan and Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) Brendan O’Reilly today welcomed the response of the NSWFB to recommendations made by KPMG (PDF, 1.66MB) following their review of workplace conduct in the Brigades.

The review, initiated by NSWFB Commissioner Greg Mullins, and oversighted by an independent inquiry panel, made 14 recommendations on improvements that need to be made to the workplace culture of the Brigades.

"Many of the recommendations from the Review that refer to bullying and harassment are already being dealt with by the NSWFB and will ensure the creation of a better workplace environment for all staff" Mr Whan said.

"I have said before that there is absolutely no place in the NSWFB for the kind of incidents that are alleged to have taken place in the 1970's and 80's, nor for more subtle forms of bullying and harassment that appear to still be happening in some areas today. KPMG has identified problems which are of concern, and the Inquiry Panel has reported that the NSWFB is taking strong, appropriate action to address them." said Mr Whan

Mr Whan said the NSW Government and NSWFB Commissioner Greg Mullins have taken a strong stance and a large number of initiatives are already underway or soon to be implemented.

"This Review forms a benchmark for the current position and provides fourteen specific recommendations to support on-going reform and improvement in the Fire Brigade's culture. The Inquiry Panel, Commissioner Mullins, Mr O’Reilly and I welcome and support the recommendations, as they provide a roadmap for improvement that will be pursued and regularly reported on.

"A key recommendation of the Review is to provide more resources to proactively deal with workplace grievances and misconduct. The Government has already announced the set up of a new workplace conduct and investigations unit at an additional cost of over $1.3 million to be included in the 2010-11 budget, enabling the NSWFB to deal more quickly and effectively with workplace matters. The Commissioner is also restructuring the entire education and training area with a focus on culture change. This follows the recent rollout of new respectful workplace training which will be provided to all employees statewide.

Director General of DPC, Brendan O'Reilly, said that he and Commissioner Mullins had met regularly and agreed to a number of new measures in addition to the KPMG recommendations. "Commissioner Mullins was concerned about the level of resources available to quickly implement a range of reforms, so we agreed to the appointment of a new Deputy Commissioner to oversee support and governance, and she has been provided with a team of people to work exclusively on the projects."

Commissioner Mullins welcomed the KPMG report. "The types of behaviours that came to light have no place in the NSWFB or any other workplace. We have reaffirmed that there is no tolerance for any form of bullying, harassment or inappropriate workplace conduct, and we are committed to making the necessary changes to ensure that we have a safe and healthy workplace for all employees."

The range of initiatives underway to address workplace conduct, governance, processes and culture include:

  • A new independent 24 hour hotline, staffed by experts in workplace conduct matters, for employees to confidentially report any workplace issues that they may not feel comfortable raising via the normal chain of command.
  • Assigning specific liaison officer positions to ensure that matters can be immediately referred to the NSW Police Force and Independent Commission Against Corruption when necessary.
  • Appointing the Hon Justice Lance Wright QC, former President of the Industrial Relations Commission, to investigate an incident and to ensure robust systems are in place to deal with protected disclosures.
  • Improving systems and processes to more rapidly progress and track all workplace conduct complaints.
  • Organisation-wide training in effective workplace communication and complaint resolution commenced in May and is being delivered to all 7000 staff.
  • Strengthening the NSWFB’s Code of Conduct and other workplace conduct policies, together with appropriate education and training
  • A restructure of the learning and development directorate and an increased focus on training for managers in appropriate communication styles, and dealing with workplace conflict
  • Increased resources in the workplace conduct and human resource management areas.

The full KPMG report and its recommendations can be found here:

Download the full KPMG report here (PDF, 1.66MB)