Today’s release of the second volume of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) report into Ambulance Victoria’s culture emphasises the need for significant reforms throughout the organisation, says the head of Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria (AEAV).
“After the damning findings of the first report in November, this report makes clear the need for reform at board and senior executive levels,” said AEAV secretary Brett Adie.
“Volume 2 of the report sets out the conditions that allowed the many negative aspects of AV’s culture to flourish, including a complaints process that left ambulance staff more traumatised than when they made their original complaint.
“The findings by VEOHRC speak of the stark reality that for too long AV has been an organisation governed by a ‘turn a blind eye’ management style, meaning many of the legitimate issues that were brought to the attention of these leaders were ignored, dismissed, or snuffed out.
“The good managers who have tried to make change have been silenced by leaders of the organisation who were more focused on KPIs than their own people.”
The report states:
“… The Commission found significant, evidence of ongoing discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and victimisation at Ambulance Victoria, as well as an entrenched culture of ‘everyday incivility”.’ (13.3.2, Page 738)
“… The Board and the Executive Committee ultimately did not fully anticipate, recognise, analyse, prioritise or systematically address the substantial and unacceptable, unlawful and harmful workplace conduct identified by the Commission in this independent review.” (13.3.2, Page 740)
Findings within the second report show:
- Failure of the AV Board and Executive to address harmful practices when identified
- The steps toward replacing the now-discredited complaints-handling process.
- Overhaul of internal recruitment to remove bias, inconsistencies and structural barriers to advancement
- VEOHRC recommendations of “root-and-branch” reforms reaching every level of the organisation, including:
- Increased accountability and transparency.
- Time available for operational managers to engage with staff
- Better leadership training for managers.
- An improved “fitness for duty” process.
- Increased attention to gender equality, workplace equality and inclusiveness.
- A review of the organisation’s shiftwork settings with a view to improved flexibility.
“Given the sweeping nature of the recommendations, we are optimistic that VEOHRC’s blueprint could result in generational change that would address issues that have literally destroyed people’s lives,” Mr Adie said.
“However this will only be achieved by embracing the findings in full – most glaringly the need for urgent, total reform from the top down at AV if there is any genuine hope of rebuilding trust within the organisation.
Mr Adie said some aspects of the reforms needed to be implemented “at lightning speed” to urgently address staff issues, including a bottom-up consultation process that would be inclusive and transparent, and promotional opportunities for staff based on merit, not membership of the “boys club” or “in-crowd”.
“The priority must be to shift the culture and build trust in processes and the Executive,” Mr Adie said.
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