The letter at the end of this post was sent to the Editor of The West Australian newspaper in response to the article published on 11 June 2019 titled ‘Fire chief put in big reforms’ (directly below)
Fire chief put in big reforms (The West Australian, 11 June 2019, page 14)
WA’s first fire and emergency services commissioner has been acknowledged with a Queen’s Birthday honour this week.
Former fire chief Wayne Gregson, pictured, was made a Member in the General Division for his service through emergency response organisations.
Mr Gregson became commissioner when the Department of Fire and Emergency Se ices was formed in 2012 and led reforms focusing on support for frontline services and increasing transparency.
His achievements included fostering “collegiate” relationships with other agencies, better equipping and training DFES personnel and volunteers, overhauling an ageing vehicle fleet and progress on presumptive legislation to compensate those who develop cancer.
At the time of Mr Gregson’s departure, Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan praised him for his service, saying he had transformed DFES.
It is truly ironic that the Council for the Order of Australia obviously didn’t consult before awarding a Member of the Order (AM) to someone who worked so hard to create the current “command and control” culture in a government department that is absolutely dependent on teamwork and collaboration – former Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Wayne Gregson (The West 11/06/19 page 14, ‘Fire chief put in big reforms’).
As the inaugural head of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), Mr Gregson was paid more than $300,000 per year and oversaw the creation of a departmental that according to the Ferguson inquiry into the deadly 2016 Waroona-Yarloop Bushfires:
“DFES…does not sufficiently involve or utilise volunteer bush fire brigades, which are the backbone of rural fire management.”
(Report of the Special Inquiry into the January 2016 Waroona Fire”, page 257)
While it is agreed that the job of FES Commissioner is a big one and worthy of reasonable compensation and accolades, it is hard to understand how a public servant who was paid almost as much as the Premier of the day meets the Council’s stated criteria of someone who:
“- demonstrated achievement at a high level
– made a contribution over and above what might be reasonably expected through paid employment, or
– whose voluntary contribution to the community stands out from others who have also made a valuable contribution. “
(https://www.pmc.gov.au/government/its-honour/awards/order-australia, sourced 11/06/19)
Furthermore, the lack of context in today’s The West Australian article has no doubt added insult to injury for some of WA’s real (unpaid) heroes of emergency services – our incredible volunteers.
It would serve fellow readers well to understand that the Minister’s polite comments published lauding Mr. Gregson were made after the government chose to replace him with new Commissioner Darren Klemm who Minister Francis Logan widely introduced as the man who would change the disastrous culture that had been entrenched within DFES.
As the Association who has the backs of WA’s amazing 26,000+ Bush Fire Volunteers, we wish Mr Gregson AM well in his retirement but hope The West and its readers understand our very limited resources are dedicated to repairing what the Ferguson Report succinctly explained as:
“The Special Inquiry is deeply concerned however about the relationship between Bush Fire volunteers and DFES. One submission to the Special Inquiry observed that “the trust between Bush Fire Brigades and DFES it at its lowest ebb ever…This lack of trust and confidence raises questions about the ability of volunteers to effectively advocate their views to or within DFES.”
(Report of the Special Inquiry into the January 2016 Waroona Fire”, page 249)