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A damning report released today that has found bullying, discrimination, victimisation and sexual harassment rife throughout Ambulance Victoria must be used as an opportunity for sweeping cultural reforms, the Ambulance employees’ union said today.

“We thank the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission for their detailed and extensive report,” Ambulance Employees Australia – Victoria (AEAV) secretary Brett Adie said today.

“This is the line-in-the-sand moment that shows significant reform needs to be made throughout Ambulance Victoria.

“The findings paint a picture of a toxic workplace culture that has been protected and perpetuated by senior executives within the organisation.

“Those responsible must be removed from the organisation for there to be any hope of transformational change.

“The report shows Ambulance Victoria has failed staff on every level.

“Ambulance Victoria has not only failed to protect staff, but has failed to listen to them when they have reported harm.

“While the public rely on ambulance staff in their time of greatest need, their own organisation has ignored staff concerns in a culture of fear, bullying and intimidation.”

The report details a culture in Ambulance Victoria where bullying, discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation are commonplace, including:

  • Bullying was reported by more than 50 per cent of 2163 Ambulance Victoria staff surveyed.
  • 47 per cent reported discrimination.
  • 35 per cent reported victimisation.
  • 17 per cent reported sexual harassment.

These findings are backed up with multiple case studies in the report including:

  • A female paramedic finding out she had been dropped from the Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance course because she had a baby.
  • A woman who reported bullying said she had been “broken” by that not being believed during an “awful” complaints process.
  • A woman who complained about sexual harassment by her manager who was then shunned by a “boys club” of staff.

“It is unfathomable that Ambulance Victoria could have allowed its own staff to be so poorly treated and for harmful practices to prevail for so long,” Mr Adie said.

“AV should implement a culture in which ambulance workers are no longer living in fear of retribution from their managers if they raise legitimate concerns.

“A fundamental shift in culture will require an equally large shift in the senior leadership to lead Ambulance Victoria out of the dark. The workforce who have tolerated years of inaction deserve that.”

Mr Adie said AEAV supported VEOHRC recommendations including:

  • The disbanding of the current Professional Conduct Unit with the creation of a new investigations and support unit with new management
  • A redress scheme for ambulance staff who had been failed by the organisation.
  • A recognition the organisation had to address its KPI-focused “performance-at-all-costs” culture by the introduction of new values.

In addition, Mr Adie called on the Victorian Government to:

  • Hold accountable senior executives within Ambulance Victoria by sacking those that protected and perpetuated the toxic culture.
  • A formal Victorian Government apology to workers who have been impacted by inadequate or non-existent resolution procedures.
  • Endorse and fully fund all the recommendations.
  • Take an active role in ensuring the recommendations are implemented to the fullest extent possible.

“The historical mandate of performance at all costs has destroyed careers and resulted in staff feeling their contribution is not valued. Rebuilding trust is going to take more than just words,” Mr Adie said. “Funding must flow to fix the problems that have been identified.

“Ambulance Victoria should lead the public sector by example when it comes to staff welfare, not be the pariah that bullies and intimidates.

“We hope the biggest lesson from this cultural review will be that Ambulance Victoria lifts its eyes from implementing KPIs at all costs, and moves to a sustainable model which values the contribution and experience of all employees.

“The release of Volume One is a great step forward and we look forward to continuing to work with VEOHRC to ensure Volume Two continues to drive a cultural shift.”

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