Female fire recruits hit by tough new test
THE number of women training to become firefighters in Queensland has collapsed after the Palaszczuk Government quietly introduced a new physical test for recruits.
The Courier-Mail can reveal just two of 56 recruits who recently passed the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service's new testing regimen and progressed to the paid 16-week training course were women.
It comes after 24 of 148 successful recruits last year were women.
Along with a so-called Beep Test, the physical selection process includes aerobic fitness, muscular strength and endurance assessments that are meant to simulate the duties of firefighters.
It is understood the changes were approved by the United Firefighters Union.
Firefighters have told The Courier-Mail existing QFES officers were put through the new testing regimen and three quarters of participants failed.
It comes as the Palaszczuk Government this week celebrates its successes improving equality in Queensland in conjunction with International Women's Day events.
Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford defended the tougher new test, saying it was vital that Queensland firefighters had the necessary "physical requirements" to perform the job.
"Firefighting is a physically demanding role that requires periods of intense and sustained physical activity, they face the unique situation among emergency workers where they must have the physical capacity to remove members of the public or other firefighters from danger," he said.
"The physical assessment requirements are similar to physical requirements in other Australian states.
"The physical test is upon entry. Firefighters are provided with the equipment necessary to maintain their physical health."
One veteran firefighter said he was appalled at the regimen, saying it deliberately targeted women and demonstrated the QFES's toxic culture had not changed.
"The way anyone who is different is generally treated in the ranks is terrible," he said.
A damning report in 2014 by former top public servant Margaret Allison accused the QFES of allowing a "totally hostile" attitude towards women firefighters.
It was sparked after male firefighters used Facebook to rate which of their female colleagues would be best in bed.
Some of the women who lodged complaints were transferred to other stations.
Mr Crawford yesterday announced the appointment of 29 firefighters across Queensland with the new recruits to be stationed in communities hardest hit by bushfires.