Ambulance Victoria accused of spending $760,000 on 'useless roles' during crisis

·News Reporter
·4-min read

Ambulance Victoria has been accused of pursuing a 'woke agenda' after advertising for diversity inclusion officers while the service is in crisis and struggling to get vehicles and paramedics to seriously ill patients.

Six roles, including a director for diversity and inclusion, have been advertised in recent weeks with the combined salaries amounting to $760,000.

Bella d'Abrera from the Institute of Public Affairs slammed the strategy and told Nine's Today show the Victorian government does not have their priorities in check.

"I am appalled the government could be spending this much on diversity and inclusion officers, on a woke agenda, when there is not enough ambulances," she said.

Bella d'Abrera from the Institute of Public Affairs speaking on the Today show.
Bella d'Abrera from the Institute of Public Affairs slammed Ambulance Victoria's decision to recruit inclusion officers. Source: Today

"Not enough people to take the calls while Victorians are suffering and losing their lives."

She said these roles don't address the issue of people dying due to funding shortages for things like emergency vehicles, and that "Victoria Ambulance is in a crisis".

"Dan Andrews has known there's a crisis. He knew 10 years ago there'd be a shortfall yet pursued this woke agenda and is spending enormous amounts of money on useless roles that aren't helping anybody, " Ms d'Abrera told Today.

Why has Ambulance Victoria taken this route?

The decision to hire diversity inclusion officers comes after a report by Victoria's Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, Ro Allen, showed that Ambulance Victoria was littered with the "toxic culture" of hyper-masculinity.

In November, the first volume of Ms Allen’s inquiry detailed “widespread” reports of “incivility, disrespect, discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and victimisation," according to The Australian.

The second report released in March found senior ambulance staff were expected to be 'white, male … confident, stoic and … the family breadwinner," which got in the way of other people advancing in the organisation.

As a result, Commissioner Allen recommended Ambulance Victoria “establish a dedicated division to drive reform”.

Victoria Ambulance Union respond

While some like Ms d'Abrera feel the funding is misguided, Secretary for Victoria Ambulance Union (VAU), Danny Hill, told Yahoo News Australia the union "completely supports" the decision.

"This will absolutely bring the right expertise to Ambulance Victoria if we are to improve the workplace culture," Mr Hill said.

He said this is an area that is quite "underinvested" and the union have been "heavily involved and consulted along the way".

An image of an Ambulance Victoria emergency vehicle. Source: Getty
Ambulance Victoria is recruiting inclusion officers as well as hiring record numbers of paramedics. Source: Getty

When questioned if this is something that takes precedent over addressing staff shortages, he said the initiative will inadvertently help with both situations.

"It's not about putting more ambos on the road, it's about addressing the staff that are already there," Mr Hill said.

"Staff are burnt out and it's important to change that — it's about workforce retention, not just recruitment."

Having met some of the people that have already been hired, Mr Hill said they are "already making a valuable contribution".

What are the roles being advertised?

As of a few weeks ago, Victoria Ambulance are recruiting for the below six roles, with some of them being already filled:

  • Director, Diversity & Inclusion, $169,000+

  • Senior Lead, Diversity & Inclusion, $147,000+

  • Program Lead, Equality & Workplace Reform Division, $122,000+

  • Executive Assistant to Executive Director, Equality & Workplace Reform Division, $79,000+

  • Senior Program Manager, Implementation, $122,000+

  • Program Lead, Multicultural, $122,000+

AV says it can change workplace culture and save lives

When asked if the inclusion roles come ahead of steps to improve response times and save lives, an Ambulance Victoria (AV) spokesperson said "it is wrong to suggest one has priority over the other, especially as almost 1200 new paramedics have joined AV in the past 20 months."

"Ambulance Victoria continues to undertake its largest ever recruitment of paramedics, at the same time as we are creating a new division to lead and coordinate efforts to create a safe, fair and inclusive organisation for our people and our patients," the spokesperson said.

"More than 700 paramedics joined Ambulance Victoria in 2021 and more than 460 have joined Ambulance Victoria so far this year, including 60 that have started training and will hit the road this month.

They said that all workers have a right to a safe, fair and inclusive environment, which is what the $760,000 jobs initiative addresses.

Ambulance Victoria has been under immense pressure with several code reds declared this year and many patients appalled with ambulance response times.

In May a family was slapped with a $1900 bill for an ambulance that never showed up. The parents made five calls to get an ambulance for their toddler who became unresponsive after a seizure.

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