Equality and diversity down under (and the world over): Jagtar Singh reports from the Diversity in Emergency Services conference that took place at Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia late last year.(Learning & Development)

THIS ARTICLE HAS NOT BEEN WRITTEN to cover all the 30 speakers of the many workshops that we attended, at what was one of the most comprehensive and focused conferences on diversity. Rather, it highlights just two key note addresses, both of which are of enormous interest and relevance.

Prior to the conference, Chief Executive Ken Latta, Chief Fire Officer Tony Murphy and Dalal Smiley of the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB) met myself and Carl St Paul. They informed us that they believed that this conference was going to be a milestone event for all fire services in Australia; and that it would be the first international diversity event to be held in the country organised both for and by the Fire Service. I have, with Carl St Paul, attended many conferences in the UK and in the USA and we were at first unsure that one conference could achieve as much as we were informed. However, we remained open-minded at the initial meetings.

Valuing Diversity

The Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board had been planning the conference in partnership with the United Firefighters Union of Australia (UFUA)--a novel concept for the UK, and we believe for the USA, as many of our events are arranged with either one or the other organisation providing the lead.

The event was a joint initiative of the two organisations who both recognised the importance of valuing diversity in the highly diverse and changing communities that the MFB served.

Ken told us that he believed that although emergency services in Australia have been grappling with the challenges of diversity for many years few had stepped up to the mark. The steering committee for this project also believed that despite the many and varied achievements that have been recorded in the emergency services sector in Australia in relation to diversity management, much more work was still required to ensure changes are systemic, meaningful, equitable, impacting and sustainable. The group were keen that this was the right time and that the conference was the best way to capture best practice from around the world and take the Fire Service to the next level of understanding. …

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