SES culture in firing line

Broken spirit: Doctor Jason Wu says more needs to be done to combat bullying and racial discrimination within the some quarters of the SES.Picture: ANDY ZAKELI
Broken spirit: Doctor Jason Wu says more needs to be done to combat bullying and racial discrimination within the some quarters of the SES.Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

An SES volunteer has accused the Wollongong SES hierarchy of failing to act appropriately after he complained of racial discrimination including being regularly called "Asian Jason", entrenched nepotism and a lack of transparency within the organisation.

Dr Jason Wu's complaints relate to a non-continuous period of about five years during which he volunteered with the organisation's Hawkesbury unit.

Now based in Wollongong, Dr Wu said while at Hawkesbury, he had been prevented from upgrading his training qualifications due to his race and the fact he didn't belong to the "boys' club" at the unit.

"At the unit, behind my back, I've always been referred to as Asian Jason and a number of racist comments have been made in the past," he said.

"In training I've heard a lot of the unit leaders use racial stereotypes, saying 'don't trust him he's a small dick Asian', 'he can't see', things like that.

"We have a boys' club attitude where the guys who have been in it for a long time are very reluctant to see change and we need to, to save the SES."

Dr Wu said after taking his concerns to the SES Headquarters, located in Wollongong, in September 2013, the organisation responded with an investigation undertaken by a controller from a different SES unit, despite originally assuring Dr Wu an "independent contractor" would be used to investigate the matters.

"Pretty much everyone knows each other in the SES," he said.

"I think it's completely inappropriate given this is such a small tight-knit organisation for members of other units to be investigating other senior members.

"The man investigating my case here ... is also a controller of the same rank as the people that I have alleged grievances against."

Dr Wu said during the prolonged investigation, which determined in March that "none of the allegations could be substantiated", just two of his more than a dozen emails were replied to, and none of his phone calls returned.

However, the investigation found "some concerns relating to the perception of nepotism and relating to the general leadership of the unit and access to opportunities".

His complaints come five months after SES Deputy Commissioner Steve Pearce and Commissioner Murray Kear were brought before the Independent Commission Against Corruption over allegations of fraud and unfair dismissal.

In its finding, ICAC ruled former assistant commissioner Tara McCarthy had been unfairly sacked after telling her boss his friend had engaged in corrupt behaviour.

An intern at Wollongong Hospital, Dr Wu has completed training in how to treat road crash victims, has trained overseas with London's Air Ambulance, and has completed numerous courses on treating trauma.

He said despite this, he had been prevented from taking part in basic SES training while at Hawkesbury. He said he had watched other members who were related to, or friends with, unit controllers offered training he had been refused.

"These guys don't care," he said.

"It's broken my heart and broken my spirits in terms of helping the community.

Dr Wu has continued to volunteer with the Wollongong SES unit, and said he had never experienced harassment there.

However, an SES spokesman said the organisation's management stood behind the investigation's finding.

"The investigation found that there was no evidence of racism or bullying and the NSW SES supports all of the findings in the report," he said.

"Mr Wu was informed that a NSW SES member who was independent to the situation would be engaged to investigate the matter.

"This is standard best practice for all grievance matters utilised by the NSW SES to ensure there are no conflicts of interest throughout the inquiry."

The spokesman said the organisation took matters of racism and bullying "very seriously".

"The investigation process is a comprehensive exercise and can be lengthy because the service has a commitment to its members to ensure all lines of enquiry are pursued."


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