Captain one of four Eaglehawk CFA members suspended for attacking 17-year-old female

UPDATE 1pm: The head of a local women’s refuge says she believes the incident involving four Eaglehawk CFA members attacking a teenage girl is likely indicative of the broader workplace culture at the station.

“To me, it says a lot about the culture of the workplace; it’s probably not an isolated incident,” chief executive officer of the Annie North women’s refuge, Julie Oberin, said.

Ms Oberin said she was “astounded” the police decided not to lay charges, saying it sent a message they thought such behaviour was acceptable.

“The criminal justice system needs to send a strong message to the community,” she said.

Bullying and intimidation existed on a spectrum, Ms Oberin said, that led to physical violence.

Ms Oberin said while such bullying happened to men as well, the difference in this situation was that the CFA was a traditionally male-dominated workplace and as such the victim, being a young female, was even less powerful in this context.

She referenced an internal gender diversity report, brought to light earlier this year, that detailed instances of sexual harassment and assault against professional female members.

The report also revealed a culture of bullying in the organisation.

But Ms Oberin praised the decision to stand down the four members involved in the incident, as well as the response from CFA chief officer Steve Warrington.

“We can't tolerate this behaviour in CFA anymore,” Mr Warrington said.

UPDATE 11.35am: The chief officer of the CFA has slammed the actions of volunteers who attacked a young, female member at the Eaglehawk station.   

The Bendigo Advertiser has seen CCTV footage of the incident from November 27, the same day hundreds of people,  including CFA members, joined Bendigo’s White Ribbon Day march.  

The video shows a male volunteer pulling the girl by her hair until she is doubled over. 

The girl is then dragged in a circle while trying to pull away from the man’s grasp.

Another man goes to kick the victim. She is also pushed under the front of a fire truck and the vehicle’s sprinkler system is turned onto her.

Throughout the violent incident, a male onlooker leans against the front of an adjacent vehicle, hand on his hip. 

Several others walk past casually, appearing unperturbed.  

The incident occurred during normal daily operations at the station.

Chief officer Steve Warrington said the men’s behaviour was unacceptable and also condemned the behaviour of bystanders who watched as the attack was carried out. 

“Sitting by and saying or doing nothing is frankly just as bad,” Mr Worthington said. 

“People, this stuff belongs in the past, full stop.

“We can't tolerate this behaviour in CFA anymore.” 

A Victoria Police spokesperson said officers investigated the incident but no complaint was made and no offence was detected.

“This matter is now complete,” the spokesperson said.

UPDATE 10:20am: The captain of the Eaglehawk CFA station is one of four men implicated in a physical attack on a 17-year-old volunteer.

Hayden Allen was suspended from duties this week after footage surfaced of the incident. 

On November 24 this year, Mr Allen posted a picture to his Facebook profile depicting him in his uniform, with the White Ribbon Day logo and the words, “I will stand up, speak out and act to prevent men’s violence against women.”

Mr Allen declined to comment.

UPDATE 9:30am: The behaviour of Eaglehawk CFA members suspended after an attack on a 17-year-old girl has been condemned by the state’s emergency services minister. 

James Merlino said today the incident was “appalling”, and not in line with community expectations.  

“As Minister for Emergency Services and as a parent, I am disgusted that a 17-year-old girl has been treated in this way,” Mr Merlino said. 

"For years we have been saying that we have significant cultural and diversity issues across our fire services and we are genuinely trying to make change.

“Enough is enough.

“We need to stop talking about it and get on with the job of doing it.” 

EARLIER: Four CFA members from Eaglehawk CFA station have been suspended after CCTV footage showed them  carrying out a physical attack on a young, female member.  

It is understood the video shows a young female volunteer being pushed to the ground, dragged by her feet, pushed under a parked truck before having sprinklers turned on her. 

It is not known when the video was recorded. 

CFA chief executive officer Frances Diver said she was "sickened" by the footage. 

"I was horrified and very disturbed," Ms Diver said.

"It was completely unacceptable behaviour and sickens everyone who sees that footage." 

She said the CFA made contact with the young woman and her family this week. The victim was unharmed and did not want to pursue the matter further. 

Victoria police have been notified. 

The video also shows a number of other CFA members watching on as the attack takes place. 

An investigation is now underway into the incident with Ms Diver believing similar incidents could have occurred at the brigade.  

"There is a cultural problem we need to address."

Details of the men’s behaviour came to light just one week after White Ribbon Day, when the CFA released a statement asking members to take a stand against violence. 

In the statement, Chief officer Steve Warrington said: “We have traditionally been a male-dominated organisation – that includes career and volunteer firefighters,” he said.

“Increasing gender diversity is important, but so is individual responsibility to call out poor behaviour. 

“We know we have to lift our game when it comes to inclusion and increasing diversity in CFA – that’s a priority for CFA leaders.

“But there’s also a role each and every person within the organisation can play.”