Fire vollies out to hose down stereotypes

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian

Volunteer firefighters like Steve Lloyd want to hose down unfavourable comparisons with their career counterparts — and say it all starts with the words used to describe the two.

Mr Lloyd, a Mid West and Gascoyne zone representative of the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades, dislikes the word “professional” when describing career firefighters.

The Moonyoonooka Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade member believes the term creates an unfair class distinction.

“In simplistic terms, we should not encourage any language that degrades or may, by its description, create a perception of class separation between different types of people who are doing the same roles and functions,” he said.

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Mr Lloyd’s opinion is shared by the majority of 400 participants in an association survey.

It found 94 per cent thought the term professional was not the best way to describe paid emergency service workers.

The association’s State president, Dave Gossage, said he had received a lot of feedback on the use of the term, which ranged from slight irritation to anger.

He said a decision was then made to do a survey to see if it was an opinion shared by broader membership.

Preferred words to describe firefighters included “career” (58 per cent) and “paid: (21 per cent).

The survey also found 79 per cent considered themselves professional emergency services workers.

“The survey to date is showing very clearly that the term professional is not supported and in some cases people find it degrading and offensive,” Mr Lloyd said.

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