Labour History

‘Brass Hats... from Sydney’: Volunteerism, Contested Space and the Organisation of Fire Suppression in the Blue Mountains 1950-60

Labour History (2001), 81, (1), 51–74.

Abstract

This article examines the demarcation of work which existed between career firefighters employed by the Board of Fire Commissioners (BFC) and local volunteer firefighters in the Blue Mountains (NSW, Australia) in the 1950s. It explores how career firefighters sought to control the activities of volunteer bushfire brigade volunteers by ‘gaining territory’ and asserting organisational control over it. In doing so, the article also highlights the way in which the local volunteers appealed to localist sentiments to resist, and ultimately thwart, domination by career firefighters and their organisation. They did this by influencing (and being involved in) local government and local progress associations, labelling career firefighters as ‘outsiders’ from Sydney, and accusing the latter group’s organisation, the BFC, of not being attuned to the needs of ‘the bush’. The article concludes that the ability of local volunteers to dominate ‘space’ through localism enabled them to resist the encroachment of career firefighters and the BFC. This conclusion continues to have relevance fifty years on as the demarcation between paid and unpaid workers continues unabated in areas of rapid urbanisation.

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Details

Author details

Wright, Michael

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