Against All Odds

Against All Odds

The history of the United Firefighters Union in Queensland, 1917-2008

By Bradley Bowden


The history of the United Firefighters Union (UFU) in Queensland is an unusual and inspiring story. In an era of large amalgamated unions it remains a small union, servicing the special needs of firefighters and at a time when only 20 percent of Australian workers belong to a trade union the UFU still commands the loyalty of virtually all Queensland firefighters.

While most Australian unions have been in existence since at least the early twentieth century the UFU was only registered in Queensland in 1976. Prior to this date, firefighters belonged to the Australian Workers Union. They only secured their own union after a bitter four-year dispute in Rockhampton that involved the dismissal and eventual reinstatement of that city’s UFU firefighters.

If the UFU is an unusual union then firefighters are also atypical unionists. Most of their working lives are spent carrying out routine training drills. But, at any moment, this routine can be interrupted by a ‘call-out’ where they can be exposed to mayhem and traumatic death. Fire fighting demands the highest levels of physical fitness, experience and courage. It also requires the capacity to behave, in all circumstances, as a team member rather than as an individual.

While a sense of ‘mateship’ is common in most jobs the dangers inherent in fire fighting create special bonds. Such bonds have created a unique, tightly-knit workforce whose solidarity is reflected in their union.


Published 30 September 2008
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862876934
Australian RRP $29.95
International Price $25.00