Looking after firefighters
It is clear that more needs to be done to support the health and wellbeing of all our firefighters, regardless of whether they are career or volunteer.
The Inquiry into CFA Training College at Fiskville and the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry have made a number of recommendations on firefighter health and safety that the Government is actioning. This includes work to develop a health program for first responders. A reform that will provide ongoing, holistic and comprehensive support for our first responders, from the moment they are recruited. Work is underway on the development of this program, and will continue over coming months.
Legislation will also be introduced to provide firefighters with presumptive rights to cancer compensation. This recognises the challenges that firefighters have faced in accessing compensation for cancer arising from their service. The scheme will deliver equal access to compensation for career and volunteer firefighters.
It will apply to firefighters who have developed cancer because of their service and have been diagnosed since 1 June 2016. Rules that require volunteer firefighters to have attended a specific number of fires are problematic, so the scheme will instead mirror the approach taken in Queensland, which has no specific incident requirements.
The scheme will also take into account exceptional exposure events, enabling firefighters who have attended such an event to qualify for presumption, even if they do not meet the minimum years of service. An expert committee will advise WorkSafe on such matters. Recognising that there may be a very small number of people who do not fit the criteria of this scheme, the Government will also create a dedicated assistance fund to support them.
Our fire services need to reflect our diverse modern state. In order to achieve this, the Government will invest $2.5 million for a diversity and cultural change program across both CFA and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV). In addition, an accord will be entered into by FRV and the United Firefighters Union committing both organisations to working together to reset the culture and improve relationships between management and the workforce. This will be based on a successful model from Canada.
The Government will also adopt new diversity targets for our fire services. In FRV, we will commit to quadrupling the number of female firefighters in the next four years from 100 to 400. In CFA, we will commit to increasing the number of women in brigade leadership roles to 15 per cent from 265 to 909 over the same period.
The modernisation of organisational structures alone will not bring about change. We must also support current and future leaders, ensuring they have the skills required to bring about a cultural shift.
The Government will invest $5 million in leadership development programs across CFA and FRV. The fund will support leadership development programs for emerging leaders. This includes mentoring, management, training and assessment.
Looking after our firefighters also means making sure they have world class, contemporary appliances and equipment to keep them safe on the ground while they protect our lives and assets. That is why we will also provide $2 million for appliance refits to FRV heavy pumpers and $11 million to build and deploy six additional FRV and CFA specialist vehicles, including breathing apparatus vans and aerial appliances.
Last updated: May 18, 2017