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Saturday, 24 August 2013 08:36

CFA VOLUNTEERS NOT IMPRESSED BY CANCER ANNOUNCEMENT

MEDIA RELEASE

Wednesday 21 August 2013

CFA VOLUNTEERS NOT IMPRESSED BY CANCER ANNOUNCEMENT

The CFA volunteers’ association is unimpressed by the announcement of a new body to deal with compensation claims from firefighters suffering from cancer.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) CEO Andrew Ford said the State Government’s proposed Firefighters’ Assessment Panel does not solve the problem.

"We need new legislation to fix this - firefighters are still more likely to get cancer because of their exposure to smoke and chemicals, and it is still almost impossible for them to prove it was work related because of the nature of the work they do," Mr Ford said.

"Too often they get a legal battle when what they really need is the chance to concentrate on their treatment and recovery," he said.

"It’s even possible the proposed Firefighters’ Assessment Panel will be just another bureaucratic barrier - it is being sold as a way to better support the processing of claims, but we are worried it could just be an even bigger barrier to firefighters getting the compensation to which they are entitled."

VFBV wants presumptive legislation; current Victorian compensation arrangements already provide for cancer compensation, but it is almost impossible to access because the firefighter has to prove the cancer was caused by one particular fire or incident that might have happened 10 or 15 years ago.

The proposed presumptive legislation would work by reversing the onus of proof – the firefighter’s cancer would be presumed to be work related provided the firefighter has sufficient years of service. A firefighter’s claim could still be rejected if it could be proven that the cancer was not related to firefighting duties.

Presumption allows the firefighter to concentrate on treatment and recovery, not a lengthy and expensive battle to prove the cause of their cancer.

"Firefighters are already entitled to compensation for work related cancer, but cancer is not like a broken leg – it’s almost impossible to prove the cancer came from one particular fire that might have been 10 years ago," Mr Ford said.

The Australian Government already has presumptive cancer legislation for federally-employed firefighters, and the West Australian, South Australian and Tasmanian Governments are all introducing similar laws.

"Other Governments in Australia and overseas have already accepted the scientific proof that firefighting leads to a higher risk of certain types of cancer," Mr Ford said.

"Here in Victoria there have been questions from the Government about the cost, and media reports of estimates in the millions – we doubt those estimates are accurate, but if they are, then those millions are just the measure of the cost being paid by firefighters and their families when they become ill, because there’s an unfair barrier to the compensation to which they are entitled," he said.

"CFA volunteers and their career colleagues are not asking for something new or extra, just the removal of that unfair barrier," he said.

Ends…

Read 11040 times Last modified on Monday, 26 August 2013 08:01
CFA Volunteers are the unpaid professionals of our Emergency Services. VFBV is their united voice, and speaks on behalf of Victoria's 60,000 CFA Volunteers.

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