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Monday, 16 January 2017 12:25

FireWise - VFBV's January Column

In this Edition

- Editorial - Summer and Business as Usual

- Apply Now for Scholarships

- Coalition Moves to Change CFA Act

- Delegate Development course

- Digital Scanners at Cost Price

- Youth Network in 20 Districts

- Planned Burning as Training

- Chainsaw Training

- 2017 Championships

- Australasian Championships

- Cancer Law Reminder

- Donations Welcome

 

SUMMER AND BUSINESS AS USUAL

By Andrew Ford, VFBV Chief Executive Officer

I am hoping that everyone has found at least a few quiet moments to enjoy Christmas and managed to reflect, re-energise and prepare for 2017.  It has been a hot few weeks and certainly looks like some parts of the state will have a very busy summer.

As we go into a new year, it would be easy to think that over the past 12 months the CFA and emergency sector has been tied up with just a few major issues.

But while there have been major challenges at the statewide level and attention to CFA issues right up to the Federal level, your volunteer association that is VFBV has been quietly getting on with business as usual in the background.

Volunteer delegates on the VFBV/CFA Joint Committees, and any number of volunteers on working groups and at the District level, have been working on the equipment, training, projects and other issues that make up our everyday representation work for volunteers and Brigades.

As just a few examples of the association’s work over the past 12 months; VFBV has launched its VFBV Multi-Agency Youth Network, another class of VFBV Leadership participants has graduated, a VFBV-advocated partnership with CFA has delivered 10,000 subsidised digital scanners to Brigades and Groups, we have provided practical assistance to Brigades applying for VESEP grants, and we have launched two innovative short videos, the first explaining in simple terms how CFA’s great volunteer surge capacity works, and the second transforming CFA turnout data into a graphical depiction of how Brigades from all over the state contribute to CFA’s ability to deal with multiple major incidents at a time while still protecting every Brigade’s local community.

We have also contributed to the State Government’s Fire Services Review; worked with CFA, DELWP and EMV to increase volunteer participation in planned burning; given assistance and support to the VEOHRC Independent Equity and Diversity Review; provided submission and input to the Fiskville Inquiry; and we continue the work on yet to be resolved issues like presumptive legislation, the role of CFA Groups, chainsaw training, 40 kph speed limits near incidents, new BA acquisition and electrical safety mobile props.

It is very satisfying to note that volunteers have given their association’s work a very strong stamp of approval through the year, with record numbers of Brigades affiliating with VFBV, record numbers subscribing to the VFBV Welfare Fund, record numbers of volunteers taking part in the annual VFBV Volunteer Welfare & Efficiency Survey, and higher levels of activity across District Councils and on our social media sites.

And I’d like to add a final note appropriate to the season.  Summer is here, volunteers are busy in many parts of the state, and we all need to be mindful of safety and wellbeing; our own and that of our fellow members.  So stay safe, look after yourselves and keep an eye out for one another.

 

VFBV VOLUNTEER LEADERSHIP SCHOLARSHIPS - APPLY NOW FOR 2017

VFBV’s Volunteer Leadership Program scholarships will be available again in 2017 and we are now calling for Expressions of Interest from potential participants.

The two 2017 courses will be based in the Euroa (District 22) and Ararat (District 16) areas, they will run from late March to the end of the year, and successful participants will achieve the nationally recognised Certificate IV in Leadership & Management.  Both locations have been chosen based on an effort to rotate the courses across the State, and their location on major highways to make travel to and from those areas as easy as possible for members from neighbouring Districts.

The VFBV Volunteer Leadership Program has already produced over 250 graduates and many are in leadership positions with their agencies, volunteer representative organisations or local communities.  Graduates will graduate with a nationally recognised Cert IV in Leadership & Management (BSB42015).

You can download the application pack from the VFBV website.  We are offering scholarships to volunteers from CFA, Ambulance Victoria, Australian Volunteer Coast Guard, Life Saving Victoria, VICSES and St John.   Nominations close Friday 27 January 2017.

The VFBV Leadership Scholarship course has been designed for volunteers, with a mix of lectures and interactive activities designed to suit the needs of adult students, as well as ample support using distance learning methods.  The course involves 12 units, eight face to face days (six Saturdays and two Sundays) throughout the year, with course work and assignments spread throughout the year.

The course includes units on; leadership, decision making, planning, safety and risk management, team effectiveness, making presentations, managing projects, and engaging the community.

Any questions or queries can be directed to any of VFBV’s Support Officers, and information packs are being posted to all Brigades.

 

COALITION MOVES TO CHANGE CFA ACT

The Coalition parties have introduced a Bill into the upper house of State Parliament, in an attempt to introduce additional protections for volunteers’ rights into the CFA Act.

The Bill is designed to prevent any outside deals that affect volunteers but bypass the existing protections of the CFA Act and the Federal Fair Work Act.

The proposed legislation is listed for debate in State Parliament in the new year, and is worthy of support from all Members of Parliament.  We encourage volunteers to raise the issue with local MPs – talk to your VFBV State Councillor if you need advice.

The explanatory notes included with the Bill say it would make minor adjustments to the CFA Act “to protect volunteers from the implementation of any deed, agreement or arrangement that may have adverse effects on the volunteer firefighters across the state.”

The notes also say: “Deeds, agreements and or arrangements to commit the CFA to implement clauses, which would otherwise be subject to approval by the Fair Work Commission (FWC), is not compliant with the principles of the Volunteer Charter. This amendment will ensure the CFA Act 1958 supports the integrated model of fire fighting in Victoria, a volunteer organisation with support from career staff.”

 

ENGAGING DIVERSITY WITH DELEGATE DEVELOPMENT

VFBV will soon offer more than 100 Brigade Delegates, BMT members and other volunteers a nationally recognised training course in skills for volunteer representatives.

The course will offer modules that go towards Cert II in Public Safety (Firefighting Operations) and Cert III in Public Safety (Community Safety).

Participants will develop practical skills in understanding the structure and communications channels of VFBV and CFA, the Delegate’s role, communication skills and problem solving skills.

The newly developed course will involve two full day sessions several weeks apart, and each participant will work with a more experienced volunteer as a mentor.

The course will be free to all participants, details will be posted on the VFBV website in January, and volunteers interested in taking the course should discuss it with their District Council executive or their VFBV Support Officer.

 

DIGITAL SCANNERS AT COST PRICE

 

We are still receiving enquiries from members about digital scanners, and we have good news for everyone still needing a scanner.

Digital Scanners are still available at cost price - $446.75 plus postage and handling - which is hundreds of dollars below retail, and CFA is still accepting orders from Brigades, Groups and individual members.

The digital scanner subsidisation program was advocated by VFBV and run in partnership with CFA, and has been an overwhelming success since it began in October 2015.   Over 10,000 digital scanners have been delivered to over 1,000 Brigades and Groups, with savings to members adding up to over $3 million dollars.

To order a scanner now, you will need to place a Tier 3 order, using the order form that’s available for download here.

 

 

VFBV MULTI-AGENCY YOUTH NETWORK

The VFBV Multi-Agency Youth Network now has active groups in 20 Districts, including 16 where young members, the Champions – experienced local volunteers chosen to assist and mentor them – and VFBV District Council representatives have begun work on recruiting young volunteers and discussing issues and suitable projects.

Districts 4, 5, 6 and 22 are still seeking Champions and all Districts are looking for more young volunteers – if you’d like to get involved, talk to your VFBV Support Officer or call Chris Fryer in the VFBV office on 9886 1141.

In District 12, young volunteers taking part in the VFBV Multi-Agency Youth Network, supported by the VFBV District Council Executive, are to begin work on a new smart phone app.

The app will create a register of volunteers matched with their skills, qualifications and attributes, and will be accessible by other members, making it easy for them to get in contact with volunteers with particular skills and capabilities.

Looking for a volunteer who has expertise in a particular Brigade skill?  Or perhaps a volunteer who is a local plumber or garden contactor?  Consult the app.

The VFBV Multi-Agency Youth Network in District 12 has also had success with new members from VICSES.  Three young SES volunteers have joined the Network and are now working to recruit more young volunteers from their agency.

In Districts 9, 10 and 27, young volunteers are working together to create an interconnected CFA paging system using mobile phones instead pagers.

The app and pager projects are part of a theme that is building up among the young members of the Youth Network, the need to make better use of modern technology.

Young volunteers interested in getting involved should contact their VFBV District Council, or Chris Fryer at VFBV on (03) 9886 1141 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

PLANNED BURNS AS TRAINING

For many years now VFBV has been advocating for a more holistic approach to planned burning, and for CFA to promote the training advantages of participating in planned burns.

The VFBV/CFA Joint Community Safety Committee has been very pleased to observe that recent planned burns have developed into exercises, not just in fire behaviour and fuel load interactions but also extend to learnings in weather behaviour, impact on flora and fauna, bush heritage and Indigenous fire management practices.

The camps are very practical ‘hands on’ for all involved, each participant is specifically tasked with both coaching and mentoring roles, allowing involvement by volunteers across all aspects of the planned burning.

Recent burn camps also saw attendances from Traditional Owners, Trust for Nature (landowners) bird scientists, along with DELWP, plantation owners and CFA paid staff. The attendees worked well together and contributed experience and expertise, building valuable relationships and creating an atmosphere of co-operation in complex burn scenarios.

These camps offer a great opportunity for volunteers to train in realistic settings and gain extensive firefighting experience. The Joint Committee has requested CFA produce a brochure which clearly explains and illustrates upcoming Burn Camps to Brigades.

 

CHAINSAW TRAINING

The VFBV/CFA Joint Training Committee continues to advocate for much greater access and support for members to attain chainsaw qualification and training.

Despite two Mobile Chainsaw Training trailers developed through the Mobile Prop Project back in 2015 to add additional capability for members to access chainsaw training, a UFU grievance over the training package, equipment and trailer use and design has resulted in a yearlong ban on paid instructors using these trailers to deliver any chainsaw training, resulting in the widespread cancellation of CFA planned courses for volunteers.

CFA advises that the IR issues are now close to being resolved, and has confirmed that there are no IR restrictions that relate to volunteer trainer and assessors accessing, towing and using the trailers.

Whilst disappointed that Brigades are currently unable to access paid support and delivery of chainsaw courses through CFA’s training pool, the Joint Committee has requested that CFA increase the number of endorsed volunteer trainer and assessors to deliver this training, so that Brigades can access this vital training.

CFA has agreed to streamline and prioritise volunteer access to the new trailers, equipment and training package, as well as investigate an Expression of Interest process for subject matter experts to be identified and endorsed for volunteer training and delivery.

 

2017 CHAMPIONSHIPS

Over 900 competitors are expected at this year’s VFBV State Urban Championships, with 59 senior teams and 74 junior teams entered.

With Bendigo hosting its 30th urban senior championships, there will be a limited edition commemorative medal for every competitor, free entertainment in the Bendigo CBD after the torchlight procession, and a spectacular display of Chinese lion dancing.

Dates and locations the state championships are as follows:

  • VFBV State Urban Junior Championships - at Tatura, on 25/26 February 2017
  • VFBV State Urban Senior Championships - at Bendigo, on 11 to 13 March 2017
  • VFBV State Rural Championships - at Wodonga on 1 and 2 April 2017

Visit the Urban Championships area of the website for the latest rule book, entry forms, and judges’/officials’ nomination forms.

More details and entry forms will be posted on the Rural Championships page soon.

 

AUSTRALASIAN FIREFIGHTER CHAMPIONSHIPS

The Australasian championships will be held at Carterton, New Zealand, on 17 to 19 November 2017.

Expressions of interest are open until 1 March.  Send your Brigade name and contact details to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or call the VFBV office on 9886 1141.

 

CANCER LAW REMINDER

Throughout summer, public attention turns to fire and firefighters.

If you encounter any Members of Parliament this summer, VFBV urges you to remind them that

Victorian volunteers and paid firefighters were promised presumptive legislation two years ago, but this important issue for all firefighters remains unresolved.

Your local MPs need to know volunteers won’t accept second best just because they are not paid.  Click here for more information on the Firefighters' Cancer issue.

 

DONATIONS WELCOME

 

GET THE LATEST NEWS

Download the latest Joint Committee Two Minute Briefings here.

Join the discussion on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cfavol

Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/vfbv or Instagram @volunteer_fire_brigades_vic

Published in HomePage Featured

UPDATE OCTOBER 2016 – WA Parliament passes firefighters’ cancer law for volunteers

WA Passes Firefighters' Cancer Law

The Western Australian Parliament has just passed its Firefighters’ Cancer Law for volunteers, adding to the momentum of presumptive legislation around the country and the pressure for legislation in Victoria.

Tell your MPs it is time for presumptive legislation in Victoria that lists the same 12 cancers named in other States, treats career and volunteer firefighters equally, and includes retrospective coverage for firefighters who have already been diagnosed.

Presumptive legislation works by reversing the onus of proof.  The cancer is presumed to be work related provided it is one of 12 listed cancers and the firefighter has sufficient years of service.  

The WA legislation was supported by the Liberal National Government, the Labor Opposition, Upper House Greens and independent MPs, however it does not match the standard set by Queensland and South Australia, which treat career and volunteer firefighters equally.

Unlike their career colleagues, WA volunteers are expected to show they have attended at least five hazardous fires – structure and vehicle fires - each year for five years.

Victorian firefighters are still waiting for the legislation they were promised, and there are still unanswered questions. 

Before the 2014 State Election, Labor announced that “Victorian legislation for career and volunteer firefighters will reflect the cancers covered and timeframes for duty of service as in the Tasmanian legislation” and explicitly contained no reference to unequal treatment or extra eligibility requirements for volunteers.  However, the Government’s letters to volunteers since the election have hinted that it is considering imposing a requirement for an arbitrary number of turnouts before a volunteer becomes eligible for compensation.

Your local MPs need to know that volunteers are tired of waiting and will not accept being treated differently just because they are not paid.

Find your Member of Parliament's contact details here.

Find your Upper House Members of Parliament here.

 

Notes for Volunteers – 12 October 2015

Firefighters’ Cancer Law – it’s time for action in Victoria

Victorian Government promises legislation, but with a disturbing lack of detail

It is time for action; Queensland has passed legislation for fairer and simpler cancer compensation that treats volunteers and staff equally, while Victorian volunteers have been given promises, but no details and no action.

CFA volunteers have been told the Victorian Government will bring in legislation in 2016, but there are few details and significant unanswered questions;

  •          Will the legislation be retrospective – if a volunteer is diagnosed with cancer today, will they be protected?
  •          Will the legislation treat career and volunteer firefighters equally?  Queensland and South Australian legislation does, but the older, out of date legislation in Tasmania does not.

Volunteers across Victoria need to show the Government that like Queensland and South Australian volunteers, they won’t accept extra eligibility requirements such as arbitrary turnout thresholds that apply to volunteers but not their career colleagues.

Victoria’s now Deputy Premier and Minister for Emergency Services, James Merlino, said at a volunteer rally on 15 June 2014, ‘there shouldn’t be any reason why we have to wait for presumptive rights legislation here in Victoria’, which leaves volunteers wondering why we are still waiting.

QUEENSLAND AND SOUTH AUSTRALIA HAVE SHOWN HOW IT IS DONE

Queensland passed its presumptive legislation for fairer and simpler cancer compensation for firefighters on 17 September 2015.

The Queensland legislation treats career and volunteer firefighters equally, and names the same 12 cancers and years of service requirements as are listed in the legislation already introduced by the Commonwealth and most States.  It is the law that the incoming Victorian Government promised CFA volunteers before the 2014 State Election.

Queensland has followed the other Parliaments in recognising that firefighters are more prone to certain types of cancer, and removing a long standing barrier that blocks sick firefighters from receiving the cancer compensation to which they are entitled.

Queensland’s legislation reverses the onus of proof.  The cancer is presumed to be work related, provided it is one of 12 listed cancers and the firefighter has sufficient years of service.   

This legislation is not a free ride; the firefighter’s claim can still be rejected if it can be proved that the cancer was not related to firefighting duties.

QLD VOLUNTEERS TREATED FAIRLY DESPITE UFU CAMPAIGN AGAINST THEM

Queensland’s law was passed after a Parliamentary Committee compared the issues, including the Labor Government’s proposal for a discriminatory extra requirement that volunteers show 150 exposure incidents before they qualify for compensation; a relic from the out of date Tasmanian law.

VFBV provided a submission, calling for legislation treating career and volunteer firefighters equally while listing the same 12 cancers and years-of-service requirements used in the Commonwealth and other States’ legislation.

Disappointingly, the United Firefighters’ Union of Australia’s submission to the Queensland Parliamentary Committee called for volunteers to show “a specified minimum of exposure incidents (150)”, but no such requirement for the staff working alongside them.

The UFU submission was surprising given that VFBV and UFU have been pursuing a joint campaign in Victoria since 2012 to ensure all Victorian career and volunteer firefighters are provided with access to their rightful entitlements in the event that they contract cancer.

Queensland’s Parliamentary Committee dropped the discriminatory extra requirement that volunteers show 150 exposure incidents, before the legislation went to a vote.

The Queensland legislation as passed on 17 September 2015.  The Chair of the Parliamentary Committee, Labor MP Di Farmer, told the Queensland Parliament, “We were unable to identify any scientific basis for the inclusion of the 150 exposure incidents as being the appropriate measure for exposure by volunteer rural firefighters.”

THE SITUATION IN VICTORIA

Victoria and NSW are the only States left with no legislation to help firefighters with cancer.

Victorian firefighters still face the near impossible barrier that all of the burden of proof is on them.  The sick firefighter is expected to come up with the evidence, often more than exists in CFA’s own files, when the cause of their cancer could be a fire or chemical spill 10 or 15 years ago.

Before the 2014 State Election, Victorian Labor announced that “Victorian legislation for career and volunteer firefighters will reflect the cancers covered and timeframes for duty of service as in the Tasmanian legislation” and explicitly contained no reference to unequal treatment or extra eligibility requirements for volunteers.

Since the election, the new Government has promised to introduce legislation in 2016, but has not come up with any details, leaving significant unanswered questions.  The Government has told the media it is talking to stakeholders, although VFBV’s most recent letter to the Minister on presumptive legislation remains unanswered.

The State Government is well aware of our concerns over any possible discrimination in the form of extra eligibility requirements that only apply to volunteers, however, the Government’s letters to a number of volunteers since the election have hinted that it is considering imposing a requirement for an arbitrary number of turnouts before a volunteer becomes eligible for compensation.

WHAT VOLUNTEERS CAN DO NOW   

Speak up now.  Don’t wait until you know a volunteer who has cancer, and don’t wait until the State Government introduces discriminatory or inadequate legislation for Victoria.

  •          Ask your local Member of Parliament for their support – go and see them, write them a letter or send an email
  •          Raise the issue with your local media
  •          Post a comment or a meme on Facebook
  •          Talk to other volunteers and encourage them to speak up now

Call (03) 9886 1141 or talk to your VFBV State Councillor if you need advice, assistance or your local MP or newspaper’s contact details.

Questions to ask your State MP:

  •          Do they support presumptive legislation that treats career and volunteer firefighters equally?
  •          Do they support presumptive legislation that is retrospective, so volunteers are covered if they have cancer now, or are diagnosed before the legislation is passed?
  •          Will the MP raise the issue in Parliament now and call for an end to the delay?

For CFA volunteers suffering from work related cancer, the promised Victorian legislation can’t come fast enough, and it important that all CFA volunteers send a simple message to Members on both sides of Parliament; we are sick of waiting.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The cancers and years-of-service eligibility requirements that appear in the Commonwealth and other States’ legislation are;

Primary site brain cancer (5 years)

Primary site testicular cancer (10 years)

Primary site bladder cancer (15 years)

Multiple myeloma (15 years)

Primary site kidney cancer (15 years)

Primary site prostate cancer (15 years)

Primary non-Hodgkins lymphoma (15 years)

Primary site ureter cancer (15 years)

Primary leukaemia (5 years)

Primary site colorectal cancer (15 years)

Primary site breast cancer (10 years)

Primary site oesophageal cancer (25 years)

 Return to VFBV website front page

Published in Uncategorised
Wednesday, 05 October 2016 09:31

WA Passes Firefighters' Cancer Law

The Western Australian Parliament has just passed its Firefighters’ Cancer Law for volunteers, adding to the momentum of presumptive legislation around the country and the pressure for legislation in Victoria.

Tell your MPs it is time for presumptive legislation in Victoria that lists the same 12 cancers named in other States, treats career and volunteer firefighters equally, and includes retrospective coverage for firefighters who have already been diagnosed.

Presumptive legislation works by reversing the onus of proof.  The cancer is presumed to be work related provided it is one of 12 listed cancers and the firefighter has sufficient years of service.  

The WA legislation was supported by the Liberal National Government, the Labor Opposition, Upper House Greens and independent MPs, however it does not match the standard set by Queensland and South Australia, which treat career and volunteer firefighters equally.

Unlike their career colleagues, WA volunteers are expected to show they have attended at least five hazardous fires – structure and vehicle fires - each year for five years.

Victorian firefighters are still waiting for the legislation they were promised, and there are still unanswered questions. 

Before the 2014 State Election, Labor announced that “Victorian legislation for career and volunteer firefighters will reflect the cancers covered and timeframes for duty of service as in the Tasmanian legislation” and explicitly contained no reference to unequal treatment or extra eligibility requirements for volunteers.  However, the Government’s letters to volunteers since the election have hinted that it is considering imposing a requirement for an arbitrary number of turnouts before a volunteer becomes eligible for compensation.

Your local MPs need to know that volunteers are tired of waiting and will not accept being treated differently just because they are not paid.

Find your Member of Parliament's contact details here.

Find your Upper House Members of Parliament here.

Learn more at the VFBV Firefighters' Cancer Law page.

Published in VFBV News
Thursday, 10 September 2015 00:00

Good News from Qld on Cancer Law

UPDATED 14 SEPTEMBER; There's good news from Queensland on presumptive legislation – the Firefighters' Cancer Law - a Queensland Parliamentary Committee has recommended legislation that treats paid and volunteer firefighters equally, and names the same 12 cancers and years-of-service requirements that appear in other States’ legislation.

The Queensland Parliamentary Committee had been tasked with comparing two different versions of presumptive legislation, one from the Queensland Labor Government, the other supported by the Coalition.

Queensland Labor’s Bill includes a discriminatory extra requirement that volunteers show 150 exposure incidents before they qualify for compensation, while the Coalition-supported Bill treats career and volunteer firefighters equally.  The two Bills are expected to go to a vote in the Queensland Parliament soon, possibly in a matter of days.

VFBV’s submission to the Parliamentary Committee called for legislation treating career and volunteer firefighters equally while listing the same 12 cancers and years-of-service requirements used in the Commonwealth and other States’ legislation.

The United Firefighters’ Union’s submission called for volunteers to show “a specified minimum of exposure incidents (150)”, but no such requirement for the staff working alongside them.

The UFU submission is surprising and disappointing because VFBV and UFU have been pursuing a joint campaign in Victoria since 2012 to ensure all Victorian career and volunteer firefighters are provided with access to their rightful entitlements in the event that they contract cancer, and VFBV will follow up this issue with UFU Secretary Peter Marshall.

VFBV urged the Queensland Committee to follow South Australia’s lead, where experience shows the actual cost of treating volunteers equally is a tiny fraction of the estimates made before the legislation was enacted, and the discriminatory extra requirement that volunteers show 150 exposures has now been dropped.

Click here to see the Queensland announcement on the Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland (RFBAQ) website.

Click here to see VFBV's recent media release, explaining presumptive legisaltion and the importance of treating paid and volunteer firefighters equally.

 

 

Published in VFBV News

VFBV MEDIA RELEASE - 9 June 2015

CFA Volunteers are watching with considerable interest as the Queensland Parliament begins the process to enact a law which gives all firefighters in Queensland - paid and volunteer - fairer cancer compensation rights.

Presumptive legislation now being enacted in most States except Victoria, works 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. The claim could still be rejected if it could be proven the cancer was not related to firefighting duties.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria CEO Andrew Ford said the legislation is not about a new entitlement, it is about removing an unfair barrier that blocks sick firefighters from receiving the cancer compensation to which they are entitled.

“It’s just a reversal of the onus of proof. Until now, Queensland firefighters have faced the same unfair barrier as Victorian firefighters; the near impossible task of providing sufficient evidence to prove the cause of the cancer arose from particular fires, incidents or other work duties - events that might have happened 10, 15 or more years ago,” Mr Ford said.

“The Queensland presumptive legislation is the fairer and simpler cancer compensation law that Victoria’s CFA volunteers have been promised, and are still waiting to see,” he said.

“Queensland is joining South Australia, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania, in moving to take away the unfair barrier that stops firefighters from accessing compensation when they suffer typical firefighter cancers,” he said.

The Bill now before the Queensland Parliament specifically provides that there will be no discrimination between paid and volunteer firefighters, under the new cancer compensation rights. The Queensland Bill lists the same 12 cancers and minimum lengths of service required to qualify as are standard under the laws adopted by the Commonwealth and most Australian States and Territories, but not Victoria as yet.

The Queensland Bill is what the current Victorian Labor Government promised Victorian firefighters in the lead up to the last election – it uses the same list of 12 cancers and the same years of service requirements as the current law in Tasmania, but without any additional eligibility hurdles that discriminate against volunteers.

“Current Tasmanian law includes additional discriminatory requirements that must be met by their volunteer firefighters, but thankfully these were not part of Victorian Labor’s commitment to CFA volunteers,” Mr Ford said.

“South Australia had similar discriminatory requirements in their original legislation but have now deleted them and given volunteers the same eligibility requirements as the paid firefighters who work alongside them,” he said.

“We are hopeful that the Victorian Government will be in a position to announce details to support their promise at last year’s election, in the very near future,” Mr Ford said.

CFA volunteers who have contracted cancer currently face the difficulty that as volunteers they have no firefighter sick leave or superannuation to fall back on. Victorian law leaves all firefighters, career and volunteer alike, battling red tape and sometimes a long legal battle just to get a fair hearing, whilst they are forced to prove which fires or incidents might have caused their cancer.

It is nearly impossible to meet the standard of proof required by current Victorian law, just as it was under the laws that other States have replaced with fairer presumptive legislation for firefighters with cancer.

“After years of procrastination by the previous Victorian Government on presumptive cancer compensation rights for Victorian volunteer and career firefighters, Labor promised presumptive legislation just like the law that Queensland is now enacting,” Mr Ford said.

“For our CFA volunteer members suffering from work related cancer, the implementation of this Labor promise can’t come fast enough,” he said.

Ends…

Published in VFBV News

The Greens will be raising the issue of presumptive/cancer legislation for firefighters in the Upper House of the Victorian Parliament tomorrow, Wednesday 17 September, about 4pm.

They’ll be calling for the support of all parties.

This issue affects all CFA volunteers, so you are welcome to attend to sit in the gallery, hear the debate & show your support.

The address is Parliament House, Spring Street, Melbourne.

Get there early, visitors/observers are welcome but there are formalities with security.

Published in VFBV News
Sunday, 15 June 2014 00:00

CFA Volunteers Launch Cancer Petition

MEDIA RELEASE - Sunday, 15 June 2014

The CFA volunteers’ association is calling on all Victorians to sign a petition to help firefighters to get fairer and simpler cancer compensation.

Speaking at a rally of hundreds of CFA volunteers at Scoresby on Sunday, Andrew Ford of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (pictured) said the volunteers are campaigning to get rid of an unfair barrier that prevents firefighters from getting the compensation they have been promised.

“We have been working with the Government and opposition parties for several years, but firefighters who suffer from cancer that’s related to their firefighting services are still facing an almost impossible barrier, right when they are sick and most in need of help,” Mr Ford said.

“The problem is in proving the cancer was work related, whether it be for a volunteer firefighter or one of their career colleagues,” he said.

“Unlike a broken bone, cancer can take many years to appear, leaving the firefighter with the nearly impossible task of proving that one particular incident caused the cancer.”

“It effectively says you are entitled to the compensation, but when you get sick, you can’t have it,” Mr Ford said.

The CFA volunteers are now collecting signatures for a statewide petition, calling on the Victorian Parliament to change the law so the onus of proof is reversed.

“Certain types of cancer are known to be more common in firefighters, and we need Victoria to follow the lead of the Australian, Tasmanian, West Australian and South Australian

Parliaments in recognising those 12 cancers and presuming them to be work related if the sick firefighter has sufficient years of service,” Mr Ford said.

“The firefighters’ cancer law would relieve the sick CFA volunteer of the almost impossible task of proving the cancer was work related, and would allow them to concentrate on their treatment and recovery, instead of a lengthy court case,” he said.

“As the CFA volunteers’ association, Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria is distributing the Firefighters’ Cancer Petition to every district in the state, and we call on every Victorian to sign the petition and show support for the volunteers who do so much to protect the community.”

The Firefighters’ Cancer Petition calls on the Victorian Parliament to introduce legislation based on the Australian Parliament’s legislation, listing 12 known firefighter cancers, with equal coverage for volunteer firefighters and their career colleagues.

You can download the petition and learn more about presumptive legislation, the firefighters’ cancer law, at the CFA volunteers’ website; www.vfbv.com.au

CFA Brigades protect 60% of suburban Melbourne, regional cities and all of country Victoria, every day and night of the year.

CLICK HERE to download a copy of the petition kit, including instructions for its use and a leaflet explaining the issue to the public.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Firefighters’ Cancer Law and how you can help

 

Published in VFBV News

More than 450 CFA volunteers and their families have attended a rally organised by volunteers in District 13 to draw attention to the need for a firefighters’ cancer law.

The proposed law would provide access to fair compensation for firefighters suffering cancer caused by exposure to smoke and chemicals during their firefighting duties.

Organised by local volunteers from the eastern suburbs and Yarra Valley, the event attracted CFA volunteers, their friends and families and fire trucks from all over suburban Melbourne and country Victoria.

Event organiser, CFA volunteer and VFBV District 13 President Bill Watson AFSM (pictured, addressing the rally) said, “There is plenty of evidence that firefighters are more likely to suffer certain types of cancer. We are entitled to compensation, but that all falls apart when the sick firefighter is required to prove which fire or chemical incident caused the cancer.”

“It’s not like a broken bone where you know exactly when and where it happened. The burning car or house fire you attend today may cause a cancer that doesn’t show up for decades, which makes it nearly impossible to prove it was work-related,” Mr. Watson said.

“The solution is presumptive legislation, a law that lists the 12 typical firefighter cancers and presumes them to be work-related, providing the firefighter has enough years of service behind them and relevant risk exposure.”

The Australian Parliament passed firefighters’ cancer legislation called the Fair Protection for Firefighters Bill, in 2011. Since then Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia have all passed their own presumptive legislation, recognising the connection between firefighting and cancer.

Mr. Watson says, Coalition, Labor and Greens Members of Parliament were invited to address the rally. “CFA volunteers are calling on all of the political parties and every member of the Victorian Parliament to help solve this problem.”

“We are looking for a law that applies equally to frontline CFA volunteers and the staff firefighters who work alongside them. The smoke and chemicals don’t discriminate, nor should compensation for sick firefighters,” he said.

“CFA volunteers in suburban Melbourne and country Victoria protect the community every

day and night of the year,” Mr Watson said.

“We are now asking all members of the Victorian Parliament to pass a firefighters’ cancer law that supports sick firefighters in their time of need.”

VFBV HAS LAUNCHED A STATEWIDE PETITION CALLING FOR A CHANGE IN THE LAW

CLICK HERE to download a copy of the petition kit, including instructions for its use and a leaflet explaining the issue to the public.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Firefighters’ Cancer Law and how you can help

Published in VFBV News
Monday, 22 September 2014 00:00

First Batch of Petitions goes to Parliament

UPDATED 25 OCTOBER 2014

Labor MP Luke Donnellan's statement to the Victorian Parliament, after tabling part of the first batch of 16,000 signatures on the CFA Volunteers' Cancer Petition, which calls on the Government to fix problems with the existing firefighters’ cancer compensation process.

Mr DONNELLAN (Narre Warren North) -- I congratulate Country Fire Authority volunteers on the collection over a short period of time of well over 16 000 signatures to petitions about presumptive legislation in relation to firefighters, both volunteer and full time.

We on this side of the house recognise that there is a direct link between fighting fires and certain types of cancer. We also note that the commonwealth Parliament passed, in a bipartisan way, presumptive legislation which allows recognition of that link and changes the onus of proof from the firefighter. Therefore firefighters are able to make a claim against WorkCover based on the presumption that certain types of firefighting and chemicals can result in cancer.

Over a period of, I think, two months the volunteers collected well over 16 000 signatures to petitions. The government to date has been silent. At the moment there is an inquiry going on at Monash University. I know there are many members of the government who support the idea of presumptive legislation and who are pushing internally in relation to that, but we on this side of the house have fully supported it for the 60 000 volunteers and the full-time firefighters.

See the VFBV media release here

VFBV is hopeful the presentation of these petitions to the Victorian Parliament next week will help convince MPs of all parties to fix a problem that has now been fixed in most other States across Australia.

16,000 signatures are included in this first batch, making this one of the largest petitions to be presented to the current Parliament. In the meantime, the campaign continues and volunteers are urged to keep collecting signatures and posting completed petitions to VFBV, PO Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149.

The first batch of petitions was lodged with the assistance of Labor MP for Narre Warren North, Luke Donnellan (Pictured), and Liberal MP for Hastings, Neale Burgess.

Please post signed petitions to:

VFBV Cancer Petition, PO Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149.

CLICK HERE to download a copy of the petition kit, including instructions for its use and a leaflet explaining the issue to the public.

Published in VFBV News
Thursday, 30 October 2014 00:00

VFBV seeks donations for cancer law campaign

VFBV is preparing to step up the campaign for presumptive legislation, the firefighters’ cancer law, by inviting donations to support the campaign.

The VFBV Presumptive Legislation Campaign Trust Account is a specific purpose trust account to meet the costs of VFBV’s campaign for presumptive legislation for firefighters, including;

•             Provision of information to members and the public

•             Research and analysis

•             Legal support, and

•             Legal representation costs relevant to the pursuit of presumptive legislation, including but not limited to test cases as deemed necessary.

We will be advertising broadly to encourage the support of the public and volunteers for this fund raising effort, and a donation facility will be added to this website in a few days.  In the meantime, anyone wishing to make a donation or ask a question should call VFBV on (03) 9886 1141 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The VFBV Presumptive Legislation Campaign Trust Fund is clearly aimed at supporting our pursuit of presumptive legislation and fair protection for firefighters.

Funds raised will assist our campaign efforts and possible test case pursuit, but will not extend to covering personal illness related compensation as we clearly see this as an obligation for the CFA volunteer compensation arrangements.

What volunteers can do;

  •          Brigades, Groups and District Councils, as well as the public, are invited to donate to the fund - call (03) 9886 1141 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to make a pledge, an online facility will be available soon
  •          Raise the issue of presumptive legislation/the firefighters’ cancer law at any opportunity with Members of Parliament, local media and online

 You can download VFBV’s Notes for MPs and Notes for Volunteers by clicking here

Published in VFBV News

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…

Published in VFBV News
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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