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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, 09 June 2016 00:00

VFBV FireWise Column - June 2016

In This Edition

CFA VOLUNTEERS AND COMMUNITY MAKE A STAND

         - 3,500 volunteers rally in Melbourne

WA ACTS ON CANCER LAW

SURVEY OPENS SOON

FISKVILLE INQUIRY

VFBV MULTI-AGENCY YOUTH NETWORK

AFFILIATION DUE NOW

 

CFA VOLUNTEERS AND COMMUNITY MAKE A STAND

By Andrew Ford, Chief Executive Officer

As we go to press, CFA is poised at a potential turning point in its history.

We have staged a successful rally, with all political parties invited to be represented, where 3,500 volunteers heard words of support from the Prime Minister and the Victorian Leader of the Opposition, and there was extended applause from the crowd for Victorian Minister for the Emergency Services, Jane Garrett (see video from the rally here), but the issue remains unresolved.

We face the prospect of an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement between CFA and the United Firefighters’ Union that will mean the progressive dismantling of CFA as a volunteer and community based, fully integrated service.

And while Cabinet has delayed a final decision, the Premier’s comments still suggest he is forging ahead regardless of our concerns, to the exclusion of volunteers’ opinions or the consultation and involvement in decision making guaranteed by the recognition of the provisions of the CFA Volunteer Charter in the CFA Act.

We have written to the Premier, Deputy Premier, Minister and every member of Cabinet, urging them to meet with us and understand our concerns before decisions are made.

To make matters worse, Fair Work Australia has rejected VFBV’s application to be heard on behalf of volunteers; our letter to FWA is available on our website, and makes the point that “the proposed EBA contains a significant number of clauses which affect and impact CFA volunteers and related organisation and operation of CFA”.

Lined up against the objectionable parts of the UFU’s proposed Enterprise Bargaining Agreement is the unified opinion of volunteers, CFA senior managers, CFA’s Chief Officer and CEO, the CFA Board and Minister for Emergency Services Jane Garrett.

The CFA Board has reaffirmed its stance against the union’s log of claims, publishing a list of 14 threshold issues, and saying they would:

  • Remove or diminish the ability of the Chief Officer to allocate and deploy resources flexibly and with agility
  • Require agreement or provide veto to UFU over CFA management decision
  • Restrict or negatively impact on volunteers and BASOs.
  • Be discriminatory

 

The United Firefighters Union has persistently denied that the proposed EBA will affect volunteers, but that does not match up with our reading of the document, CFA’s detailed responses to the union’s claims – as published for all members on the CFA website – and Minister Garrett’s published comment that the UFU’s demands are “over the top, unaffordable and compromise community safety”.

Both the CFA Board and VFBV are still pressing for meaningful discussion with the State Government, and volunteers have taken to the streets to show their support for the Minister who has clearly supported us and the communities we volunteered to protect.

We cannot afford to back down on this issue.

The marginalisation and progressive destruction of urban volunteerism set off by this EBA would mean Victoria loses its world renowned surge capacity to fight simultaneous large bushfires and long duration fires whilst maintaining fire and emergency services to local communities.

We have no interest in nor argument with the paid firefighters negotiating hard for pay increases and those aspects of the EBA that deal with legitimate employment conditions of individual paid employees such as leave and rosters. Our only wish is that those matters be resolved as quickly as possible and that the government provide additional funding to CFA to cover the full costs of these increases.

Our interest is the future of the volunteer and community based CFA, the future of CFA volunteerism and the protection of our communities.

These will be testing times but we must remember not to make this debate a personal one, and at all times we need to respect one another as volunteers and paid members of CFA who work well together today and must continue to work well together tomorrow for the benefit of the Victorian community.

Volunteers need to remain ready to escalate action publicly if the government’s decision making process looks like delivering an unfair or foolish outcome.

In the meantime, members should continue actively publicising our concerns at every opportunity you have and activate all of your community networks and continue writing your concerns to MPs and decision makers.

At a national level, the collective body of volunteer firefighter associations is mobilising and keenly watching a problem developing in Victoria that has serious flow on implications in each state. In addition, our 250,000 brother and sister fire volunteers, along with SES volunteers, have a direct and keen conviction to pursue Federal Legislation that protects and respects volunteers. This has been a priority for some time and the time to pursue this with vigour has never been better than now, particularly given that the message has now resonated right up to Prime Minister level. We will be actively seeking to talk to all sides of Federal politics to encourage and obtain their active support for this fundamental issue and volunteer right.

VFBV is working hard as the voice of volunteers, you can now add volume to that voice, by contacting local MPs and local media with your concerns. Every volunteer’s voice deserves to be heard, and the State’s decision makers must hear it.

 

WA ACTS ON CANCER LAW

Western Australia has just introduced presumptive legislation to give firefighters fairer and simpler cancer compensation.

The Bill before the WA Parliament does not match the current standard met by Queensland and South Australia, where volunteers and staff are treated equally, but it is well ahead of the out-of-date and discriminatory Tasmanian legislation being considered as a model for a possible Victorian Bill.

The WA legislation lists the same cancers and years of service requirements that appear in other States’ legislation, and is backdated to 13 November 2013, the date WA’s legislation for career staff took effect.

However, the WA legislation also includes an additional eligibility requirement that only applies to volunteers, who must have at least five years’ volunteer service where they have attended an average of at least five hazardous fires per year, where hazardous fires include building, vehicle or rubbish fires.

In Victoria, CFA volunteers are still waiting, with unanswered questions about whether the proposed Victorian legislation will treat career and volunteer firefighters equally, and whether it will be retrospective, providing cover for volunteers who have already been diagnosed with cancer.

VFBV continues to press this issue with the Government and MPs. Let your local MPs know this issue is important to all volunteers.

 

SURVEY OPENS SOON

The 2016 VFBV Volunteer Welfare & Efficiency Survey will open on 15 July.  CFA volunteers can register online now at www.vfbv.com.au/cfa  or visit the vfbv website to find the link.

Last year a record 2,500 volunteers took part.   More participants means greater influence for the survey results when we take them to CFA, the Emergency Management Commissioner and the State Government.

We are also hosting a version of the survey for other Victorian emergency volunteers, who can register at www.vfbv.com.au/vcf  and from this year interstate fire volunteers can register at www.vfbv.com.au/cavfa

The VFBV Volunteer Welfare & Efficiency Survey is an annual snapshot of volunteer opinion, which includes 33 questions on issues chosen by volunteers.

This is the survey’s fifth year, and VFBV and the CFA Board study each year’s results to see trends in volunteer opinion on those important issues.   Your comments are confidential, but the results go straight to the decision makers.

For more information click here or  talk to your VFBV State Councillor.

 

FISKVILLE INQUIRY

The Fiskville Inquiry’s final report includes 31 recommendations and 125 findings, covering the management of hazards at the site, future safety measures, remediation of the site, the health consequences, and the effects on those directly exposed and others including nearby landholders.

VFBV fully cooperated and supported the Inquiry with detailed written submissions and more than an hour of evidence.

The issues we presented to the Parliamentary Committee began with the paramount concern of the safety of our members and ongoing support to any members who have been exposed in the past.

From the beginning, VFBV had pressed for expert, independent, transparent and accountable analysis of decisions, and the Parliamentary Committee’s Fiskville Inquiry represented the opportunity to ensure decisions, messages and treatment are based on facts, established independently by experts, in a properly transparent process.

VFBV also pressed for immediate government action to fill the gap in training capacity left by Fiskville’s closure. Just as being safe in training is paramount, there is a huge risk to firefighters when they are confronted with real life situations if they haven’t had access to appropriate real-to-life training.

Over the years, Fiskville provided hot fire training and the full range of state level and specialised skills in incident management, incident leadership, operational decision making and real-to-life operational exercises.

The Inquiry has called for ongoing support measures for those affected, and VFBV continues to press for the urgent introduction of sufficient training capacity to replace Fiskville and meet CFA’s needs, and for the sector to set and support clear water standards based on expert opinion, for all agencies – something that has been lacking.

 

VFBV MULTI-AGENCY YOUTH NETWORK

VFBV is making great progress with our Youth Network.

On the back of a very successful CFA Youth Forum on 21 May (pictured), over 60 young people from all across Victoria have signed on to join the VFBV Multi Agency Youth Network. The link below has been forwarded to all District Council executives for circulation. Please pass this link to any young CFA volunteers, or young volunteers from other agencies, who might be interested.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vfbvyouth

Champions have been identified in 10 Districts so far. If there is someone in your District who would do a great job of being the young volunteers’ connection with District Council and source of experienced CFA and VFBV knowhow, please encourage them to contact their District Council executive or Chris Fryer at 9886 1141 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

AFFILIATION DUE NOW

Renewal notices for your Brigade/Group’s VFBV Affiliation and Brigade’s VFBV Volunteer Welfare Fund subscription are with your Secretary now, with a due date of 30 June, 2016.

The modest cost of $77.50 for VFBV affiliation is the same for all Brigades and Groups, and VFBV’s representation of CFA volunteers continues to win growing approval and support, with a record 94% of Brigades affiliating in 2015/16

We also strongly encourage Brigades to subscribe to the VFBV Welfare Fund in the interests of supporting your members in times of personal hardship. It should be noted that in order to access the VFBV Welfare Fund, your Brigade must be affiliated with VFBV, since the association pays all of the VFBV Welfare Fund’s operating costs. For full details visit the VFBV website www.vfbv.com.au and go to the Member Services area.  

For any enquiries, contact your VFBV State Councillors or call us on (03) 9886 1141.

 

Published in VFBV News

Updated 11 March 2016 - Here's a list of Victorian MPs who have signed the pledge to support firefighters with cancer and vote for non-discriminatory presumptive legislation for all Victorian firefighters.

Members of Parliament - If you've signed but are not listed here, or if you would like to sign the pledge, contact VFBV on (03) 9886 1141.

Volunteers - If your local MPs have not yet signed the pledge, see our Presumptive Legislation page to download a copy and see more information on the firefighters' cancer issue.

Member (in alphabetical order)

Electorate

Neil Angus

Forest Hill

Gary Blackwood

Narracan

Tim Bull

Gippsland East

Brad Battin

Gembrook

Roma Britnell

South West Coast

Neale Burgess

Hastings

Robert Clark

Box Hill

Peter Crisp

Mildura

Martin Dixon

Nepean

Margaret Fitzherbert

Southern Metropolitan

Christine Fyffe

Evelyn

Matthew Guy

Bulleen

Colleen Hartland

Western Metropolitan

Andrew Katos

South Barwon

Emma Kealy

Lowan

Wendy Lovell

Northern Victoria

Tim McCurdy

Ovens Valley

Cindy McLeish

Eildon

David Morris

Mornington

Russell Northe

Morwell

Danny O’Brien

Gippsland South

Craig Ondarchie

Northern Metropolitan

Brian Paynter

Bass

John Pesutto

Hawthorn

Simon Ramsay

Western Victoria

Dee Ryall

Ringwood

Steph Ryan

Euroa

Ryan Smith

Warrandyte

Tim Smith

Kew

David Southwick

Caulfield

Louise Staley

Ripon

Murray Thompson

Sandringham

Bill Tilley

Benambra

Heidi Victoria

Bayswater

Nick Wakeling

Ferntree Gully

Peter Walsh

Murray Plains

Kim Wells

Rowville

Mary Wooldridge

Eastern Metropolitan

 Return to the Presumptive Legislation page

 

Published in Uncategorised
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
Thursday, 16 July 2015 00:00

Cancer Law Battle in Queensland

With presumptive legislation at the committee stage in the Queensland Parliament, Queensland’s Labor Government is now trying to introduce a discriminatory extra eligibility requirement for volunteers.

With a private member’s Bill already proposing presumptive legislation that treats career and volunteer firefighters alike, the Queensland Government has introduced a Bill of its own that would introduce a discriminatory clause that only applies to volunteers and would require volunteers with cancer to have a minimum of 150 “exposure incidents” before they can qualify for presumptive compensation.

South Australian volunteers have already fought and won the battle against legislation requiring volunteers to have arbitrary numbers of turnouts, and the Queensland volunteers are gearing up to do the same, making sure Queensland Government MPs know exactly how they feel.

See the Queensland volunteers’ latest bulletin with their call to action.

 

 

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

VFBV MEDIA RELEASE

CFA volunteers cautiously welcome Coalition’s cancer announcement

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria, the CFA volunteers’ association, says that on face value the coalition’s announcement of a commitment to presumptive legislation for Victorian firefighters sounds like the makings of good news.

"We cautiously welcome this morning’s announcement, but await the detail, to confirm the Coalition’s commitment delivers the cancer compensation arrangements that we have been seeking for the past three years,” said Mr Andrew Ford, VFBV Chief Executive Officer.

“The issue is very important to Victoria’s volunteer and career firefighters,” he said.

“VFBV has been stepping up its campaign with tens of thousands of signatures on a petition to Parliament and increasing community awareness and support.”

“There are 12 cancers included in the presumptive legislation arrangements federally and in other states, and we expect the same in Victoria,” Mr Ford said.

“We would expect the detail of the Coalition’s commitment contains at least the same standards, and we look forward to the Government providing the information to us as soon as possible,” he said.

Current Victorian compensation arrangements have meant that it is almost impossible to access cancer compensation because the firefighter has to show evidence of fires or incidents they attended that might be 10 or 15 years ago and prove on the balance of probabilities which incidents or which toxic exposures caused their cancer.

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.

Federal legislation and laws in South Australia, WA, Tasmania and NT recognise 12 specific cancers to be covered by presumptive legislation for firefighters.

Published in VFBV News
Monday, 03 November 2014 00:00

SA Volunteers Covered for Cancer

South Australian CFS volunteers now have equal access to cancer compensation with their career colleagues under that State’s presumptive legislation.

Amid media reports of a backdown, the SA Government has scrapped its discriminatory extra eligibility requirement that applied to volunteers but not career firefighters.

The SA Government had been resisting the introduction of presumptive legislation for volunteers, based on incorrect and exaggerated costings.

With a year’s experience, the SA Government realised it had the costings wrong and has now moved to fix the problem and introduce legislation to give equal coverage to volunteers as soon as possible.

This leaves Victoria as one of the few States still resisting the introduction of presumptive legislation.

Published in VFBV News
Friday, 10 October 2014 00:00

First Batch of Petitions goes to Parliament

UPDATED 25 OCTOBER 2014: Liberal MP Neale Burgess' statement to the Victorian Parliament after tabling part of the CFA Volunteers' Cancer Petition, which calls on the Government to fix problems with the existing firefighters’ cancer compensation process.

Mr BURGESS (Hastings) -- Earlier this week I tabled a petition that represented half of a petition with a total of more than 60 000 signatures. The petitioners are seeking simpler cancer compensation arrangements for Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteer firefighters and their career colleagues.

Victorian firefighters, both paid and volunteer, are a very special breed of people; they are people who choose to put their lives at risk to keep ours safe. We are particularly fortunate in Victoria because, while we have some of the most dangerous fire conditions in the world, we also have some of the very best firefighters in the world.

The issue is one confronting all firefighters, paid and volunteer alike.

In Victoria, paid and volunteer firefighters work side by side, attend the same incidents, face the same risks and are exposed to the same toxins. Technically, all Victorian firefighters are already entitled to compensation for work-related cancer, but the current onus of proof arrangements require the firefighter to provide sufficient evidence to prove that the cancer arose from attendance at particular fires or incidents or other work duties. They may be events that occurred over the last 10 to 15 years, or even more. For most firefighters this is difficult because of the absence of sufficient records, data or analysis held by the CFA on each event a firefighter attends.

Under commonwealth jurisdiction and some state laws, the law lists 12 cancers known to be more common to firefighters, and presumes them to be work related if a firefighter has sufficient years of service, effectively reversing the onus of proof.

The CFA volunteers are asking for legislation that will take the burden of proof away from the sick firefighters and, importantly, that will treat all firefighters, volunteer and paid, as equals.

My own electorate is in an area protected by CFA volunteers, but that is not unusual -- CFA brigades protective 60 per cent of suburban Melbourne -- --

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) -- Order! The member's time has expired.

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, and Liberal MP for Hastings, Neale Burgess (Pictured).

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

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

<Update 16 May 2014> The first donations have been received.

Click here for the full story on Presumptive Legislation - the Firefighters' Cancer Law

Click here for our Notes for Volunteers on how donating the Trust Fund can help

VFBV invites you to help us to step up the campaign for presumptive legislation, the firefighters’ cancer law, by making a donation today.

See below to donate online now, or for details of how to make a bank transfer or donation by cheque.

The Volunteer Fire Fighters Occupational Illnesses (VFFOI) Awareness and Protection Fund is a specific purpose trust account to help meet the costs of the campaign for presumptive legislation for firefighters and building awareness of firefighter-related illnesses, the development of protections where possible and financial compensation protection for firefighters and their families, including;

  • Enabling research and analysis about VFFOI
  • Working with volunteer firefighters and members of the public to understand the effect of VFFOI on their families and communities
  • Working with volunteer firefighters and members of the community to recognise VFFOI and to take necessary preventative measures to protect the health and well-being of volunteer fire fighters
  • Protecting the rights and integrity of volunteer fire fighters who suffer from VFFOI by taking such steps as are necessary to recognise and entrench their legal rights to compensation where they suffer from VFFOI and, where necessary and in the sole and absolute discretion of the Trustees, fund test cases before the appropriate courts and tribunals to determine such rights.

The Volunteer Fire Fighters Occupational Illnesses (VFFOI) Awareness and Protection 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.

You can click here to make a donation;

Send a cheque to;

The Volunteer Fire Fighters Occupational Illnesses (VFFOI) Awareness and Protection Fund

PO Box 453

Mt Waverley 3149

Or transfer funds to Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria's Bendigo Bank account; BSB 633-000 Account Number 151841970

Brigades, Groups and District Councils, as well as the public, are invited to donate to the fund

Raise the issue of presumptive legislation/the firefighters’ cancer law at any opportunity with Members of Parliament, local media and online

Want to know more about the issue?  You can download VFBV’s Notes for MPs and Notes for Volunteers by clicking here

Any questions?  Call VFBV on (03) 9886 1141 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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

Updated 18 December - click here for SA volunteers' angry protest over cancer backdown

Lilydale: Volunteers turn out to support cancer campaign

One hundred CFA volunteers have lined the main street of Lilydale with fire trucks, at a family day in support of the campaign for fairer and simpler cancer compensation for Victoria’s firefighters.

Local volunteer representatives, including Lilydale Captain Warren Davis and VFBV District 13 President Bill Watson AFSM, met with Liberal MP Christine Fyffe to discuss the issue, and she offered her advice and assistance in organising meetings with other key MPs.   Labor MP Danielle Green also attended to show support, and both MPs addressed the crowd.

Volunteers are pursuing the issue because current Victorian law leaves firefighters with an almost impossible task; they are entitled to cancer compensation, but to get it they must show evidence of fires or incidents they attended that might be 10 or 15 years ago, and prove on the balance of probabilities which incidents or which toxic exposures caused the cancer.

Volunteers are calling for presumptive legislation that would reverse the onus of proof; if a firefighter suffers one of the known firefighter cancers, it would be presumed to be work related.  That would allow the firefighter to concentrate on treatment and recovery, instead of a lengthy and expensive court case.

So far, the Australian, Tasmanian, West Australian and South Australian Governments have changed their laws, but Victoria is lagging behind.

As the CFA volunteers’ association, Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) is calling on all volunteers to write to their local MPs, or meet with them, to explain the importance of the issue and ask them to introduce and support presumptive legislation for volunteer and career firefighters in Victoria.

Return to the Cancer Law Anger story

Published in VFBV News

VFBV - MEDIA RELEASE

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The CFA volunteers’ association says some MPs are missing the point on the campaign for fairer and simpler cancer compensation for firefighters.

Andrew Ford, CEO of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV), said Assistant Treasurer Gordon Rich-Phillips has told newspapers ‘Victorian firefighters are already able to access compensation’ but does not address the unfair obstacle they face when they apply.

“Yes the entitlement is there but because of the nature of firefighters’ work and the overly complex process requiring firefighters to prove which event caused the illness, they can’t actually access the entitlement.  That is our key concern. We are not looking for a new entitlement, just a fairer process,” Mr Ford said.

“Under current Victoria law firefighters are entitled to cancer compensation, but they must show evidence of fires or incidents they attended that might be 10 or 15 years ago and prove on the balance of probabilities which incidents or which toxic exposures caused the cancer,” he said.

The Australian Government and three other states have already accepted the scientific studies that show there is a list of a dozen cancers that are clearly more common in firefighters.

“The Australian and Tasmanian Governments have changed the laws to reverse the onus of proof; if one of their firefighters suffers one of those typical firefighter cancers, it is presumed to be work related. That allows the firefighter to concentrate on treatment and recovery, instead of a lengthy and expensive court case,” Mr Ford said.

“The South Australian and West Australian Governments are in the process of changing their laws for career and volunteer firefighters, which leaves Victoria lagging behind,” he said.

“CFA volunteers and their career colleagues are not asking for something extra, just the removal of an unfair barrier to compensation to which they are entitled,” Mr Ford said.

“And with other States going through with legislation, volunteers are tired of hearing excuses.  First there was the wait for extra research, when even the researchers said the wait was unnecessary.  Then there was the introduction of an extra assessment process, a process that doesn’t address the problem of that unfair barrier,” he said.

CFA Brigades protect 60% of suburban Melbourne, regional cities and all of country Victoria.

CFA volunteer firefighters are on call every day and night of the year, they train to professional standards and respond to fires, road accidents, industrial incidents, chemical spills and rescues.

Victoria’s 60,000 CFA volunteers are more than 97% of CFA’s workforce, which makes them an essential part of Victoria’s Emergency Management capability.

Published in VFBV News

MEDIA RELEASE

Friday 20 September 2013

FIREFIGHTERS’ CANCER LAW ISSUE NOT FINISHED - VOLUNTEERS

A proposal for fairer compensation for Victorian firefighters with cancer has failed in the Victorian Parliament, but the CFA volunteers’ association says the issue is definitely not finished.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) CEO Andrew Ford said CFA volunteers are extremely disappointed and concerned at the way an issue that is so important to them has been treated.

He said the vote in the Upper House of State Parliament this week just raises the question of what the State Government plans to do next.

“Volunteers are seeking a fairer and simpler path to cancer compensation for all Victorian firefighters, and the Government say they are not ruling out this kind of legislation,” Mr Ford said.

“However, Coalition MPs voted against sending the proposed legislation to the Lower House of State Parliament this week, so the legislation has lapsed, which means the ball is now in the Government’s court,” he said.

“The issue won’t go away, volunteer and career firefighters are still more likely to get cancer, current compensation law still forces them to prove a connection between the cancer and a specific date or event, and that is still very close to impossible.”

“How do you prove which fire and which toxins might have caused your cancer when the incident might have been 10 or 15 years ago and just one of the hundreds you have attended?” Mr Ford said.

The legislation had been proposed by the Greens and supported by Labor MPs, it was the vote of Coalition MPs that ended its run in the Upper House on Wednesday.

“Now there is no legislation before Parliament and the State Government has already said it is not ruling out support for this type of legislation, we are in the hands of the Government as to when it will come to Parliament for consideration,” Mr Ford said.

“Volunteers want to know what the Government plans to do now.”

The proposed legislation is presumptive – it would accept that firefighters are more likely to get certain types of cancer and it would presume those cancers to be work-related.

“Presumptive cancer legislation would mean a firefighter with one of those typical firefighter cancers could concentrate on their treatment and recovery instead of a court case.”

In 2011, the Australian Parliament passed presumptive legislation for federally-employed firefighters (including the fire crews at Melbourne Airport) with the support of all of the major parties, after a Senate Inquiry examined the scientific evidence and recommended it go ahead.

Since then, the WA, SA and Tasmanian Governments have accepted the existing scientific evidence and begun work on presumptive legislation for their firefighters.

VFBV and the United Firefighters’ Union are campaigning for presumptive legislation for Victorian firefighters, both volunteer and career.

“We are not asking for any new or extra compensation, just the removal of an unfair barrier to sick firefighters obtaining the compensation to which they are already entitled,” Mr Ford said.

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

Update: 12 August 2013 - This update will assist VFBV delegates in having this discussion with local MPs and encouraging discussion amongst our broader volunteer network.

Sadly, Victoria is still lagging behind other states on presumptive legislation to provide a fairer and simpler path to compensation for volunteer and career firefighters who contract cancer.

The Victorian Government has indicated it is awaiting the results of new Monash University research, when even the researchers have indicated the wait is unnecessary (see below for what they had to say).

In the meantime, you may have seen a recent media report that Government estimates obtained in a Freedom of Information (FOI) application suggest an annual claims cost to CFA of $130 million if the legislation is passed.

VFBV finds that figure difficult to believe, given that evidence accepted by a Senate inquiry considering the federal legislation showed there has not been a rush of claims when overseas governments passed similar laws.

Whether you believe those estimated figures or not, fair protection for firefighters shouldn't be made impossibly hard just to save the Government money.

If the cost really is that high it is because the problem is real and the cost is being borne by sick firefighters and their families.  If that is the case, then it is not reasonable to leave them facing that cost if they contract cancer while protecting community. 

Progress in other states

Tasmania: The Tasmanian Labor Government has introduced draft legislation into Parliament, although the Bill is, in our opinion, quite flawed in that it requires arbitrary numbers of turnouts before a firefighter can qualify for coverage.  The Bill is set to come up in the Tasmanian Lower House in August and expected to pass with the support of Labor and the Greens – the Liberals have not yet stated their position.  The process may be more complicated in the Tasmanian Upper House, which has a significant number of independent MPs.  See the Tasmanian Government’s announcement here.

South Australia: Having initially refused to support a Bill introduced by the Greens on the basis that it was awaiting the results of new research by Monash University, the SA Labor Government has now introduced its own Bill.  The SA Government’s Bill excludes volunteers, with the SA Government saying it is awaiting additional scientific studies before considering them.  You can download the SA Government’s media release below.

Western Australia: The West Australian Liberal National Government has announced it will  introduce presumptive legislation to cover volunteer and career firefighters, based on the Federal Government legislation as is being sought by VFBV, and verbally advised WA volunteer representatives that it will apply from 1 July 2013.  See the WA Government’s announcement here.

Victoria lags behind

It is disappointing that the Victorian Government has not yet declared its support, even though draft legislation has been presented to our Upper House by the Greens, with the in-principle support of Labor.

The Victorian Government has indicated it is awaiting the result of new Monash University research, even though the Australian Senate has already accepted a considerable weight of overseas research, the Australian Parliament passed legislation in 2011 with the support of all of the major parties, and even the Monash University researchers say sufficient evidence already exists.

In a letter to the Greens, researchers Associate Professor Deborah Glass and Professor Malcolm Sim said; 

“…there is already good evidence from a very large number of previous human studies that work as a firefighter is associated with an increased risk of several types cancer…  …waiting for more research findings, especially in this situation where the results of many cancer studies in firefighters are already available, will lead to unacceptable delays, possibly extending into years. “

In the meantime, the Victorian draft legislation will return to the Upper House of Parliament on Wednesday 21 August 2013, with no guarantee it can proceed.  From a VFBV viewpoint the issue shouldn’t be delayed, no matter the outcome on 21 August.  If the Bill can be introduced in the Upper House then volunteers will be looking to the other political parties to support it – if the Bill can only be introduced in the Lower House, then it is up to the major parties to either introduce or support presumptive legislation there.

VFBV has worked to secure the support of all of the major parties for this important initiative, reflecting the all-party support the Federal legislation received in the Australian Parliament in 2011.

VFBV and the United Firefighters’ Union are running a joint campaign for presumptive cancer legislation to apply to all Victorian volunteer and career firefighters.  This issue is fundamental for all firefighters.

What you can do

We call on VFBV delegates across Victoria to contact their local MPs and ask for their active support for presumptive legislation to make the path to cancer compensation simpler and fairer for all Victorian firefighters.  We are asking all Victorian MPs to take up the issue – those who don’t support presumptive legislation should be able to tell you why they do not.

If an MP does not support presumptive legislation, VFBV delegates should ask for their feedback on the issue.  VFBV will inform our membership of the progress on this issue, including making a summary of feedback from MPs available on the VFBV website.

VFBV has prepared a detailed briefing that local delegates can hand to MPs when meeting with them.

VFBV is also working to inform the Premier, Minister and other key MPs, publicising the issue via the media, writing to all State MPs and keeping volunteers informed via our website, the VFBV newsletter, The Fireman and regular updates to VFBV State Councillors and District officials.

The next appearance in the Victorian Parliament

Volunteers can attend State Parliament on the afternoon of Wednesday, 21 August 2013, to hear the debate when the Greens’ proposed Bill returns to the Upper House during the afternoon.  VFBV is not organising an official event, but any presence of volunteers in the public gallery will emphasise the importance of the Bill.

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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