We have received a few phone calls from our members following an article that appeared in the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB) newsletter recently and we thought it timely to clarify this to our members.
We thank the AVBFB for highlighting some errors in the recently released Department of Fire & Emergency Services (DFES) Annual Report; however, in the interests of accuracy, we would like to correct a few errors and misconceptions put forward in their article.
Our association changed its name from Western Australian Volunteer Fire Brigades Association in 1998 following the change in our Service name to the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS). Our current name – Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services Association of WA (Inc) – was resolved at our AGM in September 2017.
There are currently 94 VFRS Brigades in Western Australia for whom DFES has direct responsibility – plus an additional 5 private Brigades that operate under MOU with mining companies. 90 of these Brigades (including all 5 private Brigades, plus Tammin Volunteer Fire & Emergency Service) are financial members of the VFRSA.
It should also be noted that the VFRS are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks of a year – dealing with not only landscape fires, but road crash rescue, structural fires and hazardous material incidents. In addition, as an integral part of their communities, they visit local schools, nursing homes and the like to reinforce fire safety messages – as well as assisting with reducing fire risks in their communities. In 2017/18 VFRS Brigades attended 5,622 incidents – including 2,318 fires and 972 rescues.
We believe it is disingenuous of the AVBFB to compare the funding of our Associations, given our Brigades are the responsibility of DFES, while Bush Fire Brigades are owned and operated by local government – a point they have been very vocal in supporting. Logically, the AVBFB should be seeking further support from local governments, over and above the generous grant currently received from the State.
It should be noted that our Association – in the interests of complete transparency – complies with both the spirit and intent of Associations Incorporation Act 2015; specifically, with regards to keeping lists of members and providing information to members when requested. This also includes circulating the minutes of each Executive meeting within 14 days of the meeting.The funding amounts listed in the DFES Annual Report are also misleading – the sum of $400,000 noted as being provided to our Association comprises an administration grant of $236,000 – the balance is a budget limit for the organisation and management of our VFRS competitions that is not always fully utilised. These competitions, both Junior and Senior, are an important feature of volunteer attraction and retention for DFES.
Brigades should by now have received their copy of the Association’s annual report and if you or your members have any queries with regards to the information contained within it, please contact the Association office.
Attack on VFRS Members by AVBFB
The Western Australian Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services Association (WAVFRSA) is the peak body representing WA’s 2,700+ Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS) members – serving their communities in 100 locations across the length and breadth of the State. 97% of these Brigades are members of our Association and pay an annual affiliation fee.
The Association has been in discussions with the current government regarding presumptive legislation for volunteer fire and rescue service members who contract one of the 12 prescribed types of cancer since 2011 and we have been working with both DFES and the government since the announcement of the proposed legislation by the then Minister for Emergency Services, the Honourable Troy Buswell in October 2012.
Members of the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service do not only respond to landscape fires (or bushfires as they are more commonly known), but also turn out to road crash rescue, structure fires (houses and caravans), car fires and direct to brigade alarms (hospitals, aged care facilities etc) at all hours of the day; and they often train on a weekly basis to ensure their skills remain current.
Re: Waroona Bushfire Special Inquiry Submission
We refer to the submission made by the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades of Western Australia (inc) to the Waroona Bushfire Special Inquiry, dated 13th March 2016.
In the covering letter, Acting President Dave Gossage states “We as a collective group of associations expressed our concerns via a joint associations statement issued on the 21 January 2016.”
Waroona Fire Enquiry - March 2016
The Western Australian Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services Association (WAVFRSA, or ‘Association’) was formed in April 1898 to provide a single voice on behalf of the State’s Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS) Brigades and volunteers. The Association currently represents 97 Brigades involving more than 2500 VFRS Volunteers.
To achieve effective representation, the Association has designed and managed a hierarchy that stipulates 2 representatives from each of 7 Zones across the State; meeting at least 4 times per year. Leadership is from an elected President (Paul du Boulay from Northam VFRS), and 2 Vice Presidents. An Executive Officer and Office Administrator are paid employees providing extra representation and support on a number of fronts enabling the Association to provide a broad based grass roots support.
Our members are becoming increasingly frustrated at the unsubstantiated claims and myths being perpetuated by some spokespeople from the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB), in their ongoing and self-serving attacks on the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), the Fire and Rescue Service and its members. It should be noted that our members were amongst the first Brigades to respond to the recent Waroona/Yarloop fires, almost 40 VFRS Brigades were involved during the incident; and there has been little coverage acknowledging their efforts from the media. This has been the case at every major fire in Western Australia so far this century where VFRS brigades have provided a significant firefighting service and undertaken a major role.
Government’s Response to Ferguson Report
This Association reiterates its position that the creation of a fully independent Rural Fire Service (RFS) would be a short sighted and financially irresponsible decision that would not serve the communities of Western Australia any better than the current arrangements. A totally independent RFS would limit the opportunity for multiagency co-operability and raise impediments for our members to undertake their roles.