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.