Welcome to 2024!
This year I am looking forward to working with our members, Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) and the other volunteer emergency service associations in promoting the welfare, safety and resourcing of volunteer firefighters and brigades.
In my role as executive officer, it is humbling to represent you and to be your voice in ensuring volunteering continues to enrich your lives, and the lives of those you respond to in your communities.
I am looking forward to seeing what 2024 brings, and what growth and development we can achieve together for the betterment Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service (VFRS) across our State.
The end of 2023 was a tough and tragic time for me. I lost one of my best friends, Tinesh Tamilkodi, when he was killed in a motor vehicle accident while attending a job in his role of clinical support paramedic with St John WA.
Thank you, to each of you who reached out to me in my time of grief. One of the many things that VFRS does well, is look after each other in times of need.
Tinesh’s death and the recent deaths of other emergency service workers whilst on duty is a stark and tragic reminder of the dangers each first responder faces while attending to their community’s needs.
Each one of our firefighters have additional roles outside of volunteering. Whilst we are grateful for all that they do for your communities, what we desire above all is that you go home safe and well to those you mean the world too.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) health is defined “as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
Promoting the health of our volunteers is a priority of the Association. Therefore, when it was made known that the legislation amendments to add volunteer emergency service personnel to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Presumptive Legislation (under the Workers Compensation and Injury Management Act 2023) was blocked last year, to say that the Association was disappointment would be an understatement.
Our volunteers, including those from other emergency services, feel let down by the Government. It was decided that a united front from all volunteer emergency services associations was needed because all first responders need to be supported and protected.
Read the latest update on what we have been doing to work towards ensuring the well-deserved protection and care for our dedicated emergency services volunteers.
The second half of 2023 passed quickly. Between September and December 2023, I visited the following brigades:
Boyup Brook VFRS
Mount Barker VFRS
Wongan Hills VFRS
Thank you to the brigades for your hospitality, and for your passion to see your communities looked after.
When I visit brigades, I regularly hear about how everyone loves what they do and how they enjoy serving their community through fire and rescue services.
The frustrations felt are also shared amongst brigades:
A decline in membership in isolated regional towns.
Appliance requiring replacement due to age.
Stations and facilities that are not up to the standards needed to ensure appropriate hygiene and decontamination.
Paying Volunteer Firefighters
Early October 2023, radio stations asked for my comment on Albanese Government’s Minister for Emergency Management, Senator the Hon Murray Watt’s proposal to pay the volunteers over summer to provide a service.
My answer to the interviewers was that the Government must first focus on looking after our current volunteers. Funding needs to go towards station and fleet improvements, and education to see our volunteers develop as leaders and firefighters.
Volunteers to Train Volunteers
At our last VFRS Association Executive Committee meeting, the Association’s training policy was updated to endorse volunteers to train volunteers.
This came about through the unprecedented disruption to volunteer training because of the United Professional Firefighters Union of Western Australia industrial action.
It was decided that DFES would seek expressions of interests from volunteers with a passion for training to be qualified to deliver the following courses:
Advanced Bush firefighting
Australasian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMS) 2017
The reason behind only allocating four courses with volunteer trainers was to avoid significant delays organising volunteer trainers to run courses. Dependent on the future review, additional courses will be run by volunteer trainers.
There was excellent feedback and interest in the volunteer training roles, and we look forward to seeing how this develops in 2024.
Upcoming VFRS Association Executive Committee Meeting
On Saturday 3 February, our executive committee will be coming together for the first of our quarterly meetings for 2024. Due to the limitation of VFRS Association funds and rising costs, most executive committee members will be attending by video conference.
If there is a topic or issue that you would like raised, please contact one of your zone representatives as soon as possible so the item can be added to the meeting’s agenda. A list of zone representatives can be found here.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to you for your continued dedication to your communities as volunteer firefighters. The difference you make across our State has an impact beyond words and we appreciate your brigade’s willingness to continually show up in times of need.
If you have any questions or issues you would like to discuss with me, you can call me on 0427 800 038 or contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.