On Wednesday 6th December 2017, a day after International Volunteer Day, a Sydney based Volunteer Firefighter was convicted of dangerous driving in a Local Court case that was heard over three days. The Volunteer was charged by the NSW Police some months after the Police attended a Hazard Reduction Burn.
The Police attended following a phone call from a paid staff member of the NSW Rural Fire Service (the RFS) reporting an alleged incident. The volunteer was on route to the fire station to assist with a pre-planned hazard reduction burn. The matter was reported to the Police without the RFS taking any steps to investigate the allegations internally, or to even hear the Volunteer’s account of the event.
Legal costs to protect the good name of this Volunteer are now in the tens’ of thousands of dollars and the Volunteer Firefighter was sentenced and ordered to pay a $750 fine and had his license suspended for a 12-month period The legal proceedings have been underway for approximately 14 months, they have taken an incredible toll on the volunteer, his family and brigade.
The Volunteer has not received any support or communication from the NSW RFS.
Today’s question relates to the application of natural justice and conflicts of interests in NSW RFS disciplinary matters. My correspondent asks:
Can an appointed investigator of alleged allegations against a RFS volunteer be then placed as the Chairperson of the Zone Discipline Panel to make decisions on the same allegations?
The critical issue here is ‘natural justice’. One of the key elements of natural justice is that the decision maker must not have a stake in the matter and must hear from both sides and decide the issue before them without prior judgment.
A volunteer sent us an email and a document that was circulated from a Fire Control Centre recently. We have decided to share this information in a quest to discover if this Tick Insect Bite Pro Forma documentation is widespread and are there other injury specific forms in use.
The Tick Insect Bite Pro Forma is dated August 2016 and the document control states that it is version 1.3.
The questions being asked on the form are:
1. Was insect repellent containing Picaridin (e.g. Johnson ‘OFF!’ repellent) available to the injured member on the day of injury? If yes, did the injured member apply the repellent before commencing work and reapply as necessary during work?
2. On the day of injury did the Supervisor remind the injured member that repellent MUST be applied prior to work, then reapplied at regular intervals (particularly when sweating)?
3. When the tick was found was the removal undertaken by a competent first aider and can you confirm that the whole tick was removed (i.e. No head left behind)? If more than one tick, specify number of ticks.
4. What part(s) of the body were bitten by the tick(s)?
5. Has the injured member had any medical complications from the tick bite(s)?
You may recall the VFFA publishing a series of posts titled Was the attack on the fundraising activities of the RFSA justified?
Good News from Ray Hadley…. The ACCC is announcing, Charities risk stiff fines if they outsource their fundraising to companies that hound potential donors.
Charities have become big business. Mr Hadley suggests that you donate directly to your local brigade.
It is very important that we inform our readers that information provided by anonymous persons is noted and followed up where possible, but the level of support and assistance could be limited if we are unable to correspond with people who remain anonymous to the VFFA.
The privacy of our members, volunteers and whistle-blowers will always be treated as the highest priority when dealing with information provided.
Fire is undoubtedly one of the most important factors influencing the health of the country, economic viability, and the cultural values of Cape York.
Indigenous people have supported biodiversity with knowledge-based fires for thousands of years, but wild fires can be very damaging.
Wild fires mean that ecosystems are injured and may be significantly changed, graziers lose pasture and stock, and erosion and sediment run-off can badly affect even the Great Barrier Reef. People managing their property as part of a fire carbon farming project also suffer significant economic loss.
Recently there has been a resurgence in traditional burning practices on Cape York.
This, along with the management of fire savvy graziers, Rangers, and other land managers, has seen big improvements in ecologically sound fire management, typically patchy in nature.
beyondblue is undertaking the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Study of Police and Emergency Services to build a comprehensive picture of the mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency services personnel in Australia.
There is nothing more important than the mental health and wellbeing of the people who serve and protect our communities every day. This is a landmark piece of research beyondblue is undertaking, and I am delighted that almost every police and emergency services agency in Australia is participating. The information we generate will enable us to improve and strengthen our approach to protecting those who protect us, to make a real difference to people’s lives.
Ken Lay AO APM, Chair of the Advisory Group of the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Study of Police and Emergency Services