The Legislative Council, Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Legal Affairs will inquire into and report on emergency services agencies, and in particular:
a) The prevalence of bullying, harassment and discrimination, as well as the effectiveness of the protocols and procedures in place to manage and resolve such complaints within emergency services agencies, including: New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue New South Wales, New South Wales Police Force, Ambulance Service of New South Wales, and New South Wales State Emergency Service.
b) The support structures in place to assist victims of workplace bullying, harassment and/ or discrimination within emergency services agencies.
c) The support services available to emergency services workers and volunteers to assist with mental health issues resulting from workplace trauma and the effectiveness of those programs.
d) The appropriateness of uniforms provided to personnel in emergency services agencies.
e) The relocation of the New South Wales Rural Fire Services Headquarters to Orange, Dubbo or Parkes.
The St Ivan fire razed an estimated 55,000 hectares of farming-land east of Dunedoo, destroying vital agricultural infrastructure like sheds, machinery, homes, over 5,500 kilometres of fencing and more than 5,000 head of sheep and cattle.
How quickly do we forget the past? We have failed to learn from Australia’s traditional land managers and we have not learned from our early explorers. We spend huge amounts of money being reactive instead of being proactive. Our post incident inquires make recommendations but we continue to ignore common sense and reasoning.
Roger Underwood shares the following historic accounts:
Endeavour journal, 19 July 1770
Joseph Banks was with Captain Cook in 1770, camped at what is now Cooktown while The Endeavour was being repaired after hitting a coral reef. The sailors had angered the local Aborigines by taking turtles (without permission and without offering to share) and revenge took place by the Aborigines setting fire to the grass around the camp. Banks recalled in his journal:
I had little idea of the fury with which grass burnt in this hot climate, nor of the difficulty of extinguishing it when once lighted: this accident will however be a sufficient warning for us, if ever we should again pitch tents in such a climate, to burn every thing around us before we begin.
Mr Humphries refers to the Wambelong fire that occurred on 12 and 13 January around the Coonabarabran district and the Warrumbungle National Park.
On that day Bureau of Meteorology fire information, according to the continuous Haines index which measures atmospheric instability, was extreme.
On those days there were temperatures of more than 40 degrees and winds from the North to North‑West of 20 to 30 kilometres per hour.
The resulting fire damaged hundreds of thousands of acres of National Park, destroyed private property, destroyed 52 houses and numerous stock.
I find this response disappointing to say the least. The response denies any liability that government agencies inclusive of National Parks and the Rural Fire Service responsible for fire management in the area at the time acted in a negligent manner. It is clear that prior and during the fire wrong decisions were made and clear protocols were not adhered to leading to a catastrophic situation.
A number of landholders neighbouring the National Park were tragically affected by the actions of government agencies and we have a responsibility to make good on this. Hiding behind the claims manager is not the Nationals way of doing things and I do not accept the response to date.
Mr Humphries took aim at the government’s response which said it would not be liable to compensate landholders who lost property and stock, as per information from its insurer.
Recommendation 27 from the parliamentary inquiry recommended government to quickly get to the bottom of the issue and find who is responsible for paying compensation.
“The NSW Government take all reasonable steps to expedite the process of establishing any legal liability for the losses incurred by property owners as a result of the Wambelong fire, and in the event that it is found liable, expedite the process of paying compensation claims,” it said.
Three claims for compensation have been lodged with the NSW Self Insurance Corporation, with the government responding that “…(They) were referred to GIO as claims manager… who have declined the claims and informed the affected parties after carefully considering all the facts and circumstances of the matter”.
Mr Humphries announced he would help affected property owners continue their fight for compensation and would use parliamentary privilege to raise concerns over the handling of the blaze.
The Wambelong fire of January 2013, burnt out the Warrumbungle National Park, destroyed scores of surrounding properties and shattered the lives of many people in the Coonabarabran community.
The subsequent Coronial Inquest and Parliamentary Inquiry made 52 recommendations.
It has taken well over three years for the government to respond to the recommendations, this article looks at some of the local responses from the Coonabarabran community.
Feel free to add your comments.
Bushfire Bombers – RFS Style is an article that first appeared on the SOS News web site. It was published in 2007 and is very relevant today.
This unbelievable story could be about the rise of the RFS Empire, the corruption that exists in the bushfire industry, bullying and harassment at numerous levels, the disturbing fact that fighting bushfires has become BIG BUSINESS and then there is the aviation context.
This disturbing story helps to explain how the RFS has developed into the “out of control” bureaucracy that has lost touch with its grass roots. Comments are most welcome.