The Bega Valley Fires Independent Review was commissioned by the NSW State Government in response to public pressure and media interest in the Reedy Swamp Fire that occurred on 18 March 2018, and subsequently impacted on the township of Tathra.
The media reported a long-standing turf war between the two predominant fire services in NSW and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services responded with an announcement that Mr Keelty will be conducting a full review for the government so that we don’t get these questions in the future.
The VFFA welcomes any opportunity to openly and transparently review and debate topics that impact upon public safety and the provision of emergency services to the people of NSW.
This post contains the VFFA response to this review other related documentation.
The VFFA is concerned that the voices of all persons (including our volunteer firefighters) is being muffled at the hands of political influence and manipulation.
How many government inquiries does it take to bring about change?
The issues surrounding turf wars have been around for a long time but those with empires to build don’t wish to discuss options.
A Trigger Point for Change – The NSW Government have never been able to settle upon a trigger point that is used to activate a change in firefighter engagement.
The NSW RFS Operational Brief seems contradictory and is included in this post.
In the interest of promoting an open and honest debate, the VFFA has decided to publish our submission. We hope that other groups will do the same.
The VFFA is somewhat disappointed in the way that this inquiry has been handled as follows:
1. The timeframes for groups to make submissions was very short and rushed
2. The information regarding the review was not actively promoted by the NSW State Government, and
3. What is happening with the referral of this fire to the Coroner?
One could be excused for thinking that the NSW State Government just wants these problems to go away, particularly with an election just around the corner.
The VFFA is promoting open debate from all persons involved. This includes the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW), NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Forestry Corporation of NSW, the Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA), the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (VFFA), the Fire Brigades Employees Union (FBEU), the insurance companies and most importantly, the firefighters (from all fire services) and the public of NSW.
Click the Read More link to see the VFFA submission.
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.
THE Rural Fire Service (RFS) has lost touch with its regional roots, and volunteers who have spoken against the bureaucracy have faced bullying and harassment, including election interference at a brigade level, a parliamentary inquiry into the emergency services has been told.
After the 2003 Canberra fires, Mr Gary Nairn, MP stated that the House of Representatives, Select Committee heard a consistent message right around Australia:
1. There has been grossly inadequate hazard reduction burning on public lands for far too long.
2. Local knowledge and experience is being ignored by an increasingly top-heavy bureaucracy.
3. When accessing the source of fires, volunteers are fed up with having their lives put at risk by fire trails that are blocked and left without maintenance.
4. There is a reluctance by state agencies to aggressively attack bushfires when they first start, thus enabling the fires to build in intensity and making them harder to control, and
5. Better communications between and within relevant agencies is long overdue.
Very little has changed in the 13 years since the report by Mr Nairn with every increasing bureaucracy, disregard for volunteer firefighters, failures to engage local knowledge and a reluctance by state agencies to aggressively attack bushfires. In fact, the situation has become worse.
It goes without saying that a step in the right direction would be to re-engage with locals and move away from the city-centric management that will never be able to fully understand regional and rural issues.
The only people who can possibly understand regional and rural issues are regional and rural people. This is a no-brainer.
We need to decentralise all of the NSW Rural Fire Service so that regional and rural engagement begins to happen as it once did under local government support.
This post includes a VFFA video that was created to help promote the NSW Legislative Council, Upper House Committee inquiry into Emergency Services Agencies.
Submissions close on the 23rd July 2017.
This inquiry is not limited the the RFS. It is looking at bullying, harassment and discrimination in all emergency service agencies as well as relocation of the NSW RFS head office or Headquarters to a regional location.
Radio 2UUU morning host, Barry Mac talks to the Hon. Robert Borsak MLC (Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party) about the inquiry into and report on emergency services agencies with a focus upon:
1. Bullying, harassment and discrimination
2. Support structures in place to assist victims
3. Support services available to emergency services workers and volunteers with related mental health issues
4. The appropriateness of uniforms provided to personnel in emergency services agencies
5. The relocation of the New South Wales Rural Fire Services Headquarters to Orange, Dubbo or Parkes
Submissions close on the 23rd July 2017
Please don’t remain silent, the VFFA is prepared to assist where possible and we have been assured that a range of protective measures can be applied if you are worried about retribution.
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.