Category: Volunteer Representation

NSW Government’s response to the final report of the inquiry into the Emergency Services Agencies

Included in this post is a copy of the NSW Governments response to the final report of the NSW Legislative Council, Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Legal Affairs entitled Emergency Services Agencies, tabled with the Clerk of the Legislative Council on 24 July 2018.

The inquiry began in July of 2017 and the final report of the NSW Legislative Council, Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Legal Affairs was published in July of 2018.

The NSW Government’s response is a disgrace.

Two Volunteer Firefighters, both in legal battles.

One gets legal support and a full-time job.

The other gets a $100,000 legal bill after being cleared in court.

Mr Grant (Minister for Emergency Services), how is this fair?
Your response is a disgrace.

From a VFFA perspective, if you are a volunteer of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and you find yourself in any type of trouble, you cannot rely on the RFS for support.

The level of support offered will depend upon:

  • Who you know,
  • Who you run with,
  • Your affiliations (RFSA or VFFA), and
  • Your loyalty to the hierarchy without question.

A Tale of Two Firefighters

Before we tell you the tale of two firefighters, I draw your attention to Recommendation 13, which states:

That the NSW Rural Fire Service review the processes and criteria in place for considering requests for legal assistance by volunteers and staff, to ensure that this support is provided in all appropriate cases.

Final report of the NSW Legislative Council

This was the NSW Government’s response:

Ex gratia legal assistance is provided as appropriate in accordance with the NSW Government guidelines contained in Ml999-11 Guidelines for the Provision of ex Gratia legal Assistance for Ministers, Public Officials and Crown Employees. All NSW RFS members receive the same access to ex gratia legal assistance, with determination of eligibility resting with the Secretary of the Department of Justice.

NSW Government’s Response

The VFFA has not raised this comparison previously because we have attempted to avoid any additional stress upon the two firefighters involved. We are now forced to publish this comparison (without too much detail at this time) and we will ramp up our campaign against the Minister for Emergency Services, Troy Grant and the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian until firefighter number two receives the support that he deserves.

Firefighter One

Firefighter One was involved in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in loss of life.

Firefighter One was quoted as saying that he would not have been able to cope ­without the support of the RFS and the Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA).

“The RFS has been 100 per cent supportive,” he said. “They have been supporting me as much as they can.”

He said both the RFS and its association made it “easier to go through a journey that I have”.

Firefighter Two

It is a very different story for Firefighter Two.

Firefighter Two was helping out at a hazard reduction. 

The road to the fire station was the only road to access.

He was required to enter the fire ground in his private vehicle once clearly identifying himself to traffic controllers who had closed the road to the public. 

After arriving at his fire station, he was formally asked by an RFS staff member, to stand down from starting his shift on the fire truck and wait inside the fire station. Police were called.

No charges or arrests were made by Police at the time of the alleged incident.

Almost 4 months of silence from both NSW Police and the RFS, Firefighter Two was charged by Police with Dangerous Driving to appear in Local Court.

The District Court Judge, Paul Conlan, later quashed ALL charges against Firefighter Two, he was completely exonerated.

Firefighter Two has applied twice for ex-gratia assistance. 

After Firefighter two applied for the first time for ex gratia assistance, the RFS suspended his RFS membership (he had only been charged at this stage, not attended local court) stating the reason he was found guilty of a criminal charge. 

After reviewing the RFS’s own Standard Operation Procedures for RFS Firefighter Two’s solicitor successfully appealed his suspension and he was re-inducted as a RFS volunteer with full rights again.

At no stage since the alleged incident (over a 2 year period), has anyone from the NSW RFS Head Office or even locally at Northern Beaches RFS District has been in contact with Firefighter two to check on his wellbeing 

To date, Firefighter Two has had zero support from the RFS.

Cleared of all charges, he now faces legal bills of over $100,000.

Content Sharing

2018 Volunteer Welfare and Efficiency Survey – NSW RFSA

Many volunteers took part in last year’s national Volunteer Welfare and Efficiency Survey, and the NSW Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) is inviting NSW RFS members to once again participate in the 2018 survey.

The annual survey began with the CFA volunteers’ association, Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) five years ago, and now for the third year, VFBV is hosting a version on behalf of RFSA. Once again the survey is available to volunteer fire associations through the Council of Australian Volunteer Fire Associations (CAVFA).

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VFFA AGM and Ordinary Meeting – Sat 4th August 2018

A VFFA Annual General Meeting is being held at the Parkview Hotel, 281 Summer St, Orange NSW on Saturday August 4th, 2018 from 10.00am to 11:00am.
It will be followed by an ordinary meeting from 11.00am to 5.00pm at the same venue with a lunch break from 12.30pm to 1.30pm.
The VFFA would love to see our members, supporters and special guests attend this important event.

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VFFA President talks to Graeme Gilbert (2SM Super Radio Network) about RFS Reform

The media has become interested in the need for major reform after the release of the NSW Upper House report, entitled Emergency Services Agencies NSW.
The audio file (below) was captured on Wednesday 25th July, by a VFFA supporter as he listened to an interview with the VFFA President, Mick Holton by Graeme Gilbert of the 2SM Super Radio Network.
Mr Gilbert gave our association approximately twenty eight minutes of air time.
The 2SM Super Radio Network broadcasts across Sydney, many rural and regional areas of NSW.
Comments and feedback are most welcome.
The audio file is provided is this post.

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VFFA response to the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Bullying and Harassment in the NSW Emergency Services

The Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (VFFA) President Mick Holton says he is encouraged by the release of the NSW Upper House report, entitled Emergency Services Agencies NSW.

The report focused heavily upon bullying and harassment in the NSW Emergency Services.

“The report confirms what many NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers have known for a long time – that bullying, harassment and abuse of power is occurring in the RFS” said Mr. Holton.

“The VFFA recognises the courage of RFS volunteers and salaried staff in coming forward and working with the Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Legal Affairs, during this Upper House inquiry.”

“Volunteering with the RFS should be non-threatening, respectful, safe and free from all forms of bullying and harassment.”

“All volunteers have the right not to bullied or discriminated against in the RFS” said Mr. Holton.

“We are pleased to continue to lead and to participate in efforts to support volunteers who have suffered bullying and harassment in the RFS and will continue to challenge and call out this unacceptable behaviour,” said Mr. Holton.

The VFFA welcomes the release of the report and calls on NSW Government and the RFS to adopt all the recommendations of the Upper House Inquiry into Emergency Service Agencies.

Major Reform is Required.

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Helping the RFSA obtain an Informed and Accurate View

The VFFA is pleased to learn that the NSW Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) is seeking active participation from Brigade / RFSA membership in presenting an informed and accurate presentation of the current state of the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) to the Keelty Commission of Inquiry.

It is important to the VFFA that Mr Keelty obtains an accurate, open and transparent view from ALL firefighters and members of the public.

Please respond to this campaign quickly because the submissions are required before Wednesday, 11th April 2018.

We have provided a link that can be used to submit your views to all three of the following recipients:

1. The Minister for Emergency Services (
2. NSW Rural Fire Service Association (
3. Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (

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NSW RFS Volunteers at Risk of Prosecution without Support or Assistance

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.

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Appropriate Duty of Care or Over-Complication?

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)?

What is the volunteer perception of this form?

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