The Commonwealth Act titled “Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988” includes a statutory presumption that relates to a person who develops a listed cancer after being employed as a firefighter for a qualifying period. It is deemed (without proof) that their employment as a fire fighter has contributed (to a significant degree) to the contraction of the disease. This makes that person eligible for compensation.
Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Act does not relate to NSW FRS fire fighters and many other firefighters around Australia.
Firefighter Unions and other Firefighter Associations around Australia have been pushing for this legislation for some time.
Apart from the Commonwealth legislation, the Tasmanian, South Australian and Western Australian state governments have all introduced presumptive legislation recognising twelve occupational cancers.
The VFFA has recognised that this is an issue for NSW FRS Volunteer Firefighters and we are watching how the other states are progressing in the hope that NSW will follow.
Here are some facts about the issue:
- Without this type of legislation, firefighters would be asked to provide details of specific exposures to carcinogens and/or the names and dates of any large fires or incidents.
- Scientific evidence clearly highlights that firefighters are more prone to certain cancers than the general public (because of their work)
- The scientific evidence (above) has been accepted by the Australian Parliament and four other State Governments.
- The Australian Parliament passed presumptive legislation for Federally-employed firefighters in 2011, listing a number of cancers found to be more prevalent among firefighters.
- Monash University researchers have confirmed that there is already good evidence from a very large number of previous human studies that work as a firefighter is associated with an increased risk of several types cancer.
Other links relating to this issue:
- Australian Emergency Law – Landmark legislation to protect Queensland firefighters (Blog by Michael Eburn)
- Presumptive legislation – the Firefighters’ Cancer Law (Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria)
- Firefighter Cancer Foundation Australia – Firefighters, Occupational Cancer & Presumptive Legislation
- Firefighters face higher risk of melanoma, prostate cancer, research shows – ABC News