The VFFA has raised this issue before but the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and the Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) does not seem to listen.
The Volunteer Membership Application form that is available on the My-RFS web site has not been updated and it contains errors.
Enough talking, it’s time to listen.
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.
The VFFA has received numerous complaints from volunteers who are bullied, harassed and pushed aside when they dare to speak out against issues that contradict the direction of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS). In more recent times, The NSW RFS has openly targeted RFS Brigades and individuals that have openly supported the VFFA.
The VFFA is dedicated to ensuring that ALL volunteers (not limited to VFFA members) are provided with a voice. The VFFA respects that all persons (RFSA members, all volunteers and staff) deserve an opportunity to provide input into the future direction of the NSW RFS.
The VFFA conducted a survey of volunteers over a period of 9 months (21st May 2016 to 6th March 2017) with the following results:
Click the Read More button to view the results page.
The VFFA is concerned that in NSW volunteer rural fire-fighters who are subject to disciplinary action and who lodge grievances against paid staff have no option than to place faith in a system that is owned, controlled and arbitrated by the RFS.
Under the NSW Rural Fires Regulation 1997 a member of a rural fire brigade can be guilty of a breach of discipline if they are negligent, careless, inefficient or incompetent in the discharge of their duties. Hence the grounds for bringing discipline charges against a volunteer rural fire fighter are very broad, poorly defined and wide open to interpretation.