Regular readers will recall this kind post we shared in June about DFES making the decision to cancel the 2020 WAFES Conference because of COVID-19.

While that was certainly unfortunate news, the good news we shared was the association is planning to deliver the first ever convention and exhibition (ConEx) for Bush Fire Brigade volunteers and the Local Government Officers who support them in Collie in October.

Since the DFES Conference is fully funded from the Emergency Services Levy (ESL), we wrote to Commissioner Darren Klemm on 17 March 2020 seeking his support for our inaugural regional ConEx to be held annually.


Sponsor's message

The last two paragraphs of the letter we sent asking for collaboration clearly summarised the request:

“Given our very limited government funding and lack of long-term commitment thereof, the event is unlikely to be financially viable if delegates cannot be reimbursed for their travel, accommodation and registration in the same way they are for DFES-hosted events such as the WAFES Conference.

I therefore humbly request your in-principle support for this event and earliest possible confirmation that the criteria used to determine ESL funding eligibility and the payment distribution methods will be consistent with those used for DFES-hosted events.”

On 2 April, Commissioner Klemm responded to our request for positive collaboration with DFES:

“If the AVBFB wish to hold this event then it is for you to fund. The WAFES Conference has been very successful and will continue to be so. This success is built on volunteers from all services coming together to further emergency services in the state.”

Sponsor's message

As the Commissioner’s response seemed to incorrectly suggest we had asked for funding for our event, we replied with the following clarification:

“We are not asking for any funding from DFES or the ESL for this event.

However, we do humbly request confirmation that volunteers and local government officers who attend will be able to have their travel, accommodation and registration costs reimbursed from the ESL/LGGS.

We have formally asked relevant DFES Officers several times if they could make available the criteria used to determine the eligibility for ESL funding of non-DFES professional development, but to date have not received any information. Consequently, I wrote to you in the hope of obtaining your in-principle support for the event and your cooperation in obtaining the guidance needed to ascertain whether Local Government volunteers and officers will have to personally pay to attend our convention or not.”

Given the other comments, it appeared we also needed to re-affirm our support and ongoing contributions to the annual DFES-run WAFES Conference:

“We wholeheartedly agree that the WAFES Conference has been very successful and certainly did not intend to suggest otherwise. Indeed, our ongoing support and commitment to the event has been amply demonstrated by the enormous investment in time, knowledge, coordination and skills the association has made – from the inception of the very first WAFES conference to now.

In no way does the association seek to change the format, regularity, timing or multi-service nature of the conference. The minutes of WAFES Committee meetings over the years document our consistent and substantial efforts to maintain the event’s multi-service volunteer focus and proactively contribute (at significant cost) to its success.

To be sure, the association wants the WAFES Conference to continue as an all volunteer service, annual event. The work we are investing in developing a convention for Local Government Officers and Bush Fire Volunteers is intended to be in addition to the WAFES Conference not in replacement.”

The association hasn’t yet received any reply to the clarification email but will keep our amazing volunteers, partners and sponsors fully informed about our ongoing work to find the funding required to ensure volunteers don’t have to pay to attend this professional development and consultation opportunity.

Coincidently, we did receive the letter below last week confirming that DFES had decided there would be a “special edition” conference this year.

As readers can see, the letter also stated that DFES has decided this year’s special event will be held at Crown Perth and inject more fun into the program with attendees spending Friday at tourist venues and Saturday listening to speeches before attending the annual awards night. The letter also says DFES will be contacting brigades directly and not involving the association in which brigades will be afforded tickets:

Dave Gossage AFSM
President
Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades of WA
Level 2/161 Great Eastern Highway
BELMONT WA 6104

Dear Dave

2020 WA FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES CONFERENCE

In May this year, due to the COVID-19 travel and gathering restrictions, the decision was made to cancel the 2020 WA Fire and Emergency Services (WAFES) Conference.

However, since then, the situation in WA has improved and restrictions are now lifting. Therefore, I am excited to announce that we are now planning to proceed with the 2020 WAFES Conference.

The 9th annual conference will be held on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 October 2020 at Crown Perth.

This year’s conference will be different from previous years. We will offer a modified format, inject more fun into the program and hold it at a new and exciting venue. This year will be a unique ‘special edition’.

The Friday conference program will include tours of some of Perth’s best locations, including Rottnest Island, Kings Park and Fremantle. The Welcome Sundowner will be held on Friday evening at Crown Perth and on Saturday we will have the official opening address, keynote speakers and AGMs.

The Fire and Emergency Services (FES) Awards Gala Dinner will be incorporated into the program and will be held on Saturday 17 October at the Crown Ballroom.

Given the very short timeframes we won’t be convening the regular planning committee meetings. However, your views are important to us and we would encourage you to make suggestions for the event program. Additionally, we will be contacting BGUs directly to invite them to register for the conference and awards ceremony.

Please contact Events Coordinator [DFES employee] on 9395 XXXX or via email at conference@dfes.wa.gov.au with any suggestions or queries you have, preferably by Friday 7 August 2020.

Further information on the conference program, registrations and the FES Awards will be released very soon via General Circular, the Volunteer Hub and wafesconference.com.au.

I look forward to welcoming you to the conference in October.

Yours sincerely

Craig Waters
Acting Commissioner

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