The peak body for Western Australia’s largest emergency service has been forced to cancel its inaugural annual convention because the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has refused to explain how volunteers can access the Emergency Services Levy (ESL) for training and professional development.
Bushfire Volunteers Executive Officer Darren Brown said the association was deeply disappointed and frustrated by messages from DFES that appear to contradict the Emergency Services Minister, Fran Logan.
Mr Brown said a letter to FES Commissioner Darren Klemm on 17 March 2020 was clear:
“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 Darren Klemm replied to that question with one abrupt statement:
“If the AVBFB [Bushfire Volunteers] wish to hold this event then it is for you to fund.”
“We didn’t ask for funding,” Mr Brown said.
“We simply asked Darren Klemm if his department would apply the same standards to our professional development opportunities as it does to its own and allow volunteer costs to be reimbursed via the ESL.”
“Sadly, the Commissioner’s divisive response is just one of many examples of the adversarial posture DFES seems to adopt more and more when we try to collaborate.”
“Darren Klemm hasn’t replied to our follow up letter and, after receiving notice this week that our application for other State support had been rejected, we have been forced to cancel our inaugural Bushfire Volunteers Convention and Exhibition.”
Mr Brown said while the Commissioner’s refusal to work together with the peak body for WA’s largest emergency service is concerning, it is also troubling that his recalcitrance seems at odds with the Minister.
“Minister Logan told the media last week that there had ‘never been a higher level of transparency for how the Emergency Services Levy is raised, distributed and overseen than under the McGowan government’.”
“It’s a huge problem when a Minister believes transparency is at an all-time high while his department is simultaneously refusing to explain how it decides which volunteers can be supported with money from the $405m Local Government Levy DFES administers and which are simply ignored,” Mr Brown concluded.