Key points:

  • More than 70% of WA’s emergency service volunteers are currently managed by Local Government and do not report to the State Government or Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES)
  • State Government has repeatedly denied any plan to take control of these volunteers
  • DFES document unequivocally says State will soon take control of Local Government volunteers
  • Bushfire Volunteers does not support a State Government takeover of volunteers

The peak body for WA’s largest emergency service says it is extremely concerned by a statement published in Request for Information (DFES196120) by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES).

The document seeks to inform a DFES Business Case for a new “Personnel Roster Management System”. Under the heading “Background” the first bullet point for respondents to note is:

Due to future changes to legislation, all volunteer personnel will be required to use the rostering system (approx. 25,000 volunteers)

Bushfire Volunteers Executive Officer Darren Brown said this is an extraordinary statement on many fronts.

“DFES has finally publicly confirmed our suspicion that it does have plans to take control of WA’s 20,000 Local Government volunteers,” Mr Brown said.

“Since before the last election, our association has held the door wide open for the government to collaborate and work with us on structural reform of our emergency services system.”

“We have repeatedly begged DFES to change its secretive, siloed culture and let us help improve the situation as trusted partners – only to be ignored, excluded and even demonised for our openness.”

“For example, this statement makes it crystal clear that DFES plans to take control of Local Government volunteers, despite the FES Commissioner consistently telling us his Department has no such plans.”

Mr Brown said on top of the shock revelation in the statement, the Minister seems unaware of the facts.

“In response to a question by Hon Rick Mazza yesterday, Parliament was told the DFES RFI does not state future changes to legislation will force local government bushfire volunteers to report directly to DFES.”

“The DFES document explicitly says all volunteer personnel will be required, so one can only assume the Minister didn’t know DFES made that claim or presumed the outcome of future Parliamentary business.”