Key Points

  • The peak body for WA’s 20,000+ local government bush fire volunteers gives in principle support for what is currently known about DFES Infection Protection Policy.
  • Bushfire Volunteers urges DFES to ensure final policy allows for flexibility to meet local challenges
  • Peak body reminds its members and their local government managers that DFES policy does not automatically apply to the volunteers of WA’s largest emergency service.
  • The association continues to advocate for awareness and acceptance of different culture, methodologies and challenges between DFES and local government emergency service volunteers.

The peak body for WA’s largest emergency service, Bushfire Volunteers, has given qualified support for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) Infection Prevention Policy relating to COVID-19 vaccinations announced to local media yesterday.

Bushfire Volunteers’ Executive Officer Darren Brown said the association always supports reasonable measurers to protect its members and local communities, but there are often real complexities that require much more than a binary directive ordered from the top.

“One of the strengths of WA’s ‘local control, local ownership, local outcomes’ model of our volunteer Bush Fire Service is its unique ‘bottom up’ culture and methodologies,” Mr Brown said.

“We accept that during an emergency, decisions have to be made and therefore a top-down ‘command and control’ culture has a place in emergency services.”

“However, when it comes to proactive policy decisions, we have to again remind everyone that an important ingredient in building community resilience is using local knowledge to find local solutions.”

“For example rigid doctrine in an area where first responders are thin on the ground might force them to either break the rules or not turnout – which could easily result in far worse outcomes for the community.”

“For that very reason, we remind our volunteers and their local government managers that this DFES policy seems reasonable and may be useful but does not – and should not – automatically apply to them.”

Bushfire Volunteers’ President Dave Gossage confirmed the policy would be discussed by the association’s State Committee at its next meeting in October.