Key points

  • Bushfire Volunteer association calls for immediate commitment for open, independent and inclusive review of management of Wooroloo fire
  • Association says Government review culture unhelpful and potentially dangerous

The peak body for Western Australia’s 20,000 bush fire volunteers has urged the government to immediately commit to a fully open, independent and inclusive review of the Wooroloo fire.

Bushfire Volunteers President Dave Gossage AFSM said there are always lessons to be learned from major incidents and the only way to uncover them is to ask everyone involved for their honest feedback.

“The evidence is clear – any positive reforms that have been made in this term of government all point back to the Special Inquiry into the 2016 Waroona-Yarloop fires,” Mr Gossage said.

“The Ferguson Review had more impact on policy because it was independent of DFES, sought feedback from everyone involved and our association worked to secure commitment for political follow through.”

“We don’t want a witch hunt, just a standard sensible process that includes recognition for what went well and an open and honest discussion of opportunities for improvement,” Mr Gossage concluded.

Bushfire Volunteers Executive Officer Darren Brown said an open, inclusive review would help reverse the problematic perception created by inadequate or non-existent incident reviews.

“A lot of opportunities for improvement had been missed and relationships further strained by the lack of proper reviews of major incidents in recent years,” Mr Brown said.

“The Ferguson Special Inquiry pointed out the cultural differences between the highly regimented and tightly controlled DFES hierarchy and the more open and collegial Local Government Bush Fire Service.”

“When DFES reviews itself, limits who can make a submission or doesn’t hold a review at all, not only does it miss the genuine chance to improve things, but fuels the unhelpful perception it has something to hide.”

“For example, the DFES review into the May 2018 Great Southern Fires didn’t allow for submissions from any of the 70 volunteer Bush Fire Brigades that attended. There wasn’t any review into the Yanchep fires that stopped the community in December 2019. And the hundreds of volunteers who attended the month-long fire in Norseman that cut road access to WA last year haven’t been asked once for their insights or feedback.”

“You can’t improve something if you don’t know what isn’t working, you don’t know what isn’t working unless you ask and there will always be suspicions about any organisation’s review of itself.”