The Andrews Labor Government has enshrined in law the modern emergency services our state needs, with the Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill passing Parliament.
Victoria has the best firefighters in the world, but they’ve been operating under systems and structures that have not changed since the 1950s. Our cities and suburbs have grown significantly and it’s clear that these services need modernisation – and that’s what we’re delivering.
Importantly, the laws provide presumptive rights to cancer compensation for career and volunteer firefighters that have been denied for far too long. This recognises the invaluable service they provide which often requires them to work in inherently dangerous conditions. This element of the new laws will be in effect from the moment it’s proclaimed.
Administered through WorkSafe, the new scheme will apply to individuals who have served as firefighters for a specified number of years, depending on the cancer type, and have been diagnosed since 1 June 2016.
The new laws will also see the CFA strengthened as a truly community-based, volunteer firefighting organisation, and establishes a new organisation – Fire Services Victoria – to service Melbourne and large regional cities.
These much-needed and overdue laws will deliver modernised governance and organisational structures that meet the demands of twenty-first century Victoria.
The CFA will be protected under law as a volunteer firefighting service and our 1,220 volunteer CFA brigades will be untouched, continuing to serve their communities day-to-day as they have always done, as well as continuing to provide vital surge capacity to the Victorian community during major emergencies.
CFA volunteers currently serving at one of the state’s 38 career and integrated stations will be able to remain at that station if they choose to, co-locating with Fire Rescue Victoria services under the altered boundaries.
The law also enables CFA to better support the effective and sustainable recruitment, development and retention of volunteer firefighters.
The new Fire Rescue Victoria will cover existing Metropolitan Fire Brigade boundaries and the response zones associated with the 38 integrated and career CFA station response zones, serving metropolitan Melbourne, outer urban areas and larger regional centres across Victoria.
It will also bring together the MFB and career CFA staff from the state’s 38 career and integrated CFA stations, including the 450 extra career firefighters delivered in the Labor Government’s first term.
Last year the Liberals deceived the Parliament and abused religious beliefs to vote down this reform, including vital cancer rights for firefighters.
To ensure an orderly transition to these arrangements, the new model will not come into effect until mid-2020, which will mean no change for the upcoming 2019/20 fire season.
An implementation Monitor will be established for 10 years to ensure strong and independent oversight of the reforms and the ongoing operation of Fire Rescue Victoria and the CFA.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville
“Our firefighters are the best in the world and we will continue to give them the support they need to deliver the modern fire service that the Victorian community deserve.”
“We made a commitment at the last election to reform our fire services and ensure our career and volunteer firefighters are supported in keeping the community safe – and that’s exactly what we’re delivering.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020