It has been another busy week for the Association’s representatives trying to keep up with the range of activities within government that impact on Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades, including the definition of what is a normal brigade activity.
Over the past week, Association representatives have attended meetings to discuss legislation currently before Parliament, further discussions on the Volunteer ID Cards, the SWORD initiative and DFES’ projects for greater use of social media to interact with the community and volunteers.
A delegation comprising the Association’s President Dave Gossage AFSM, Vice President Phil Penny and CEO Tony Papafilis met with the Minister’s Chief of Staff, Stephen Barton, Policy Advisor Jarad Finneran and Michelle Smith, Manager of Legal and Legislation Branch of DFES. The purpose of the meeting was to seek clarification over the change to the definition of normal brigade activities proposed in the Bush Fires Amendment Bill currently before Parliament. There is understandable concern amongst volunteers with changes to such an important legal definition, particularly when they can be read as reducing the scope of normal brigade activities.
The Association was assured that the changes are not intended to curtail the scope of normal brigade activities. There was a recognition that some effort will be required to clarify the meaning of the Bill and we await further information form the government.
Taking advantage of a rare opportunity with our President and Vice President in Perth together, the delegation met one the same day with Ceri Price, the Digital Communications Manager at DFES. Ceri has the task of building a social media network for DFES to inform the community at large about emergency matters as well as being aimed at increased communication with emergency services volunteers. The Association has offered its assistance to Ceri in his endeavours.
The Association’s Executive Members met with Karen Roberts, Director of Human Resources at DFES to discuss further the progress of ID Cards for BFB Volunteers. Karen’s willingness to meet in North Dandalup, at the home of our Treasurer Lorraine Webster and fellow Association Committee Member, Michael Webster, to accommodate our Executive is greatly appreciated. We also thank Lorraine and Michael for their hospitality in hosting the meeting.
The following are some of the points discussed:
- Police to be linked up with local knowledge to provide advice regarding traffic control;
- Local representatives are involved in traffic management planning and decisions;
- Pass out cards used to allow authorised persons to leave/return to restricted areas;
- Representative from AVBFB to be included in the current review of traffic management arrangements;
- Volunteers who are members to multiple services will have a card for each service;
- BFS cards will have state government logo and BFS logo;
- Cards will have image, volunteer number and expiry date;
- All registered volunteers will be eligible for a card;
- Priority to the South West, Lower South West, Greater Southern and the Goldfields zones prior to December 2016;
- Images to be sent to DFES with confirmation of member image from Brigade Office Bearer;
- Member to confirm contact details and address when sending image.
Dave Gossage and Tony Papafilis also met with Superintendent Amanda Williamson who was recently appointed to the position and given the challenge of progressing the SWORD initiative to its ultimate objective.
Superintendent Williamson joined DFES following a lengthy and rather remarkable career in the Australian Defence Force where she found herself in charge of major emergency operations overseas and working in war zones in the middle east. Following her military career, Amanda has pursued a career in emergency services, utilising her enormous experience gained through her military deployments to work in NSW where she was involved in the emergency response to major floods and other emergencies.
We commend her enthusiasm and vision for what the SWORD task force could become and have assured her of our support in her endeavours.