On a wet and cold Thursday night when many of us “normal” people were snuggling on the couch watching TV, a group of amazing Bush Fire Volunteers from Brigades in Perth’s south metropolitan region left their families and gave up their time to share and listen in the interests of their community.

The Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB) President and elected zone representative Dave Gossage provided an overview of some of the huge amount of work the Association has been doing. As the more than three hours of solid discussion unfolded, questions and concerns raised by the very engaged group of Brigade leaders were noted and addressed.

There were many topics covered including the great work we have achieved in progressing the ability to procure “fit-for-purpose” vehicles thanks to FES Commissioner Darren Klemm, Assistant Commissioner Brad Delavale and their teams through to the slow but steady progress we’re making to make the ESL more transparent, accountable and most importantly, equitable.

But it wasn’t a top-down lecture nor was the feedback we received all perfect. True to the unique culture of our amazing bushfire service, the discussion was open and frank without any need for anyone to seek permission to speak freely – and the AVBFB was very appreciative to get the valuable feedback that some brigades would like more regular direct communication opportunities in the future. Everyone acknowledged the problem is more about our lack of resources than intent and Dave explained the enormous effort the Association has put in to trying to work with the State Government to correct the huge historical imbalance in grant funding.

The AVBFB explained it’s view that there are strong returns for tax-payers in properly funding peak bodies for essential service volunteers, but also that sadly, it looks likely that the government will not be able to address the imbalance any time soon. The group were supportive of the Association searching for corporate sponsors despite the fact that spending time working with external sponsors will probably mean less mutuality in our relationship with the state government.

Nevertheless, the night was an extremely productive event and we sincerely thank the wonderful team at Gosnells Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade for hosting the meeting and all the incredible volunteers who gave yet another night of their time to collaborate.

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