AVBFB President Dave Gossage recently took a few (more) days away from his “day job” and travelled through the eastern Wheatbelt and Goldfields regions to attend several scheduled meetings as well as drop in on Bush Fire Volunteers, Chiefs, FCO’s and Local Government CEO’s.
Whilst at the Midlands DOAC, Dave gave a quick overview of the enormous amount of work your Association volunteers have been undertaking recently. Some of that includes:
- updating the constitution so it complies with various laws,
- organising the VBFB components of the WAFES Conference,
- planning and executing the AGM,
- trying to work with other services like the SES, VFES, PGA, WAFarmers and WALGA to develop mutually acceptable policy positions
- working with the new Minister, his Cabinet colleagues and Commissioner Klemm to undo some of the unfortunate relationship challenges and misunderstandings created by the former regime
- attending meetings and workshops with ERA, DPC, DFES, OEM, OBRM and other agencies,
- supporting the Bush Fire Games Committee as they prepare for their big event tomorrow,
- empowering the continuation of the great work our Historical group do to make sure we don’t lose our valuable history,
- participating in NAIDOC celebrations that honour the land management practises of the first Australians,
- working on ways the association might replace dwindling grant funding so we can increase services to volunteers
- consulting, writing and making submissions to various government inquiries
- building relationships with various members of parliament
The feedback we received at that DOAC and as Dave continued his travels clearly indicates concern still exists for a number of long-standing issues that the association has worked hard to correct. We are very happy to report that while the last Commissioner and Minister tried to accuse us of being troublesome for raising the concerns with them, Commissioner Klemm and Minister Logan appear to have seen our attempts to improve things for exactly what they are – an offer of help to make things better and safer for everyone involved.
The first of those big issues that we have been trying to negotiate about is the need for more flexibility in the range of vehicles available for Bush Fire Brigades. We have pressed hard on this one for a long time and from what the new Minister has already said publicly, our hard work will begin to deliver sensible changes soon.
Training is another issue that the Association has worked very hard to make more flexible, nationally accredited and of greater relevant to our service. Again, we are happy to report that after many years of trying, the new Minister appears to have already heard us and is likely to make some very positive announcements in the coming months. We are proud to have been successful in also having this issue finally on the agenda.
The need for much more transparency in ESL funding was also raised by volunteers and local governments and yep, you guessed it, we are super happy to report that our advocacy has led to a series of events that put the whole issue of the management of ESL on the radar. To his great credit, Minister Logan has publicly said he also acknowledges the need for everyone to understand where the money goes and while we think we still have some way to go to demonstrate the need for the allocation decisions to not rest with any agency that receives ESL funding, we are very pleased that the new government has taken the time to listen and already commit to improving the transparency of the whole ESL process.
There was also a lot of discussion about the implementation of the recommendations made by the Ferguson report and Dave assured everyone that the AVBFB has great confidence that this government will make good on its promise to deliver every one of the recommendations in the fullness of time.
And there were a number of questions about work we have undertaken Federally including the important issue of volunteer recognition and scholarships to encourage advanced education and training for volunteers via the Office of the Attorney General.
All in all, it was a great few days meeting with some of our incredible volunteers, local governments and other stakeholders that are so valuable to our great state of WA. We are hopeful that funding might one day be available to allow the Association to undertake a lot more regional visits to consult and engage face to face with members far and wide.