The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (the Department) welcomes the Auditor General’s report into the support and preparedness of emergency services volunteers. Volunteers are an essential component of Western Australia’s (WA) emergency response capability. They play an important role in preparing for, and protecting the community during emergencies.
We are three years into a major reform program. Our strategic plan initiatives focus on building more contemporary emergency services and working more cohesively with our emergency management partners. Many of these initiatives will impact positively on our support for emergency services volunteers.
The Department has acknowledged for some time that improving the sustainability of its volunteer workforce and building their capacity and emergency response capability are among its key challenges going forward. We are progressing several strategic initiatives to value, protect and develop WA’s fire and emergency services volunteers:
- Following widespread consultation a 10 year volunteer sustainability strategy will be released at our annual Volunteers Conference in September.
- To improve volunteer retention the Department is implementing a volunteer leadership program and providing training on working with volunteers to its District
- A structured DFES training platform is being developed to better structure volunteers’ access to the skills and standards needed to support a successful hazard and emergency Volunteers can also opt to participate in an educational pathway if they choose to, accommodating those seeking nationally accredited qualifications.
- Communicating with, and hearing from, volunteers will be improved through regular surveys and an improved volunteer internet
- The Department has undertaken significant work to ensure legislation adequately reflects the needs of Proposed changes to legislation will equalise access to insurance for all volunteer groups and provide cover for those volunteer fire fighters who develop prescribed cancers. A similar provision for prescribed cancers was made recently for career fire fighters.
Like all areas of emergency management, volunteers are a shared responsibility. Effective volunteer partnerships require collaboration with local government, volunteer associations, other government agencies and non-government organisations. We will continue to work with our stakeholders to ensure our volunteer liaison and support is well-coordinated.
The Department has also thoroughly reviewed the emergency services Acts which govern its activities. It is intended that the revised legislation would deliver a number of benefits, including volunteers who are increasingly better trained and resourced and who strive to keep themselves and others safe. The new legislation will also enable the Department to address several of the issues raised in this report.
The Department would like to thank volunteers for the services they provide and their commitment to keeping our State safer, particularly in times of emergency.