SES Volunteers Association of Western Australia (Incorporated)

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24/02/2012 – A tail of Two Fires

The following comments were made by a concerned SES Volunteer who’s name was with held by request. If you would like to make your own comments sent them to sescomment@gmail.com

Perth Hills
We have a fire in the Perth Hills area which was accidently started by a resident in the area and destroyed around seventy houses.  Bushfire responsibility is generally with the local governments and their Brigades.  FESA becomes involved under certain circumstances and provides or coordinates resources to put the fire out.  A report by a consultant, ex police officer Keelty, is delivered and the Government is involved in the then CEO, Jo Harrison-Ward, leaving FESA on the day the report is delivered. The Chief Operations Officer follows soon after.

Margaret River
We have a fire in the Margaret River area resulting in around forty houses being destroyed.  This fire was part of DEC deliberate burn offs in November on very hot days with strong winds forecast.  A report by a consultant, ex police Federal Commissioner Keelty again, is delivered with ten recommendations.  No action is recommended in relation to individuals, although Keelty’s report cites a number of incidents where due process wasn’t followed and their risk assessment was flawed.  No heads roll!!!!!!!!!!!!

HOW HAS THIS AFFECTED OUR VOLUNTEERS?
Our volunteers had a CEO, Jo Harrison-Ward, who listened to them and included them in many of the actions and arrangements within FESA.   Jo Harrison-Ward had time for and was interested in the Volunteers.  We have now gone back to the old days of the 80/90s when the SES became part of the Police Department and were not included in any effective consultation.

A recent example of this is the training restructure within FESA, where the SES Volunteers and Staff are not mentioned in the structure. After the SESVA executive met with the leader for Training (D Klemm) they were promised a strategic document showing where the SES Volunteers and Staff featured in the new structure. Instead they received a letter that was not what was promised and said absolutely nothing.

In Keelty’s report into the Perth Hills bushfires he expressed strong concern about the strained relationship between FESA and DEC.  If the anecdotal evidence on the bad treatment of staff and the SES Volunteers who attended the Carnarvon bushfires, as part of a FESA contingent to assist DEC, is anything to go by, nothing has changed in this relationship.

Further to this it is highly dangerous to the lives our Volunteers to put them into a situation with another agency that Keelty says does not take into account the risks and has poor communications. When is FESA going to take the lead and resolve the relationship with DEC as our Volunteers should not be treated in the disgraceful manner they were in Carnarvon?

When is FESA going to change it’s culture and use the participative approach with their major stakeholder, the Volunteers, so they will be included in the changes affecting their individual services?

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