SESVA meets with the Minister for Emergency Services
On the 30 April 2013 SESVA representatives, David Price, Dave Beard, Gordon Hall, John Capes and Bernie McNamara, met with the Emergency Services Minister, Joe Francis. The meeting was set in a relaxed atmosphere with the Minister’s adviser on Emergency Services, Jarad Finneran, also in attendance. What was very apparent throughout the meeting was that the Minister and his adviser could empathise with the SESVA and the Volunteers on our issues – they are both Volunteers in an emergency service. A number of issues were discussed and the Minister listened and gave a good hearing to these.
Some of the general issues discussed included ATVs and the method of banning their use and the reports and assessment used. This included the fact that the SES has had no injuries (except a chipped tooth) and the report used by DFES had data that was predominantly based on farming accidents. Dedicated career Training Officers for the SES have disappeared over the past year and not been replaced. This is having a detrimental effect on the training in rescue and other skills of SES Volunteers including a number of training courses for Volunteers being cancelled.
The SESVA outlined their vision for this and that the SES should be its own department, or at the least a single stream with a head of the SES. The SESVA referred to the Malone report (Qld) on how this recommends single streams (although it refers to bushfire it could also apply conceptually to the SES). The Minister understood the SESVA position and in fact outlined the military models. The SESVA also explained how other states are not going down the single stream path and in fact in some states have turned their back on this type of model.
Discipline of SES Volunteers by DFES
The SESVA went through this with the Minister and explained how one of the SES Volunteers has been banned from anything to do with DFES. There has also been talk of no insurance coverage for this person (unconfirmed at this stage). DFES have an oversight and not a governance role and the process followed by DFES was not in accordance with their then internal policy. This person has been treated by DFES very unfairly and without due process being followed. DFESs Commissioner has become the jury, judge and executioner without any independent board of appeal.
Local Government Issues
The SESVA outlined ESL funding issues that a number of SES Units have with their local governments in the administration of the ESL grants
The SESVA expressed their disgust to the Minister that another service would write the article and print what they did in their document that is distributed to all career fire-fighters (excerpt below). ” so called “emergency” service people from civilian volunteer backgrounds like the SES do not cut the mustard operationally and are a risk to our personnel who are trained and experienced across a range of specific competencies.” The Minister understood where the SESVA was coming from on this matter.
In summary the Minister and his Emergency Service adviser gave the SESVA a good and fair hearing on all matters and displayed a sound level of empathy of the issues the Volunteers are facing now and into the future. The Minister’s adviser on Emergency Services will be following up some of the matters and will advise the SESVA accordingly.
The SESVA looks forward to regular meetings in the future and updates with the minister’s office.
Submitted by Gordon Hall