Volunteers paying to keep community safe

Queensland’s Rural Fire Brigades Association hopes funding changes are on the way after a change in government.
Queensland’s Rural Fire Brigades Association hopes funding changes are on the way after a change in government. Tessa Mapstone

RURAL fire brigade volunteers have to fork out money from their own pockets to keep their brigades running.

When a first aid kit runs out of supplies, volunteers pay to replace it. When one of their yellow fire trucks breaks down, volunteers pay for the maintenance. When a tyre bursts, they have to pay for a new one, even though the truck is technically owned by the Queensland Government.

This is something Queensland's Rural Fire Brigades Association general manager Justin Choveaux hopes to change with the new government.

"This doesn't happen anywhere else in the western world," he said.

He is feeling optimistic about the new Labor government and hopes to meet the new Police, Fire and Emergency Services Minister Jo-Ann Miller in the coming weeks.

There are 1400 rural fire brigades across Queensland. About 35,000 volunteers protect 93% of Queensland, Mr Choveaux said.

But brigades feel limited, he said.

As volunteers, they were not allowed to be equipped with breathing equipment to go into a burning house and fight a fire.

Mr Choveaux said Queensland was the only Australian state with this rule.

Before the recent state election Mr Choveaux said the RFBA sent out a list of six issues it wanted candidates to state whether or not they supported changing rules surrounding volunteer firefighters.

One was to include volunteer regional firefighters into the state legislation.

Another point was for a portion of the Emergency Management Fire and Rescue Levy - or a state fire tax residents pay - to be distributed to brigades.

Mr Choveaux said it was unfair that people in rural areas, especially volunteer firefighters, had to pay a fire tax which regions did not see, while they were driving their own trucks and paying for maintenance costs out of their own pockets.

He said the association also was keen for the Malone Review to be fully implemented.

This document outlined a plan for volunteers to get better training so communities could defend themselves and not rely on someone from another area to fly in and direct an emergency response.

"We need a government to say, 'Yes, yes these things aren't right in Queensland and they haven't been right for a long time'," he said.


Topics:  firefighters volunteer

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