Association Support for ADF Firefighters


Over the last 18 months, the Air Force Association (AFA) has supported former ADF firefighters who have been campaigning for almost two decades to have their exposure to toxic waste materials during fire training recognised.


The AFA has asked Defence to provide the number of former firefighter personnel who were trained and employed during the 1960s through to the end of the 1990s, when fire training involved burning a myriad of contaminated waste materials that have since been scientifically linked to a range of serious and often fatal health conditions. It is likely there are between 300 to 500 surviving veterans.


Firefighting has been recognised, nationally and internationally, as a hazardous occupation.  The US Federal Government and many US states have presumptive legislation providing for health care and compensation for civilian firefighters.

Since 2011, there has been Federal and State legislation in Australia providing similar support for civilian firefighters.

The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Fair Protection for Firefighters) Bill 2011 amended the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, 1988 and its DRCA equivalent to provide a presumptive clause to provide for the health care and compensation for firefighters, including ADF firefighters.  Moreover, Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (DRCA), 1988 provides cover for firefighters who burnt waste materials from the F111 Deseal/Reseal maintenance program.

There is great similarity among the current national and international federal and state legislations supporting firefighters. This widespread legislation emphasises the general acceptance of the likely conditions that befall these workers.

Fortunately, fire training practices have improved over the last two decades with greater emphasis on occupational health and safety, including the use of personal protection equipment (PPE).  Widespread ignorance at the time of the adverse effects from burning contaminated waste materials and the lack of adequate PPE are the cause of these veterans’ serious health conditions.

The unusual number of deaths in younger age cohorts and the array of serious health conditions of these earlier firefighters came to notice seven years prior to the discovery of the serious ground contamination at the former RAAF Fire School at Point Cook in 2011.

Earlier concerns raised to Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and several former Ministers for Veterans’ Affairs on the matter were largely dismissed. The identification of 163 poisonous contaminates at the Point Cook site precipitated action by a group of former firefighters to have their exposure recognised.

Over the years, DVA has commissioned several scientific studies to evaluate the contamination and its effects on humans.  Most agree there is a connection but fall short of a direct causation due to the weight of evidence required under the legislation applicable to these veterans.  Moreover, due to a unique set of transitional arrangements connecting earlier legislation to current legislation, these veterans fall outside legislative support. In other words, they cannot receive the legislative support provided to contemporary ADF firefighters or their civilian equivalent.

Air Force Association Input & Action

In 2019, AFA raised the issue at DVA’s Ex-Service Organisation Round Table and has since regularly engaged DVA’s policy staff.

We have also had several meetings with the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.  The AFA has proposed a solution that requires amendment to legislation because this action is the only lawful method to provide the health support and opportunity for compensation, where applicable.

The Air Force Association and these former firefighters are waiting on a response from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. They are currently investigating civil action that, hopefully, can be avoided.


Royal Commission into Defence & Veteran Suicide

NEWS HEADLINES  The Royal Commission into Defence & Veteran Suicide will consult with veteran support organisations on the draft Terms of Reference.  The Morrison Government recently announced it would request the Governor-General to establish a Royal Commission...

ANZAC Day 2021

NEWS HEADLINES  At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them. Lest We Forget.    Click on image below to view Last Post video.  (Video courtesy Peter Colliver, OAM - Air Force Association)   MORE NEWS 

Honours & Awards Inquiry

NEWS HEADLINES  The Air Force Association welcomes the opportunity to provide input to the Honours and Awards Inquiry on the notion of recognising members and families of Australian Defence force members who are injured, wounded or killed in, or because of, service....

South Australian Eagles

NEWS HEADLINES   A book honouring the proud history and service of South Australians in the Air Force was launched by His Excellency The Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia, at the Air Force Centenary Morning Tea and Book Launch at Government House,...

Air Force Centenary

NEWS HEADLINES   The Royal Australian Air Force will mark its 100th anniversary with a mass flypast over Canberra – a rare and exciting opportunity to see a wide range of current and historic military aircraft.   On Wednesday 31 March 2021 Air Force is marking is...

WINGS Autumn Edition Out Now.

NEWS HEADLINES  In this edition we celebrate an Air Force milestone and look back on the RAAF's early years.   MORE NEWS 

RAAF 100 SQN re-established

NEWS HEADLINES  The Air Force Association has congratulated Air Force on its decision to reform No.100 Squadron, which operated between 1942-1946 in the defence of Australia against the Japanese during WWII.   AFA President Carl Schiller said, “Throughout its...

From the President – February 2021

NEWS HEADLINES  Despite the downsides of 2020, the year provided several positives that I will cover in this report. We can be easily drawn into the gloom with much of the news and social media focusing on the negatives.  I’m not against social media.  However, if...

Defence & Veteran Suicide Prevention

NEWS HEADLINES  AFA Letter to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs on Defence and Veteran suicide prevention In a letter to the Minister for Veterans Affairs, the Air Force Association has reaffirmed its support for the appointment of a National Commissioner for Defence...

WINGS Summer Edition Out Now!

NEWS HEADLINES  The latest edition of Wings magazine - the official publication of the Air Force Association - is out now. Please click on the image below to access or subscribe for your hard copy here.    MORE NEWS