NEWS HEADLINES

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.

Background

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.

MORE NEWS 

RAF Donates Tornado

NEWS HEADLINES The Royal Air Force has donated one of its retired Tornado aircrafts to Aviation Heritage Museum. Thank you to the Royal Air force for choosing to donate one of its retired Tornado GR4 aircraft to the Aviation Heritage Museum of Western Australia. The...

Govt Response to Royal Commission

NEWS HEADLINES  The Government has tabled in Parliament its formal response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide’s Interim Report. The Interim Report made 13 key recommendations which fall within three key themes: improving...

Vale Queen Elizabeth II

NEWS HEADLINESThe Air Force Association joins the entire Commonwealth in sorrow for the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. "For over 70 years, the Queen provided us with a sense of pride and unity, and demonstrated an unimpeachable dedication to service. For...

AVCAT Scholarship 2022

NEWS HEADLINES   Applications for AVCAT scholarships- including Long Tan Bursaries - opened on 18 August and close on 31 October. The Australian Veterans' Children Assistance Trust supports the children & grandchildren of Australian veterans with the cost of...

RAAF Vietnam Veterans Retreat

NEWS HEADLINESHistory and Heritage Branch – Air Force will be hosting a Veterans Retreat for RAAF Vietnam Veterans at Ipswich Amberley Air Tattoo 29 – 30 October 2022. 2022 marks 50 years since the RAAF commenced withdrawing from operations in Vietnam. In honour of...

Ad Astra Podcasts – Listen Now

NEWS HEADLINESAn initiative by AFA and AFA NSW to capture the recollections and experiences of both retired and serving Air Force personnel. Listen as a wide range of former and current Australian aviators share their stories of life in the Air Force with...

AFA Restructure

NEWS HEADLINES  The Air Force Association’s national body, AFA Ltd, will restructure to form a smaller skill-based National Board of Directors and a Federation Council, the latter comprising representatives from each of the State/Territory Divisions. The decision to...

ADSO Sets Policy Objectives

NEWS HEADLINES    The Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO) has released a media statement outlining its policy objectives for 2022-25. Excerpt: "The Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO) welcomes the opportunity to announce its core Policy...

Federal Budget 2022-23

NEWS HEADLINES  The 2022-23 Federal Budget includes some welcome spending initiatives for veterans and their families including: An increase in Veteran Home Care Fee Additional Funding for Claims Processing An enhanced Family Support Package One-off Cost of Living...