Volunteer Respect Act

Emergency Volunteer Respect Act (Queensland) - 1st Working Group Meeting held

Friday 22nd July 2016 saw the first working group meeting to assess the viability of introducing an Emergency Volunteer Respect Act (EVRA) in Queensland.

The Rural Fire Brigade Association Queensland (RFBAQ) RFBAQ has been working on the concept for 4 years since adopting the EVRA as policy in 2012 and would like to thank the Queensland Government and the QFES for supporting the RFBAQ in bringing about the initial meeting.

In May 2015 the RFBAQ contacted each political party represented in Queensland Parliament outlining the initial concept of a EVRA, there was widespread support for the concept, on the 14th January 2016 the RFBAQ and the QLD SES VA (publicly called for a EVRA for Queensland and July 2016 saw the commencement of work on the outlined draft structure.

Emergency Volunteers in Queensland fall within 3 separate pieces of legislation as they are supported by a number of Government Departments such as Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services; Health Department and Police, Fire and Emergency Services. The proposal is to have 1 single piece of legislation administered by Department of Premiers and Cabinet that would encompass all EV organisations.

An EVRA would allow for Emergency Volunteers, who respond and provide recovery operations to the vast majority of communities across Queensland, to be members of a EV Council that provides support and advice to the heart of Government.

This grass roots driven proposal from an Emergency Volunteer Association gives both credibility and validity to the empowerment of emergency volunteers reflecting the principles outlined in the attached presentation which was delivered in Fridays' meeting.

Please take the time to go through each slide to understand that the proposed EVRA is not a punitive tool, rather a way of codifying conversations and process that will empower emergency volunteers and reduce red tape at a minimal cost to Government. Also in there is the proposed pathway for wider engagement of the EVRA with the other Emergency Volunteer representative Associations.

The Council of Australian Volunteer Fire Associations (CAVFA) and the National State Emergency Service Volunteer Association are both very interested in following the process that Queensland adopts for its Emergency Volunteers as a number of other State Emergency Volunteer.

Very rarely in the political landscape is there an opportunity presented to participate in a grass roots, bi-partisan, non-politically charged proposal to create new and revolutionary legislation that empowers the people who defend Queensland communities for free.

The RFBAQ feels privileged to be driving this proposal that will have positive ongoing outcomes for all Emergency Volunteers in Queensland.

Currently there is no facility for the Premier or Government of Queensland to directly access opinions and suggestions from Emergency Volunteers (EVs).

An EVRA would:

  • Equip communities with better defence and recovery needed with threat of Climate Change, EVRA would provide a vehicle to engage and support EV's along with a voice. If climate change isn't real then we are still better off with more volunteers and better defended communities.
  • Ensures that EV organisations are being consulted with by their department through their Committee Groups, this would allow the majority of items to be resolved quickly and having a way to bring up unresolved matters or highlight common issues, improvements and sharing of information.
  • EVRA would allow EV's voice to be heard and in turn the government will be able to talk to them.
  • Although EVRA encompasses EV organisations, outside organisations are still represented through Volunteering Australia and Volunteering Queensland.
  • EVRA would decouple funding with having a voice and allow for multi-agencies to sit at the one table.