Tasmanian volunteer firefighters offered cancer support

Volunteer firefighters will be given more support if they fall victim to deadly cancers under proposed changes to current legislation.

The amendment would see volunteers receive the same access to compensation as paid firefighters.

Until now, volunteers have had to prove they have fought at least 150 fires across five or 10 years, depending on the type of cancer, before they can access compensation.

Announcing the change on Thursday, Emergency Services Minister Rene Hidding said 5000 volunteers across Tasmania would now be able to “access compensation based on the presumption that some cancers may be linked to occupational exposure”.

“It is time to remove the unfair requirement on volunteer firefighters who risk their lives to protect us, and we will act to give our hard-working volunteer firefighters greater peace of mind when undertaking their duties,” he said.

Tasmania Fire Service chief officer Chris Arnol said while the risk of firefighters being exposed to conditions that lead to cancer was extremely low, the need for a change in legislation was about giving all members “peace of mind”.

President of the state’s Retained Volunteer Firefighters Association, Andrew Taylor, said the organisation had been pushing for the change for at least three-and-a-half-years.

“It’s hard to describe the emotions that I know our volunteers will feel [about] the support we are finally going to get,” he said.

The news has also been welcomed by the Opposition.

“These are Tasmanians who risk their lives when they face serious incidents every year. We must ensure that they have recourse to compensation in those circumstances and Labor fully supports this move today,” Opposition workplace relations spokeswoman Sarah Lovell said.

The state government will introduce a Bill to both houses of Parliament by the end of the month to amend the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988.

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