Rural Fire Brigades are digging in their heels over a State Government directive that all brigade volunteers get Blue Cards by January 1
RFBAQ general manager Justin Choveaux (Photo: RFBAQ)

October 22, 2019

The Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland (RFBAQ) has called on the State Government to rethink its policy of forcing rural fire brigade volunteers to have Blue Cards from January 1.

The RFBAQ, which represents more than 22,000 Rural Fire Brigade volunteers, says the policy could result in up to 18,000 of the State’s rural fire-fighters being sacked if they don’t apply for the cards.

It says up to 35 per cent of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) staff and up to 65 per cent of SES volunteers could go as well.

According to the RFBAQ, the State Government’s insistence that QFES and SES members have Blue Cards can be traced back to Crown Law advice in 2015.

That advice said QFES Officers and SES volunteers provided a “health service” because some SES and QFES members were trained in first aid.

The RFBAQ says this advice is incorrect, because Rural Fire Brigade volunteers only receive support for two members to be trained in first aid.

When the RFBAQ requested universal first aid training in light of the State Government’s direction on Blue Cards, QFES ruled it out.

In its latest ‘Fireline’ newsletter, the RFBAQ reports the State Government is insisting it will implement its “No Card, No Start” policy from January 1.

This is despite 86 per cent of rural fire brigade members, 35 per cent of QFES staff and 65 per cent of SES volunteers not applying for a Blue Card by mid-October.

The RFBAQ says the State Government intends to modify the Fire and Emergency Services Act to give the Commissioner the power to sack Rural Fire Brigade members.

This is because most rural fire brigades are unincorporated volunteer organisations at present and members can only be sacked by their own brigade.

RFBAQ general manager Justin Choveaux told the government has been warned it is heading towards an iceberg and should slow down.

He said any sackings of rural fire brigade members would come in the middle of this year’s fire season.

Mr Choveaux has written to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk asking her to change course.

“The government wants to protect children and we understand that,” Mr Choveaux said.

“But we think there are better and less expensive ways to achieve the policy outcomes the government wants.”

Mr Choveaux said people applying to join rural fire brigades were already subject to a police check, so it would be easy to refuse membership to anyone convicted of an offence against a child.

It would also be easy to bring in a rule that anyone convicted of an offence against a child would automatically be barred from rural fire brigade membership.

“A system like this would be easy to introduce, much less costly for the government and achieve the same policy outcomes,” he said.

Mr Choveaux said to date, discussions about the Blue Cards had been held “behind closed doors” so it was entirely possible Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was unaware of the situation.

But he hoped once the Premier was informed, she would inject some common sense into the issue.

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6 Responses to "Rural Firies Reject Blue Cards"

  1. Ian Poad  October 24, 2019

    Rural Firies have not rejected Blue Cards. This is misinformation generated by a few malcontents and a representative organisation (RFBAQ) which is more interested in its fundraising activities than providing true consultation or representation for the vast majority of Queensland Rural Fire Service volunteers.

    I applaud the Fire Service for putting children’s safety first and standing up to the malcontents and the money raisers. To those unwilling to spend 5 minutes, filling out an application form every three years, I’ll ask a simple question. Is your commitment to your community, your brigade, and your children or grandchildren’s safety really that limited?

  2. Terry Gordon  October 24, 2019

    The official reason for the Government demanding volunteer Rural Fire brigade members obtain a “Blue Card” is “as a member of the Rural Fire Service, you are likely to come into contact with children while performing your role, so are required to have a blue card. It is the law, and one QFES takes seriously.” (John Bolger AFSM, Acting Deputy Commissioner)

    If possible contact with a child is the true reason (which I seriously doubt), then all volunteers involved at sporting events, country shows, music festivals, weekend market stallholders and other community events should also be required to hold a “Blue Card” in the near future.

    And what about grocery shopping at the local supermarket or church services, even funerals? All are areas where a person can come in contact with children.

    Why are volunteer Fire Brigade members being discriminated against?

    What is the real reason for this stupidity?

  3. Disgruntled  October 25, 2019

    Terry Gordon, I agree fully with you. Hey, how utterly silly is this requirement. Next they will want grand parents to have a card when looking after grand kids. What if one comes across an accident that has kids in it. Are we to say to the kids “Sorry can’t help as we don’t have a card and you are on your own, do your best!”

    Someone needs to grow up and let the volunteers get on with their jobs without this kind of stress. Lord knows, their stress must be huge at times and they do not need this juvenile rubbish to contend with.

    Another issue will no doubt be the cost. Hey! These are volunteers we’re talking about.

  4. Bee  November 18, 2019

    Can anyone think of anything more ridiculous than marginalising people who spend their own time at risk of their own safety fighting fires to save wildlife, properties and houses that they don’t own. Some idiot in the bowels of a city building thought that this was a good idea. write to your local member and petition in your local area.

  5. Terry Gordon  November 19, 2019

    I agree Bee, Rural Fire volunteers have all passed a Police check before being accepted into the Rural Fire Service. Many volunteers regard this matter as an insult and that it is a plan by Labor Party bureaucrats to replace volunteers with paid fire fighters (ie union members)

  6. Andrew  November 19, 2019

    Every volunteer who may come in contact with children should have a blue card. Simple really. Want to coach the junior cricket team, junior rugby league team, read to children at school etc you need a blue card. It won’t stop all abuse but if it saves a child or 2 from a lifetime of misery then I am all for it.

    I have a blue card so I can coach junior sports teams and participate in my paid role – it wasn’t that difficult nor expensive.


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