Victoria firefighters rally for cancer compensation changes

Hundreds of volunteer firefighters are rallying in Melbourne in a bid to win easier access to compensation for cancer contracted at work.


They want the state government to introduce presumptive legislation so firefighters who contract one of 12 cancers no longer have to prove it was caused on the job.

Volunteer Fire Brigades president Bill Watson said there was plenty of evidence firefighters are more likely to suffer certain cancers, but it can be difficult to prove which fire or chemical incident caused their illness.

“It’s not like a broken bone where you know exactly when and where it happened,” Mr Watson said.

“The burning car or house fire you attended today may cause a cancer that doesn’t show up for decades, which makes it nearly impossible to prove it was work-related.”

The federal government introduced presumptive legislation in 2011.

Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia also have laws that recognise the link between fire-fighting and cancer.

Mr Watson said any legislation would have to include eligibility guidelines.

“We’re not after a free ride,” he said.

“We just want to make sure they’re looked after if they get sick.”

The Victorian government has been under pressure to make changes to the way compensation is accessed after a 2012 report found firefighters who trained at the CFA Fiskville site had been exposed to dangerous chemicals going as far back as the 1970s.

Last year they introduced a review panel to assist both volunteer and career firefighters seeking compensation for cancer contracted at work.

Mr Watson said it was a step in the right direction but more needed to be done.

“The assessment panel is important but it needs to be more user-friendly,” Mr Watson said.

“I think that we could improve a lot from where we are.”