Volunteer Firefighters Should Receive Army Reserve Style Support, 85% of Australians Agree

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An overwhelming majority (85%) of Australians support better conditions for volunteer firefighters through an Army Reserve style model in the face of longer and more ferocious bushfire seasons, new research from the Australia Institute shows.

With an early start to the bushfire seasons across NSW, Victoria and Queensland, the Australia Institute finds that an Army Reserves model could offer benefits including medical support, tax incentives, and financial compensation to Australia’s predominantly volunteer bush firefighters, helping bolster the capability and resilience of volunteer firefighting efforts.

Key Findings:

The Australia Institute surveyed a sample of 1002 Australians about their attitudes to Australian government policies affecting volunteer firefighters.

  • 85% of Australians support a model similar to the Army Reserve for volunteer firefighters to boost recruitment (4% oppose, 11% are unsure)
  • 88% of Australians think state and federal governments should improve the conditions and incentives for volunteer firefighters
  • 82% of Australians agree that lack of preparation by governments will make the impacts of this bushfire season worse (10% disagree, 8% are unsure)
    • National reviews of Australia’s bushfire and disaster preparedness highlight the need to improve capability and resilience of volunteer firefighting efforts
  • Nine in 10 Australians (90%) think state and federal governments should implement an increase in funding for firefighting equipment

“Our research shows the vast majority of Australians want to see volunteer firefighters better supported, while the federal government has acknowledged the risk of the ADF being stretched by repeated natural disasters,” said Dr Matthew Ryan, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Australia Institute’s Climate & Energy Program.

“We already have a workforce reserve model that works – the Army Reserves – and it’s time that support for our firefighting forces followed suit.

“Our volunteer firefighters deserve better conditions, funding and equipment to help them protect lives and homes from increasingly ferocious fires.

“Fires don’t just burn on the weekend, but concern about paying the bills means that all too often, weekends are the only times volunteers can give. Volunteer firefighters should not have to worry about making ends meet when putting their lives on the line to protect others.

“As we head into another horror summer, Australia does not have time to waste.

“National reviews show the need to prioritise the capability and resilience of volunteer firefighting efforts. This means better conditions and incentives, along with funding for critical firefighting equipment.”

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