Federal Government to compensate firefighters as South East blazes continue

Genevieve Jacobs29 December 2019
Volunteer firefighters

Volunteer firefighters will now receive compensation payments for more than ten days of service. Photo: RFS Facebook.

After weeks of mounting pressure, NSW volunteer firefighters will receive compensation payments for loss of income. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced this weekend that volunteers will receive payments of $300 per day, up to $6000 in total if called out for more than 10 days this fire season.

Some firefighters in the South East have been on duty for weeks since the Palerang, Charleys Forest and Currowan fires broke out. The Charleys Forest, Currowan and Deua Valley fires continue to burn today and the RFS is bracing for heatwave conditions this week across the Capital region.

The RFS is dependent on the services of volunteer firefighters, many of whom have now been absent from their employment for the duration of the extended fire crisis, with no end in sight.

Victorian National Party MP Darren Chester broke ranks with the government at the end of last week and joined calls for firefighters to be paid, as community calls also mounted for recognition of the toll on volunteers.

South East fire-fighters

South East fire-fighters have been on duty for weeks as the fire crisis continues. Photo: Lake George RFS.

The Federal Government had previously said that payment decisions were the responsibility of state governments and would be considered in consultation with them after the crisis had passed. Mr Morrison said this weekend’s announcement came as a result of a direct request and consultation with fire chiefs and the NSW Government.

RFS volunteers who are self-employed or working for small or medium businesses can apply for tax-free financial support from the Federal Government to cover lost wages. It will not be means-tested and the NSW Government will administer the payments.

The Federal Government’s expectation is that larger businesses will provide their staff with up to 20 days of emergency services leave for firefighting duties. While the scheme is currently limited to NSW, the focus of the crisis, it could be extended to other jurisdictions if similar conditions occur.

One-off Federal Government payments for volunteers have been authorised in the past by the Keating and Howard governments during previous crises, but the Morrison government has consistently said that management of the bushfire crisis rests with state governments.

Fireboss water bomber

Fireboss water bombers take on three tonnes of water from the Moruya River. Photo: Toby Whitelaw via Facebook.

As of 11:00 am today, the Charleys Forest fire is at control level west of Braidwood but now covers more than 33,000 hectares after growing from the Currowan Fire on its western flank. It is currently burning from Nerriga in the north to Monga Lane in the south and fire crews are focusing on maintaining containment lines and property protection to the north-west and west of Nerriga.

The Deua River Valley fire continues to burn approximately 10 km north-west of Moruya in the Wandera State Forest and Monga National Park. Crews are using heavy plant machinery to strengthen containment lines. Firefighters will be supported by waterbombing aircraft in an attempt to slow the progress of the fire.

Low lying areas around Batemans Bay and Moruya are likely to experience significant smoke impact.

The Currowan fire also continues to burn between Nowra in the north, Braidwood in the west, and Batemans Bay in the south and there has been a significant increase in fire activity south of the Kings Highway to the west of Nelligen. There RFS says that there is still a significant area of uncontained fire to the south of the Kings Highway, west of Nelligen.

To stay up to date on bush fires in your area call the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737 or check the NSW RFS website. For road reports and updates visit Live Traffic NSW.

Use the Register.Find.Unite service to register your location, and find and reunite with family, friends and loved ones after an emergency.

What's Your Opinion?

23 Responses to Federal Government to compensate firefighters as South East blazes continue

Gee Perera Gee Perera 9:05 am 30 Dec 19

I’m glad they are compensating firefighters at last but it should’ve happened instantly not after a build up of public pressure!

Karen Penrose Karen Penrose 8:38 am 30 Dec 19

Too little and why did it take so long? What about the visiting Vic and other states volunteers and all the retirees?

Carol Jay Carol Jay 11:32 pm 29 Dec 19

And rightly so!!

Ilsa Fay Ilsa Fay 11:20 pm 29 Dec 19

About bloody time!

John Low John Low 8:42 pm 29 Dec 19

Volunteers are volunteers.

Australia is renowned for its volunteers.

Open the gates for one lot . . And many others will want a suck of the sav.


    Terry Rudd Terry Rudd 7:51 am 30 Dec 19

    John Low Here's the thing in 2019 John, most (but not all) volunteers in Australia since 2017 already are compensated for expenses incurred while doing their volunteer work. The definition on what constitutes a volunteer has changed. It is all about the status of the Organisation now and not the person as it was until a couple of years ago. The LNP government is responsible. The current update on RFS heroes is a but of a blip that was sadly overlooked - ScoMO is gradually succumbing to pressure from all sides of politics and the public to rectify the situation and he has done a bit. But if you are not from NSW, or you aren't self employed (and self employed includes most farmers) , nor are you a Federal Public Servant, then you get the square root of SFA - see the problem?

Caralyn Naylor Caralyn Naylor 5:09 pm 29 Dec 19

Too little, too late.

Leonie Reisberg Leonie Reisberg 4:57 pm 29 Dec 19

About bloody time!

Carol Comerford Carol Comerford 4:41 pm 29 Dec 19

Thank you to our government 👏

Pat Reeves Pat Reeves 3:12 pm 29 Dec 19

South east? Is he finally expanding from nsw or are the other states still waiting recognition?

Josie Conlan Josie Conlan 3:01 pm 29 Dec 19

A Vote decision ?????

    Amanda Moss Amanda Moss 3:14 pm 29 Dec 19

    Looks that way and no where near enough !

    Kirsty Vickers Kirsty Vickers 7:00 pm 29 Dec 19

    Josie Conlan doubt it. Not all of us are entitled to it. 😡

Carol Lankuts Carol Lankuts 2:51 pm 29 Dec 19

Finally, a positive decision! True Australian's of the Year.

Jenifer Mather Jenifer Mather 2:38 pm 29 Dec 19

Now why did it take so long for this decision to be made - and why - didn't Morrison say the volunteers wanted to be there - he wants the votes I suppose....

    Tricia Owen Tricia Owen 2:56 pm 29 Dec 19

    Jenifer Mather his vote chasing, he knows he stuffed up when he went to Hawaii.

    Jenifer Mather Jenifer Mather 3:18 pm 29 Dec 19

    Tricia Owen well I never voted for the liberal government who want everyone to be self reliant, but the liberals can afford to give $110,000 to the hill song church Morrison attends for security cameras- the church pay no taxes yet are given taxpayer money .....

    Peter Bond Peter Bond 3:31 pm 29 Dec 19

    We have the fires every year,. Why didn't Labor think of it last year, or any other year?

    They are volunteers and band together to save their own and others property.

    The government could not afford to pay for permanent fire fighters.

    This is a development and will continue over the next decade.

    Kayla Jay Kayla Jay 4:48 pm 29 Dec 19

    Peter Bond the LNP is in Government and has been for several years, not sure if you noticed.

    Jenifer Mather Jenifer Mather 5:05 pm 29 Dec 19

    Kayla Jay at least it's a change from blaming the greens who have never been in power ...

    David Porter David Porter 6:31 pm 29 Dec 19

    Jenifer Mather it’s called a tipping point.

    Jenifer Mather Jenifer Mather 7:03 pm 29 Dec 19

    David Porter I hope people aren't fooled by his final acceptance that volunteers need a bit of money to cover their lost wages and expenses just so he doesn't lose votes

Gina Woodward Gina Woodward 2:30 pm 29 Dec 19

I’m glad to see some form of compensation - their current efforts are way beyond what we’d ever expect of volunteers and it shouldn’t cost them financially to be out helping for so many weeks. Very grateful to all the firies.