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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (14 November) . . Page.. 3476..


Remembrance day

Bushfires-volunteer training

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (4.44): Mr Speaker, in this adjournment debate I want to briefly mention two matters. Firstly, I want to place on the record that Remembrance Day fell on the weekend. Mrs Burke, Mr Smyth and I attended the memorial service, and Ms Porter represented the Chief Minister. I commend the speech made that morning by the Minister for Defence, who drew a very strong parallel between the sacrifices and the attitudes and set of values of the men and women who were caught up in that conflict.

The minister said that we no longer have veterans of that conflict to commemorate that day with, but that our memory of their sacrifice will be long. He said that the inspiration of their effort is with us now and that, as we develop values in our youth, the sacrifice, the strength and the heart of those men and women who went from these shores on behalf of this nation to fight in the Great War, supposedly the last of all world wars, is the benchmark against which those values could be developed.

I thought that the minister's speech, highlighting those values and aligning those values to what we would now like to see developed in young Australian society, was absolutely spot on. I commend those members of the Assembly who attended the ceremony.

The next issue I want to briefly touch on is the state of the training of bushfire volunteers. Training now is not as streamlined or easily obtainable as it once was. Yes, good initiatives were undertaken in the last four to five years to benchmark volunteer training against Australian standards. There is no question about that. There needed to be changes undertaken to ensure that the training of our bushfire volunteers, our SES volunteers, was benchmarked against an Australian standard and that it certainly met that standard.

However, I think the government has lost sight of the need to maintain the balance between Australian Standards training and the traditional on-the-job training undertaken by bushfire volunteer brigades in the god knows how many decades that bushfire volunteers have been in place. I would like to see the government regain that balance so that when we do have volunteers stepping up and wanting to join our brigades and our SES units, they are not frightened away by what appears to be a long and convoluted training process for which we do not always have the resources to be able to train these people quickly.

It is so important to retain the volunteer ethic. The volunteer ethic is the heart and soul of our bushfire volunteer brigades and our SES units. Therefore, when volunteers step forward, in recruitment or otherwise, we need to retain them, and to retain them we need to train them reasonably quickly. To say to volunteers that they should come back in six months time for their module 1 or module 2 initial employment training or whatever it might be is the way to drive volunteers away. I think the government has lost sight of that. The other day, for example, I heard Captain Val Jeffrey say that he was aware that 24 volunteers had been recruited, had been waiting a year, and in that


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