Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 28 October 2015) . . Page.. 3740 ..
Fire & Rescue and the ACT Rural Fire Service will be participating in a three-year mental wellbeing study undertaken by the University of Melbourne. Minister, how many ACT firefighters from ACT Fire & Rescue and the ACT Rural Fire Service will be taking part in this study?
MS BURCH: I thank Mr Smyth for his question. This was launched, coincidentally, the day the Acton tunnel got struck by a truck. I was planning to go out to ESA, meet with Andrew Stark and launch this study. It is open to all members of the ACT Rural Fire Service and ACT Fire & Rescue. We are encouraging all the paid firies and the volunteers to participate in the study.
It is the first of its kind. They will undertake a survey. It is my understanding that in 12 months time that survey will be revisited. Participants can go back in. It is important that we get this information and support our firies and our volunteers as much and as we can.
MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mr Smyth.
MR SMYTH: Minister, could you outline for the Assembly what welfare and counselling services are currently provided to officers in both services, particularly those likely to suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome following overseas deployments?
MS BURCH: There are very strong formal and informal structures of support for the volunteers and the paid workforce in Fire & Rescue. What they see and what they do are often traumatic and difficult. They need to be supported by professional counsellors, they need to be supported by their peers and they need to be supported by management. That is what our systems and our services have in place.
MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mrs Jones.
MRS JONES: Minister, what will the government do to address firefighters who have been identified as having mental wellbeing needs?
MS BURCH: Those who have been identified as having had traumatic experiences and as needing support will be offered external support, access to counselling services or to that part of the medical profession that is deemed to be appropriate. But it is also important that they are supported in the workplace by their peers and by their management.
MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mrs Jones.
MRS JONES: Minister, can you guarantee that no firefighter will be disadvantaged as a result of having participated in this study?
MS BURCH: Indeed not. I am actively encouraging each and every volunteer and paid member of the Fire & Rescue service to participate in this study because it is important that we have a deep understanding of the issues that they face so we can finetune and better target our support structures to make sure that they are healthy and that they are able to be maintained in their jobs. They do a fabulous job for our community, and they need to be supported.