Page 3380 - Week 09 - Thursday, 24 August 2017

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Emergency Services, I am pleased to support the 2017-18 budget. As part of the 2017-18 budget, the ACT government has announced a number of initiatives for the police and emergency services portfolio which will enhance emergency service capabilities and reshape its services.

In addition to the other commitments made over the term of this government, the ACT 2017-18 budget provides funding of $11.3 million over four years for the ACT Emergency Services Agency to build operational capability and delivery against the ESA’s strategic reform agenda. New initiatives supported over the four years include $6.6 million to employ professional call takers and dispatchers in the emergency 000 communications centre; $147,000 for a recruit college for 16 firefighters and actively encouraging female participation in line with the women in emergency services strategy; $821,000 to improve mental health services for front-line ESA personnel; $220,000 for ACT Rural Fire Service volunteers to keep fit and healthy; $576,000 to enable a second crew to be deployed at the Ainslie Fire & Rescue station; and $2.9 million to relocate the ESA’s backup communications centre and the ACT Ambulance Service’s non-emergency patient transport facilities.

The government announced comm cen reforms in June 2016. That was made following extensive consultation and consideration of all the issues and feedback received. The announcement proposes to realign the roles of ACT Fire & Rescue officers who currently work in the comm cen. It will also put additional firefighters on the road to assist in preventative and community work, improve response times, give firefighters the opportunity to provide shift relief for each other and help to reduce overtime rates.

The government announcement in June 2016 advised of an implementation date of 1 July 2017. The funding approval in the 2017-18 budget, and the implementation of the upgraded computer-aided dispatch system on 16 May this year, allowed the comm cen project to commence as planned. How calls are answered and resources are dispatched did not change on 1 July 2017. The ESA did, however, issue a commissioner’s guideline on that date which clearly states how the comm cen project will progress. I would encourage interested members to view the commissioner’s guideline, which is available on the ACT legislation register.

As I announced on 10 May this year at the ESA training centre in Hume, another 16 firefighters will be recruited and trained as part of the funding provided in the 2017-18 ACT budget. While the exact timing for this training program is yet to be finalised, it will see the additional firefighters in operation by May 2018. This recruit training will meet the ACT government’s commitment to recruit additional firefighters to address current shortages and replace staff likely to leave the service. The ACT government also remains committed to the women in emergency services strategy and supports fifty-fifty recruitment in ACT Fire & Rescue to improve workforce diversity.

The operational work undertaken by emergency services staff, commonly referred to as first responders, is challenging and places a high demand on the welfare of staff. The government has recognised that emergency services staff are regularly exposed to traumatic events and announced it would deliver enhanced mental health services for

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