Brigade Legal Status Forums and Information
Wednesday, 22 Jul 2020
The Brigade Legal Status has been finalised and new easy to use information sheets are now available to either download or for mailing out to brigade secretaries - https://rfbaq.org/brigaderesources
The question over who 'owns' a Rural Fire Brigade was publicly raised by the Queensland Audit Office (QAO) in their 2010 submission to the Queensland Parliament Review into the Management of Rural Fire Services in Queensland.
Recommendation 1 of the Queensland Parliamentary Review into the Management of Rural Fire Services in Queensland 2011 is ' 'that the Minister for Police, Corrective Services and Emergency Services undertake a comprehensive legal review in order to clarify the legal position of RFBs and their members'.
The Malone Review into the Rural Fire Services in Queensland 2013, Recommendation 80 states ' 'That the State Government recognises the legal status of rural fire brigades as per Crown Law advice and addressed by recommendations from this Review'.
10 years on we have completed the journey.
Please below which is a message from John Bolger AFSM CMgr FIML.GAICD.GIFireE., Assistant Commissioner, Rural Fire Service
To gain a better understanding of the Legal Status of Rural Fire Brigades (RFBs) (both the advantages and disadvantages), the Rural Fire Service (RFS) in conjunction the Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland (RFBAQ) formed a consultation team to engage with RFBs across the state, with the aim of generating conversation and feedback on the issue.
Consultation commenced in 2018 with 17 meetings in total held across the state. Attendees were asked six questions, categorised into three main themes – Brigade Functions, Brigade Limitations, and Brigade Protections. Responses were collated from consultation meetings, phone consultations and written submissions.
Many of the main themes identified during the state-wide consultation do not directly relate to the legal status of RFBs as unincorporated associations. These include brigade membership, insurance, workers compensation and training; however finances, funding and the definition of ‘public monies’ were some of the main themes identified, relating to the legal status. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) sought legal clarification to now ensure the following consistent definitions:
- State Money: Any money received or held for the ‘State’ (Public Monies)
- Council Money: Any money collected by council on behalf of the community. The brigade is accountable to council for the funds.
- Brigade Money: Any money collected or raised by brigades. The brigade is accountable to the community for all money raised and expended.
The consultation process found that there was a general lack of understanding of legislation as it relates to QFES and RFBs. It was found that brigades wish to have a simple legal structure that allows them to function effectively whilst ensuring the membership operates within a legal framework that provides appropriate levels of protection to undertake their respective roles and brigade functions.
The following recommendations were tabled by the RFBAQ and QFES is committed to working together to progress these items:
- Recommend that information be made readily available on brigade rights and responsibilities and legal status of brigades, and how brigades interact with RFS and QFES.
- Recommend the creation of an induction process for new staff which covers brigade rights and responsibilities, and legal status of brigades.
- Recommend training of all staff on brigade rights and responsibilities and legal status of brigades.
- Recommend that a QFES utilities account offering be made to brigades where the brigade is still responsible for the account payment, but final account responsibility does not rest with the volunteer.
- Recommend that QFES offer a ‘brigade owned equipment register’ and agree to underwrite the brigade equipment listed on it with the agreement between brigade and area.
- Recommend that QFES look at an amendment to the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 to provide that RFB volunteers be regarded as part of the State of Queensland for the purpose of Claims under the Crown Proceedings Act 1980.
- Recommend that the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 be re-written to have no conflicting advice in relation to RFB roles and responsibilities.
Information sheets have been developed to provide clarity around some of the areas of concern. These have been attached for your information.
The RFS in conjunction with the RFBAQ are holding brigade information sessions around that state to discuss the information notes and address areas of concern identified in the legal status project.
John Bolger AFSM
Rural Fire Service