The Nationals WA have called on the McGowan Government to do more to help regional emergency services organisations attract and support volunteers.
Volunteering spokesperson Peter Rundle said concerns about volunteer numbers were raised at an emergency services volunteers forum hosted by The Nationals WA in Northam this month.
“The forum was well attended by representatives from local bushfire brigades, volunteer fire and rescue services, the State Emergency Service and St John Ambulance, with the top issue raised being volunteer recruitment,” Mr Rundle said.
“While other issues were also highlighted, such as access to training and concerns around red-tape, the general consensus was that these issues wouldn’t be such significant concerns if volunteer numbers were up.”
Mr Rundle said he had previously called on the Minister for Volunteering to direct the State Government’s Volunteering Community Reference Group to look into the concerns of emergency services volunteers and find ways to boost recruitment.
“I asked the Minister to look into this very issue last year, and instead of giving it the attention it deserves, he just passed the buck to the Emergency Services Minister,” Mr Rundle said.
“A year later and volunteer numbers are still down, the volunteers who are giving up their time have had extra responsibilities placed on them from an administrative standpoint and the State Government has its head in the sand.”
Mr Rundle said special consideration should be given to emergency services volunteers as a “high commitment” form of volunteering.
“While all volunteering is admirable and important for our regional communities, the State Government has a responsibility to ensure that our high commitment emergency services volunteers are supported,” he said.
“It’s a life-or-death situation for regional communities if volunteers are not available.”
Emergency services spokesperson Colin de Grussa called on the McGowan Government to fund a State-wide marketing campaign aimed specifically at recruiting volunteers for fire, ambulance and SES organisations.
“Not only do our emergency services volunteers respond in times of crisis, they also provide training opportunities and safety education that regional communities can’t afford to lose, and the Government could never replace,” Mr de Grussa said.
“Our emergency services volunteers are priceless, and the McGowan Government cannot afford to take them for granted.
“Given the recent financial windfall the State Government has received from GST and iron-ore payments, I implore Mark McGowan to set aside a small amount of funding towards a campaign that will make a difference right across WA.”