Hundreds of firefighters protest over cancer compensation

The government says it simplified cancer claims for firefighters and encouraged both career and volunteer firefighters to lodge a claim if they believe they had contracted cancer as a result of their duties.


“The Victorian government is not ruling out presumptive legislation and will continue to consider new medical and scientific evidence as it becomes available,” a government spokesperson said.

Volunteer Fire Brigades president Bill Watson said firefighters wanted a law that lists the 12 typical “firefighter” cancers and presumes them to be work-related, providing the fire fighter has enough years of service behind him or her and relevant risk exposure.


Mr Watson said there is plenty of evidence firefighters are more likely to suffer certain cancers, but it can be difficult to prove which fire or chemical incident caused their illness.

“It’s not like a broken bone where you know exactly when and where it happened,” Mr Watson said.


“The burning car or house fire you attended today may cause a cancer that doesn’t show up for decades, which makes it nearly impossible to prove it was work related.”

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The federal government introduced presumptive legislation in 2011.


Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia also have laws that recognise the link between fire fighting and cancer.


Mr Watson said any legislation would have to include eligibility guidelines.

“We’re not after a free ride,” he said.


“We just want to make sure they’re looked after if they get sick.”

The Victorian government has been under pressure to make changes to the way compensation is accessed after a 2012 report found firefighters who trained at the CFA Fiskville site had been exposed to dangerous chemicals going as far back as the 1970s.


Last year they introduced a review panel to assist both volunteer and career firefighters seeking compensation for cancer caused by their work.


Opposition leader Daniel Andrews said Labor would introduce the legislation if elected in November.


“I have committed to the introduction of presumptive rights,” Mr Andrews said.