The head of the State’s peak body for volunteer firefighters has cautiously welcomed a State Government decision to build the Bushfire Centre of Excellence in Nambeelup, just north of Pinjarra.
President of WA’s Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades, Dave Gossage, welcomed Premier Mark McGowan’s announcement for the $18 million centre but said he hoped it was a true commitment to collaboration between volunteer and career fire services.
Mr Gossage has offered to move the association’s headquarters to the new centre in order to improve cooperation and collaboration in what he proposes as a combined Centre for Bush Fire Education and Heritage.
The AVBFB looks after 26,000 volunteer firefighters across the State and Mr Gossage hopes collaboration between volunteer brigades and the approximately 1100 DFES career firefighters could be made stronger through the move.
“The Premier and (Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan) both acknowledged the failure of previous governments to properly understand and engage with our members last April when they announced a new Rural Fire Division of DFES and have since talked up the need for unity and better collaboration with stakeholders,” Mr Gossage said.
“If they’re fair dinkum about better engaging with and supporting the tens of thousands of incredible women and men of WA’s largest emergency service, it would be very hard to understand anything other than an immediate and enthusiastic acceptance to our offer.
Opposition spokesman for Emergency Services Steve Thomas has accused the State Government of playing politics in originally selecting Darlington as the location for the centre last year, blasting it as “massive snub to rural communities”.
“The McGowan Government has been playing politics with our vital emergency services for too long,” Mr Thomas said.
“Its focus needs to be on community protection, not what will win it the most votes.”