Government refuses PTSD protections for firefighters

The McGowan Labor Government continues to refuse presumptive post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compensation for firefighters despite granting similar protections to paramedics, ambulance officers and ambulance emergency communication officers over a year ago.

Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Martin Aldridge MLC said the State Government must act to address this inequity and strengthen protections for WA’s frontline firefighters.

“Career and volunteer firefighters regularly bear witness to unthinkable tragedy and trauma in the course of their duties, resulting in dozens of claims for PTSD compensation in the past three years,” Mr Aldridge said.

On 1 February 2022, the McGowan Labor Government implemented presumptive PTSD protection for ambulance workers – meaning they would no longer have to go through protracted and expensive compensation claims to access financial support.

Mr Aldridge said in the more than 380 days since ambulance workers were given this protection, fire and emergency services personnel were still waiting.

“Despite the Minister for Emergency Services admitting that firefighters and ambulance workers are exposed to similar traumatic events and may develop PTSD as a result, no action has been taken by the State Government to expand these protections for firefighters or other emergency services personnel.

“This means many firefighters must undertake lengthy and costly claim investigations to prove their illness was contracted at work.”

Mr Aldridge said the Minister for Emergency Services must explain why this inequity is allowed to continue.

“In the 380 days since ambulance workers were given these protections, I have to query what actions have been undertaken by the Minister to progress similar protections for firefighters.

“When I requested further detail on this in Parliament, it was revealed the most recent advice provided by DFES to the Minister dates back to September 2021, suggesting the Minister has not sought advice on this matter since becoming the Minister in December 2021.

“The advice also confirmed DFES has been seeking presumptive PTSD compensations since 2017 and continues to do so.”

Mr Aldridge said extending PTSD presumptive protection to firefighters would have virtually zero impact on the State’s finances, given 97 per cent of claims were eventually accepted by the Insurance Commission of WA.

“While the financial impact of this change would be negligible, it would have significant benefits for the health and wellbeing of firefighters and their families seeking support and compensation after years of exposure to traumatic events.”

The former Liberal-National Government introduced presumptive compensation in 2017 to benefit State employed firefighters who contract various cancers while performing their duties.