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22.4.5 ADF Fire-fighters

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Last amended: 23 March 2012

The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Fair Protection for Fire-fighters) Bill 2011 was developed in recognition of the high level of exposure to toxins which is experienced by fire-fighters in the course of their employment and the subsequent medical conditions that may result from that exposure.

The Bill was introduced to the House of Representatives on 4 July 2011 and received Royal Assent on 6 December 2011.

The passage of the Bill has resulted in amendments being made to the disease provisions contained in section 7 of the SRCA.  Specifically, new subsections 7(8) and 7(9) have been included to create a legal presumption in situations where one of twelve “prescribed” types of cancer is contracted by a fire-fighter who has been employed in that capacity for a particular amount of time and who has been exposed to the hazards of a fire scene within that period.  In situations where this is the case, their employment is taken to have contributed to a significant degree to the contraction of the disease for the purposes of the Act (unless the contrary can be established).

A complete copy of the amendments to the SRCA is available to view online at http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2011A00182

The twelve primary cancer types and the minimum periods of service which a fire-fighter must have been employed are included in the following table.  Item 13 also provides for further types of cancer (and qualifying periods) to be prescribed at a later stage in accordance with section 122 of the Act.

Item

Disease

Qualifying period

1

Brain cancer

5 years

2

Bladder cancer

15 years

3

Kidney cancer

15 years

4

Non-Hodgkins lymphoma

15 years

5

Leukaemia

5 years

6

Breast cancer

10 years

7

Testicular cancer

10 years

8

Multiple myeloma

15 years

9

Primary site prostate cancer

15 years

10

Primary site ureter cancer

15 years

11

Primary site colorectal cancer

15 years

12

Primary site oesophageal cancer

25 years

13

A cancer of a kind prescribed for this table

The period prescribed for such a cancer

The amendments to the SRCA are not retrospective in application, meaning that the “presumptive” decision-making will only apply to conditions that manifested after 4 July 2011.  The amendments will therefore be relevant to DVA clients if a former ADF member had the identified role of a fire-fighter and meets the requisite number of years service prior to contracting one of the specified cancers.

It is important to note that access to the new provisions requires the person to have their entire qualifying period of service during the currency of the SRCA (between 1 December 1988 and

30 June 2004).  However, subsection 7(10) makes it clear that if a fire-fighter does not qualify under the new provisions then liability will continue to be assessed using the standard provisions in the Act (on the basis of specialist medical evidence).

All fire-fighters who are employed by the ADF from 1 July 2004 are covered by the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004, in which case they will be required to meet one of the Statements of Principles factors relevant to that disease and will not have access to the same presumption of causation.

Comcare have issued a Jurisdictional Policy Advice (2012/01) which provides additional guidance regarding the definitions contained in the amendments and the threshold tests that are to be applied.  A copy of the JPA can be obtained under the “Forms and Publications” sub-heading from Comcare's website at http://www.comcare.gov.au