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22.4.5 ADF Firefighters
See also: ADF Firefighters Scheme.
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 firefighters 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 resulted in amendments to the disease provisions contained in section 7 of the SRCA (now DRCA). Specifically, subsections 7(8) and 7(9) were included to create a legal presumption in situations where one of twelve “prescribed” types of cancer is contracted by a firefighter 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. Delegates should not actively seek to disprove a link to service.
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 firefighter 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.
Primary site prostate cancer
Primary site ureter cancer
Primary site colorectal cancer
Primary site oesophageal cancer
A cancer of a kind prescribed for this table
The period prescribed for such a cancer
These DRCA provisions are not retrospective in application, meaning that the “presumptive” decision-making only applies to conditions that manifested after 4 July 2011. The amendments are therefore relevant to DVA clients if a former ADF member had the identified role of a firefighter and meets the requisite number of years of service prior to contracting one of the specified cancers.
Subsection 7(10) makes it clear that if a firefighter 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 firefighters 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 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