More than 25,000 volunteer emergency response workers throughout Western Australia will now receive more equal levels of insurance benefits in the event of a death.
Emergency Services Minister Bob Wiese said through the Cabinet-approved decision the State Government had agreed to take out additional insurance to cover members of both the volunteer Bush Fire Brigade and volunteer WA Fire Brigade.
Mr Wiese said the added insurance cover and the State Government's top-up amount would now enable a total death benefit of up to $240,000 to be paid to the estate of a volunteer emergency worker, irrespective of whether they had dependants.
He said pending permanent arrangements being put in place the State Government would also extend the top-up death benefit to other emergency response volunteers, equivalent to that offered to Bush Fire Brigade volunteers under the Bush Fires Act.
"In the event of the death of a volunteer member of the State Emergency Service, the WA Fire Brigade or the Sea Search and Rescue organisations, the Government will provide an ex-gratia payment to the dependants or the estate," Mr Wiese said.
The Minister said the recent deaths of two volunteer firefighters highlighted the major deficiencies and anomalies in volunteer insurance cover.
"This Coalition Government is committed to the support of our volunteers - who on occasions risk their lives to protect life and property - and it is important that each one is entitled to equal insurance benefits in the event of a tragedy."
Mr Wiese praised the State Government Insurance Office for its commitment to provide an ex-gratia payment to the estate of volunteer firefighter Paul Robinson who died during a recent bushfire in Serpentine.
He said Mr Robinson's death highlighted the shortfalls of the previous insurance cover because it revealed that the old policies did not provide cover to those volunteers without dependants.
The Minister said the death of WA Fire Brigade volunteer Glen Hoffman at a bushfire in Chidlow highlighted other differences in the insurance cover between the two volunteer firefighting groups.
Further investigations regarding the insurance cover for other volunteer emergency groups - the State Emergency Service and Sea Search and Rescue - revealed other differences because these agencies already provided insurance cover regardless of any dependants.
"It was an unbelievable decision by the previous Labor Government that created anomalies in the insurance compensation between certain groups of volunteers," Mr Wiese said.
"Ensuring a uniform level of insurance cover for all volunteer emergency response workers will also assist local government authorities in country regions who have the responsibility for ensuring adequate cover for their local volunteer bush firefighters."
Media contact: Mark Thompson 222 9595 or 322 2311