MS Patten (Northern Metropolitan) — The other week I was delighted to visit the Thomastown fire station to meet the inspiring firemen — they are all men; there are no women — of brigade A. In a few short hours I saw what state-of-the-art tools and gadgets can be found in the rescue trucks, some of which have been invented by the firemen themselves. I also learnt about the incredible work done by the juvenile fire awareness and intervention program, where firemen mentor young people convicted of arson. I even got to try on a fire suit and put out a fire. It was not a real fire; it was just an orange flame. I saw the care and support that the members of brigade A provide to each other.
The nature of the work of firefighters has changed dramatically over the last 15 years. We are now seeing them as our emergency medical responders. Firemen are often the first people on the scene of some devastating accidents, with an average response time of 7.7 minutes. It means that they are the first to witness some truly heartbreaking incidents, such as cot deaths, suicides and horrendous car crashes. They perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other emergency management responses at the scene.
They talk about landmarks in their local suburbs. Sadly, they are not happy landmarks; they are landmarks where certain incidents have taken place. As a result of the nature of their duties, it is not surprising that some firefighters are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is something we recognise in our armed forces, and I would like to take this opportunity to mention Keith Payne, a war hero and, as of last Monday, a Member of the Order of Australia. He has long been a campaigner for greater recognition of PTSD amongst our returning servicemen and all of our emergency fighters.
Internationally, PTSD has been included in presumptive legislation so that firefighters can access treatment and support. Australian firefighters deserve the same protections. I commend the government for allocating $200 000 for firefighters to access PTSD counselling and one-on-one support. However, with the average cost per PTSD claim being $44 000, it allows for only five firefighters across the state. I ask the Special Minister of State, Gavin Jennings, who represents the Minister for Emergency Services, to dramatically increase the funding allocated to post-traumatic stress disorder services for firefighters and to add PTSD to the list of presumptive conditions in compensation legislation.