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In 1971 the CFA established its Fiskville Training College as a training site for firefighters around the state.
In 1971 the CFA established its Fiskville Training College as a training site for firefighters around the state. The site provided a number of facilities for live fire drills, classroom-based firefighting training, and housed a number of permanent and temporary staff and volunteers.
In 2011, following investigations by the Herald Sun, serious questions emerged concerning the safety and management practices employed at Fiskville between the 1970s and 1990s, in relation to the sourcing, use and disposal of hazardous substances in training exercises.
Many of training practices at Fiskville during this period were informal and undocumented, but the available evidence indicates that numerous hazardous waste chemicals were sourced from around Victoria for use on the site. These chemicals were burned for training purposes and were also stored and disposed of on the training grounds. It has been alleged that people who spent time on the site were exposed to these potentially carcinogenic substances, and the byproducts of their burning, as a result.
It has been alleged that the safety practices and precautions in place were inadequate to guard against the risks posed to people on the Fiskville site, that no warning or information was provided to staff and volunteers about the risks, and that the CFA could and should have known of the risks present on the site at the time.
In December 2014, the Victorian Government announced its intention to hold a parliamentary inquiry into the Fiskville site, to identify any failures and concerns, and to investigate compensation options for victims.
The Joy Report
In response to these allegations, in 2011 the CFA commissioned Professor Rob Joy to conduct an independent investigation into the practices at the time and to produce a report of his findings. In 2012, Professor Joy confirmed that several classes of employees and volunteers at Fiskville were likely to have been exposed to a number of chemicals and substances that are confirmed or suspected carcinogens, exposing the different groups to differing levels of risk. To read the full report, click here.
While the Joy Report is an important step in uncovering the truth about what occurred at Fiskville, unfortunately it doesn’t address all of the key questions that have been raised, so there is still much work to do to determine exactly what went wrong, and to ensure that people who have been injured as a result of their time on Fiskville receive appropriate assistance.
In 2015 the Victorian Parliament will conduct an in-depth inquiry into the events that occurred at Fiskville, with a view to identifying what risks and problems exist at the site, and what options there are for compensating victims, if appropriate. The inquiry promises to be a critical opportunity for previously-unavailable evidence and testimony to come to light, and to hopefully develop a mechanism for ensuring that victims affected by the management of the site are able to see justice done.
Slater and Gordon has been instructed by a large number of people (and the relatives of a number of deceased individuals who have passed away as a result of their conditions) who have been diagnosed with various illnesses, predominantly cancers, who have spent time at Fiskville and allege that their health issues have been caused or substantially contributed to by their exposure to carcinogens and the toxins at the training college.
We intend to make submissions to the inquiry where possible on our clients’ behalf, and to work with all parties involved to ensure that a just mechanism for compensating Fiskville victims can be developed. Throughout this process, we will continue to advocate strongly for a fair outcome for our clients.
If you or someone you know spent time at Fiskville between the 1970s and 1990s, in any capacity, and suffered an injury that may have been contributed to by your time there, you may have rights to seek compensation.
Additionally, if you spent time with the CFA or at Fiskville and feel you have any information that may be relevant to our investigations, we would be very grateful if you would contact us to discuss the Fiskville situation. Please don’t hesitate to contact Kelly Basset on (03) 9602 6897 or at FiskvilleCA@slatergordon.com.au in you think you can help.