Fire safety training targets Aboriginal communities in NSW

19 June 2015

Fire safety training targets Aboriginal communities in NSW

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) has partnered with Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) to increase awareness of fire dangers in Aboriginal communities.

At a training session held in Parramatta today, NSWALC councillors were given a hands-on experience of how to use firefighting equipment before being briefed on the Aboriginal Firefighters Perspective Exercise by senior FRNSW officers.

NSWALC Chairman Craig Cromelin said the need for training was backed by data showing that Aboriginal communities were more likely to be involved in a fire incident than the State average.

"There is an urgent need to train and resource local Aboriginal fire fighters. It's so important for everyone to learn basic skills on what to do in an emergency situation, like learning how to find an exit, because it can save lives.

"Training has been held around the State with the active involvement of our Local Aboriginal Land Council network," Cr Cromelin said.

Sessions have been held in Batemans Bay, Bega, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Kempsey, Moree, Moruya, Narooma, Nowra, Orange, Sydney, Tarro and Wollongong with more scheduled for Lightning Ridge, Bourke and Tamworth.

The first phase of the State-wide program focuses on appointing, training and resourcing local Aboriginal fire fighters as Community Safety Volunteers.

Participants dress in fire safety gear and learn how to operate fire equipment in a real-life simulation of an emergency and fire situation.

One of the volunteers who participated in the exercise, Christy Ryan from La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council, said the training empowered community members to lead by example.

"We're a lot more confident in the use of fire equipment which we weren't before. We had the equipment before but didn't really know how to use it. We'll at least be confident that we can keep ourselves, our family and our community safe," she said.

Orange Local Aboriginal Land Council Chief Executive Officer Annette Steele said the partnership between FRNSW and NSWALC was essential and would continue to save lives.

"When there's a fire, unfortunately there's not always a big red fire truck in front of someone's yard. So having people with that first response awareness to protect themselves and their families and their properties is important.

"In every community, there's a Local Aboriginal Land Council and if they can be that main conduit between Fire and Rescue and the Rural Fire Service to get community and mobs more aware and engaged in protection of their own lives and their own families, that's a partnership you just can't ignore. It needs to continue and grow right across the State," she said.

Cr Cromelin said the fire safety training participants were well-equipped to provide education about fire safety in their communities and to establish partnerships with other emergency services.

The program will also see smoke alarms, fire blankets and instruction books on what do in an emergency installed in homes that will be identified by FRNSW and NSWALC, as a priority based on data.

The program is funded under the NSW Ministry for Police and Emergency Services Community Resilience Innovation Program (CRIP).

Media contact: Andrew Williams 0429 585 291