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SA Law Society supports increasing bushfire compensation

The Law Society of South Australia has thrown its support behind increasing firefighter entitlements for volunteers in line with paid counterparts, but said it should be used to discuss how the Return to Work scheme can be improved for all injured workers.

user iconNaomi Neilson 20 February 2020 Big Law
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Recent media reports suggested the government agreed to bolster the compensation scheme for injured volunteer firefighters. The package, funded by the Australian federal government, will allow volunteers to claim up to $6,000 as compensation for income lost while they have been fighting the destructive and ongoing bushfires.

However, the law society pointed out that volunteer firefighters whose injuries do not reach a whole person impairment assessment of 30 per cent are only eligible presently for a maximum of two years of weekly payments to cover loss of income and only three years of compensation to cover any potential medical expenses.


“Currently, Metropolitan Fire Service firefighters who are injured in the course of duty are eligible for medical payments in relation to eligible injury whenever medical expenses are incurred, and eligible for weekly income payments until retirement age,” the SA Law Society noted in a recent statement.

“For a number of injured fireys, extremely high threshold of 30 per cent whole person impairment means serious injuries, sustained while protecting lives and defending the properties, that force them out of work for more than two years and require the medical treatment for their injuries for beyond three years, are essentially on their own after the cut-off periods,” the SA Law Society noted in a recent statement.

Media reports described this as a “double standard” and highlighted the flaws with the current workers’ compensation regime. The law society said the biggest victims of the Return to Work Scheme are those who suffer significant work injuries who do not reach the threshold to receive ongoing maintenance and cannot return to work.

“While the society supports volunteer firefighters being covered by the same scheme as paid firefighters…. discussion is needed about how the Return to Work scheme could be reformed to improve outcomes for injured workers more generally so that the ‘splinter’ schemes are not necessary,” added the SA Law Society.

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