Victoria announces $57m repair plan for toxic Fiskville firefighting site

The Victorian government has announced a $57 million repair program to support firefighters who were exposed to toxic chemicals while training at the former Fiskville Training Centre.

The program will provide payments to people who worked, trained and lived at or near the Fiskville site between 1972 and 2015.

In 2016, a parliamentary inquiry confirmed claims that dozens of firefighters who worked and trained at the site near Ballan, west of Melbourne, suffered from cancers linked to toxic firefighting chemicals. fires.

Testing at the Fiskville site found that concentrations of PFAS chemicals were up to 12 times higher than those recommended by international safety guidelines.

A Monash University study found that “overall cancer risk was significantly increased” for firefighters who had a high level of exposure to the site, such as training instructors.

The site was permanently closed in 2015.

“It’s a long time coming”

Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes said acknowledgment of past mistakes was a long time coming.

“It’s about acknowledging the exposure, acknowledging the harm,” Ms Symes said.

“But it’s important to really move forward in a way that supports these people.”

Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes said the announcement of the redress scheme was an important step.(ABC News)

Ms Symes said the program would provide support of up to $45,000 to those who have spent time in Fiskville.

She said those deemed to have experienced “high exposure” would automatically be eligible for a $25,000 payment, with an additional $20,000 for those with a diagnosed illness.

Those with “lower-level exposure” could access an automatic payout of $10,000, she said.

She said further payments would be available if someone contracted an illness attributable to their time in Fiskville.

The program will provide medical and mental health support to participants as well as non-financial assistance such as counselling.

Ms Symes said the government estimated around 1,300 people would be eligible for the scheme.

Repair scheme recognizes ‘dark spot’ on fire services

Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) Deputy Fire Chief Mick Tisbury said the repair program was driven by a search for closure rather than financial gain.

“Today is an emotional day but it is a good day,” Mr Tisbury said.

“It’s not compensation, it was never about money. It’s about acknowledging what firefighters and concerned community members have been through.”

A man in a fireman's uniform
Mick Tisbury says the reparations program comes after a 12-year journey for justice.(ABC News:)

Mr. Tisbury said the investigation and repair program marks a new chapter for firefighters in the state.

“It was a black stain on the history of the fire service in Victoria. This damage has been done, we can’t do anything about what happened in the past,” he said.

“But it’s about making sure it never happens again in the future.”

He said the support mechanisms launched alongside financial assistance would be crucial for those affected by Fiskville.

“I thought those wounds would heal… 12 years since I’ve been on this trip, I thought I was fine,” Mr Tisbury said.

“It wasn’t until it came up again that I realized ‘maybe I’m not okay’ and maybe I need to go access some of these mental health supports. And I will do, I’m not ashamed to say that.”

The Fiskville Redress Scheme will open on September 5, with registration accessible on a dedicated site.

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