Release type: Media Release


Better support for firefighters suffering from cancer


The Hon Tony Burke MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
Minister for the Arts

Firefighters exposed to cancerous smoke, toxic chemicals and fumes in the line of duty will have improved access to workers’ compensation.

Amendments to the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Regulations 2019 will expand the list of prescribed cancers to include primary site lung, skin, cervical, ovarian, penile, pancreatic and thyroid cancer and malignant mesothelioma.

This follows changes and updates relating to the firefighter provisions of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988.

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke said those who risk their lives and wellbeing to save others deserve improved access to compensation.

“Every time a firefighter responds to a call they know the risk but they go out there anyway,” Minister Burke said.

“Their sacrifices should be paid back with fair compensation – not with years of battling with the system to get the health care they deserve.

“These changes mean that firefighters in the Commonwealth jurisdiction who contract these cancers can focus on their treatment and recovery.”

The changes are in addition to improvements to workers’ compensation arrangements for ACT firefighters introduced recently as part of the Secure Jobs, Better Pay package.

Burning bushland and buildings, especially older buildings, expose firefighters to smoke from diesel, plastics and other chemicals. These carcinogens can be absorbed by the body even while wearing protective equipment.

Collapsing buildings can also expose firefighters to clouds of asbestos dust.

Previously, firefighters with these cancers could face lengthy claims processes and bureaucracy to secure fair compensation for cancers likely caused by hazardous work.

The Government thanks the firefighter unions for their tireless advocacy for these changes.