VOLUNTEER Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) has condemned the CFA’s decision to stop funding the Fire Wise publication.
Funding for the publication, which began in 1947 as The Fireman, was cut last week in a move by the state government that critics say was designed to gag CFA volunteers.
“VFBV is extremely disappointed with CFA’s action to cancel funding support to this vital volunteer communications and consultation tool,” VFBV chief executive Andrew Ford said.
“Volunteers deserve a voice and Fire Wise is part of that voice; cutting funding is another step towards gagging of volunteers’ right and ability to have a voice,” Mr Ford said.
The CFA has been an official supporter for nearly 50 years but has told Fire Wise its grant of about $5,000 a month would no longer be paid and that any future payments would only be ‘fee for service’ for advertising.
Mr Ford said the newspaper’s close association with the CFA had never reduced its editorial independence and there had never been an instance of censoring or restricting any CFA or government organisational, policy or change announcements.
“CFA’s decision to suddenly cancel their small funding support to this valuable volunteer communications tool, with no explanation of the logic, no consultation with volunteers and no regard for what it means for volunteers demonstrates a growing attempt to block and prevent volunteers’ views being heard,” Mr Ford said.
“The cost of CFA’s support to Fire Wise is a fraction of its budget. This is an appalling disregard for volunteers and their contribution to making CFA the wonderful organisation it is today.”
The CFA estimates that volunteers contribute service to Victoria worth more than $1 billion every year.
VFBV will work with Fire Wise to ensure the publication survives and Mr Ford urged volunteers to maintain their subscriptions.
More than 5,000 copies of Fire Wise are distributed to CFA volunteer brigades and individual volunteer subscribers across Victoria for a small subscription fee, plus there is a growing following of online subscribers.
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said funding for the publication would be reinstated under a Liberal Nationals government.
“Daniel Andrews is trying to bully volunteers into submission by denying them an independent source of information,” Ms Ryan said. “If elected next year we will restore funding for this long-running publication.”