Fireys battle against ‘Big Brother’ controls
RURAL firefighters are taking a new approach to hose down a political firefight raging over mandatory Blue Cards.
Rural Fire Service Blackwood first officer Wally Giumelli said never in his 40 years of fighting fires had he come across a child at the edge of a blaze. So he was astounded when the State Government mandated that all Queensland Fire and Emergency Services staff and volunteers - excluding Primary Producer Brigades and Fire Wardens - gain Blue Cards, or undergo working with children checks.mandated that all Queensland Fire and Emergency Services staff and volunteers - excluding Primary Producer Brigades and Fire Wardens - gain Blue Cards
Mr Giumelli has launched a petition calling for the State Government to back down from its Blue Card directive.
The 62-year-old Kuttabul father and grandfather said it was a "principled stand".
After more than four decades of shielding his community, Mr Giumelli said, "They're saying we're all criminals and they have to protect the kids from us.They're saying we're all criminals and they have to protect the kids from us
"The other one (issue) is the control - it's Big Brother up top"
"When is it going to stop? The government says 'jump' and then expects you to ask 'how high?'"
Mr Giumelli is not the only one opposing the Blue Card mandate. In just two days, he said the petition had gained more than 50 signatures, and he expects many more to follow.
With more than 160 members in his brigade - one of the largest in the Mackay region - Mr Giumelli said he was voicing a larger "disenchantment and anger" over the Blue Card requirement.
"I have never come across anyone who did not think it was rubbish," he said.
The battle over blue cards strikes a much deeper problem for the volunteer brigades.
Mr Giumelli said the fight represented a fundamental clash between the collaborative yellow crews, and the more centralised and command-and-control culture of QFES.
He said the requirement to have blue cards was the start of a shift in decision making - from crews at the frontline to urban control centres far from the blaze.
This culture clash could result in many experienced firefighters leaving the front lines, Mr Giumelli said.extended the Blue Card deadline from December 1 to March 31 to allow more time for the 15,000 volunteers who had not yet applied for the cards to do so.
"Those who refuse to apply for, or are unable to hold a current Blue Card, will not be able to continue work that may bring them into contact with children," the QFES spokesman said.
A QFES spokesman said a Blue Card was not only a legal requirement of the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000 but also an important step in ensuring the safety of children.
"Our personnel and volunteers are respected members of the community. There is the presumption that if a child is lost they can approach anyone in a QFES uniform and feel safe and protected," he said.
With some volunteers starting from the age of 16, he said "their family rightly expects their child will be safe".
The QFES spokesman said the process of applying for a blue card was simple and quick, but Mr Giumelli said he would not back down from the fight.
"I don't know what the city folk think - but they need to understand our side of it," he said.
"I'm not going to lay down and let them walk over us"
"I'm going to fight until I can't fight any more".