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Message from the NSW RFS Commissioner

Wednesday, 30 November 2016


A message from NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons:

Afternoon All

In recent days you may have seen media coverage concerning the issue of fundraising conducted by the NSW Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA).

The coverage has focused on the RFSA’s use of commercial call centres which conduct raffle ticket sales on behalf of the Association. As a commercial operation, these call centre operators take a share of the funds raised. As an independent charitable entity, only the RFSA could address details associated with such activities and they have publicly done so.

However, in some media coverage there has been suggestions that I, and in turn the Service, have distanced itself from the Association. This is simply incorrect. Indeed, a number of official statements have been provided to the contrary but have not been published.

The NSW RFS and RFSA continue to have a close and professional working relationship. The RFSA is recognised in our legislation as the representative body for RFS members.

The RFSA provides representation on bodies such as the Rural Fire Service Advisory Council, Bush Fire Coordinating Committee, Fire Services Joint Standing Committee, RFS/RFSA Consultative Committees and the Corporate Executive Group, not to mention the many and varied project groups and organisational workshops and committees. This representation and consultation ensures that a broad range of views, particularly from our volunteers across the State, are considered in the decisions and strategies affecting our Service.

The Association also invests in a number of important initiatives for members, ranging from grants, scholarships, sponsoring members at learning and development events, state and regional exercises, chaplaincy and welfare services, Cadet Championships and key events such as the Australasian Community Engagement and Fire Awareness Conference.

Any suggestion made that it is anything but appropriate for Service personnel, particularly myself as Commissioner, to be invited to and attend RFSA organised events is disappointing to say the least. In fact, I actually place significant value in these interactions and believe that we all gain a greater and shared understanding through these activities.

Clearly, there is a broader issue here relating to the engagement of commercial operators for fundraising activities and the share of revenue they receive as a result. While this is an issue for the Association, it should be recognised it is also an issue for many other charities.

During an unrelated media conference today, and in response to a question, I stated that whilst there are clearly costs associated with fundraising, I do not support the idea of commercial operators making large profits from activities associated with the express intent of raising funds for volunteers and other charitable institutions.

The Service and the Association do not always see eye to eye on issues, but we continue to have a professional and collaborative working relationship in the best interests of all members.

Put simply, I strongly believe that RFS members would be worse off without the dedication, support and investment of the RFSA.