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Message from the President - Recent Media Coverage

Thursday, 01 December 2016

To put it simply “don’t let the facts get the in the way of a good story” and this lack and misrepresentation of facts is what has been one of the utmost disappointments of recent coverage in newspapers, and on radio and television about the RFSA. 

 

I confirm to you the RFSA is independently audited on an annual basis and that the RFSA annual accounts are lodged with the Australian Charities and Not-For Profits Commission and NSW Fair Trading.  Our reports are available to all through these agencies.  We comply with all laws and regulations including legislation laid out by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, the Australian Taxation Office and the NSW Office of State Revenue. 

 

I take this opportunity to address the misrepresentation of the Association and to inform you, our Members, directly.

 

REPORTED:  Only $4 million of $25 million of gross funds raised over the past three years has gone back to NSW Rural Fire Brigades.

 

DETAIL: 

As confirmed the sum quoted in recent media is the amount of support provided by the NSW RFSA Grant Scheme only. It does not include other assistance and support programs funded by the RFSA.

 

The Association’s Professional Development Scholarship program was not included. This program has helped Members obtain Diplomas, Certificates and Bachelor’s Degrees in studies relevant to their service in the NSW RFS.

 

Sponsorship of NSW RFS Training and Events was also excluded. The RFSA has sponsored many events across the State in all NSW RFS Districts. Without the funding provided by the RFSA these events may not be possible.  They allow our Members to fine tune their skills as they meet and compete with other Brigades. 

 

Welfare and Family support is integral to the ethos of the Association.  Funds raised by the RFSA assist in providing chaplaincy and welfare support to Members.

 

Other forms of support include the NSW RFSA Shop that provides product at discounted prices, Volunteers’ Family Days, assistance provided at Section 44 events, website hosting for Brigades and the opportunity for every registered Member to take advantage of lifestyle and financial benefits offered through the Member Benefits program. 

 

 REPORTED:   $13.7 million over three years has been ‘chewed’ up by a fundraising company.

 

DETAIL:

The RFSA’s primary source of fundraising is through the conduct of fundraising raffles.  The services of a professional contact company are engaged. The not-for-profit landscape is a challenging environment and there are costs involved in the fundraising and fulfilment of raffle campaigns.

 

The Association monitors these fundraising practices diligently and seeks to ensure the best possible return is received in accordance with the legislation and that compliance with all regulatory requirements is adhered to. 

 

A comparison analysis has also been conducted into in-house fundraising compared with engaging an external provider. It illustrated that higher risks would be involved with in-house operations of this volume due to numerous factors including larger on-costs and the expense of information communications technology. The dual responsibility of operating a call centre and a member association would reduce the focus from the objectives of the Association.

 

REPORTED: The RFSA has spent $7.7million on a property and shares portfolio.

 

DETAIL: The RFSA does own property and shares.

In this world, nothing is certain.  The RFSA identified the importance of having more than one source of income, should the primary source of funding, become less feasible. These investments mean the Association has more than one revenue stream to enable it to continue the provision of its programs and other essential Member services.  

 

REPORTED:  The RFSA spent $522,000 of members’ money on its 2015 weekend conference at a four-star resort in Mudgee.

 

DETAIL: The 2015 RFSA Conference was held at Parklands Resort and Conference Centre, Mudgee and was open to all Registered RFSA Members. The cost reported for this conference in recent media was incorrect. 

 

Some 530 delegates attended the biennial conference in 2015. The cost was $479,000.  This figure is reflective of the cost to run a successful and engaging Member conference, where NSW Rural Fire Service members from around the state attend, and are also accommodated and catered for. 

 

All registered Members were invited to submit expressions of interest to attend the RFSA conference and the majority of delegates were volunteers from across the state. 

 

Conferences provide the opportunity for Members to meet with and learn from other Members. 

 

They provide the opportunity to hear from a range of industry guest speakers and learn new approaches to knowledge and firefighting.

 

At the 2015 conference delegates learned about the latest research into extreme bushfire behaviour, the psychology of forming teams and creating cohesive teamwork when operating in tight time frames and were presented with insights into factors contributing to MVAs involving the NSW RFS fleet.

 

The RFSA Conference program always has the platform of education and information sharing as its focus.  Members receive great benefit from attending and they then act as conduit and share the information learnt with their Brigade members and community.  This act of knowledge sharing is an important tool in learning and development. 

 

Any suggestion that the RFSA Conference is some sort of social extravaganza rather than a learning forum is misguided.

 

Other conference costs quoted relate to a joint Association and NSW RFS initiative for Members to attend the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council (AFAC) Conference.  Again, this conference provides a means to improve Member learning and development, and I am proud we can offer such opportunities.  So, yes this sum of money was spent, on our RFSA Members.

 

I hope this information provided has alleviated concerns.

 

We will continue to strive to support all of our Members in their vital work for the NSW RFS.  I thank you all for your support.