Legislation providing a rebuttable presumption that specific cancers developed by forest firefighters were due the nature of their employment or service has received assent.

The presumption makes it easier for eligible individuals to access workers compensation, and is modelled closely on similar legislation for career and volunteer firefighters.

Which cancers does the presumption apply to?

The 12 cancers specified are brain, bladder, kidney, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, leukemia, breast, testicular, multiple myeloma, prostate, ureter, colorectal, and oesophageal cancer. The employee must have been on the job for 5 to 25 years, depending on which disease they have (see s 9).

Amendments proposed by Ms Maxwell (Derryn Hinch Justice Party) in the Legislative Council to include cervical, uterine and ovarian cancer with a qualifying period of 15 years were not accepted (see s 9).

Who does the presumption apply to?

The presumption will apply to individuals diagnosed on or after 1 June 2016 if the diagnosis occurs during the course of a person’s service as a firefighter, or within 10 years after they have ceased to serve.

The legislation also provides forest firefighters with the right to apply for special consideration in the event they do not meet the relevant qualifying periods by providing for the consideration of exceptional exposure events. It allows combining service as a career or volunteer firefighter when calculating the qualifying period. It also establishes a new advisory committee to assess eligibility under the scheme.

How are the changes enacted?

The changes are enacted under the Forests Legislation Amendment (Compliance and Enforcement) Act 2021 (Vic), which received on assent 3 November 2021.

To review the passage of the legislation through parliament, visit its homepage at the Victorian Legislation website.

When do the changes commence?

The Act will commence on 14 September 2022 if not already proclaimed to commence beforehand. (This provides more time until commencement than the 1 March 2022 date in the bill.)

Source: No 606, Victorian Government Gazette, 12 October 2021.

Bill: Rebuttable presumption forest firefighters’ cancer due to employment (Vic), 16 September 2021.