Queensland Parliament has passed significant changes to Queensland’s disaster and emergency management framework, strengthening the state’s fire response, disaster management and emergency services and providing greater reassurance to Queenslanders. 

The Queensland Government has committed funding of $578 million over five years for more resources, more personnel, more equipment and better frontline services to keep Queenslanders safe in the face of disaster. This includes an uplift of almost 500 additional emergency services staff.

Legislation changes, which include amendments to existing disaster management legislation and a raft of new laws, will set the direction for a new era of disaster management and emergency services in Queensland and enhance the state’s capacity to get ready for, respond to and recover from natural disasters and emergencies.

These important community safety changes include increasing the state’s disaster coordination effort, improving services and support for frontline staff and volunteers and consolidating and aligning services focused on disaster resilience and coordination, as well as ensuring a dedicated service for fire prevention, response and control.

The new legislation provides record support for the state’s local community disaster and emergency response volunteers, offering more resources, vehicles, critical safety equipment and protections for SES, marine rescue and rural fire service volunteers.

The legislation changes are proposed to take effect from mid-2024 with the SES expected to transition to the Queensland Police Service (QPS) in June 2024. The expected establishment date for the new Queensland Fire Department (QFD) is 1 July 2024, with the new Fire Services Act 1990 also intended to commence on that date.

Marine Rescue Queensland (MRQ) will commence the transition of marine volunteer units across the state from July 2024, with the transition expected to be completed in 2025.

Queensland’s emergency services and disaster management reforms stem from a series of independent reviews including the Independent review of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and the Review of Queensland’s Disaster Management Arrangements (QDMA). 

Queensland Minister for Police and Community Safety, Mark Ryan, said that the State Government has delivered some of the most significant legislative changes to disaster and emergency services Queensland has ever seen.

“At the centre of these reforms is the Queensland Government’s unwavering commitment to ensure the safety of Queenslanders,” Minister Ryan said. 

“Through these changes we are building on our world-class capabilities and strengthening our protection and support for Queenslanders in the face of diversity and natural disasters.

“The new laws and changes will help create a stronger, safer, more resilient Queensland through better aligned and dedicated services to build our state’s resilience, prevention and response.

“The changes also recognise the important work and contributions of our emergency service volunteers. We celebrate the milestone achievement to establish SES and MRQ as dedicated entities with their own operating budgets.

“This unprecedented change will ensure our volunteers are supported with more resources and more equipment to continue their valuable lifesaving work.”

Queensland Minister for Fire and Disaster Recovery, Nikki Boyd, said that the government is committed to ensuring the safety of Queensland communities and that this legislation is about providing Queenslanders with the best possible frontline support through more resources, more personnel and a better alignment of emergency services.

“The establishment of the new QFD will better position our fire services to respond to the increasing impacts of emergencies and natural disasters,” Minister Boyd said. 

“The legislation passed today will not only set up the structures for Rural Fire Service Queensland (RFSQ) and Queensland Fire and Rescue (QFR), but also provide more protection for our volunteers.

“We are also investing in our state’s resilience with an increased capability for the QRA including new responsibilities to coordinate and implement policies related to potential disaster risk assessments across Queensland.

“Today is a great day for Queensland emergency management reform and for the thousands of volunteers who help protect our communities each and every day.”

Queensland Police Commissioner, Steve Gollschewski, said that community safety is at the forefront of disaster and emergency services response and the SES and marine rescue volunteers deliver important local community safety services.

“QPS is excited to welcome the dedicated SES and marine rescue volunteers into our organisation and continue to support their outstanding contributions to protecting Queenslanders in times of local natural disaster and to provide valuable rescue services on land and across our oceans and waterways,” Mr Gollschewski said. 

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Acting Commissioner, Steve Smith, said that it’s a new era for fire services in Queensland and the passing of this legislation marks a critical milestone as the QFES transitions to the QFD.

“A dedicated fire department means a clearer focused, more engaged, and better-connected response,” Mr Smith said. 

“It will also mean committed budgets for RFSQ and QFR, and dedicated leadership with experience for each service in the urban and rural environments.

“A new Rural Fire Service Advisory Committee will also be established with strong volunteer representation, enabling a voice for volunteers to raise matters important to them.”

Image credit: AlexCimbal/shutterstock.com

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