Volunteer 'emergency' declared for Northam

Volunteer woes: More than a dozen regional emergency services volunteers attended a forum hosted in Northam on July 3. Photo: Supplied.
Volunteer woes: More than a dozen regional emergency services volunteers attended a forum hosted in Northam on July 3. Photo: Supplied.

Concerns about volunteer numbers have been raised at an emergency services volunteers forum hosted by The Nationals WA in Northam earlier this month.

The forum comes after a series of articles by the Avon Valley and Wheatbelt Advocate exploring the state of volunteering in the region with the Northam Farmer's Markets and an outdoor cinema series cancelled because of a lack of people putting their hands up to pitch in.

The party's volunteering spokesperson Peter Rundle called on the state government to do more to help regional emergency services organisations attract and support volunteers.

"The forum was well attended by representatives from local bushfire brigades, volunteer fire and rescue services, the State Emergency Service and St John Ambulance, with the top issue raised being volunteer recruitment," he said.

"While other issues were also highlighted, such as access to training and concerns around red-tape, the general consensus was that these issues wouldn't be such significant concerns if volunteer numbers were up."

Mr Rundle said he had previously called on the Minister for Volunteering to direct the state government's Volunteering Community Reference Group to look into the concerns of emergency services volunteers to no avail.

Speaking with the Avon Valley and Wheatbelt Advocate earlier this year Shire of Northam emergency services manager Brendon Rutter called out for more locals to join fire brigades.

Mr Rutter said despite a strong membership of around 320 people, he wanted to see the number of volunteer brigade members increase to ensure the safety of not only locals, but those in all Wheatbelt communities.

He said volunteers were relied upon greatly to deliver emergency services in the community.

"Without volunteers we'd be in big trouble," Mr Rutter said.

"Volunteers are critical to the longevity of our rural areas; they are the backbone. Less volunteers means more risk."

Anyone interested in getting involved in one of the seven bushfire brigades within the Shire of Northam is asked to contact Brendon Rutter on 9622 6137 or via cesm@northam.wa.gov.au.