Bulletin No: 95                                                Volume:  21                                   Monday 18 May 2015





The Andrews Government has delivered on its promise to hold an Inquiry into the pollution, contamination and unsafe activities at Fiskville with powerful evidence put before the Parliamentary Committee today.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee hearing room was full to capacity with firefighters and the public who heard from of members of the Fiskville community and neighbouring area who are now battling serious illness and cancers while having witnessed other family members and neighbours also diagnosed with cancers or having lost that battle.

The evidence was explosive.

Stories of idyllic childhoods roaming around Fiskville on their bikes, fishing in the dams and playing on rubbish piles looking for sheep skeletons evolved into family’s lives riddled with illness and struggling to understand why as yet no one had been brought to account and evidence of a significant cover-up.

The Committee heard that the CFA were notified as early as 1991 by a Doctor to warn those living and working at Fiskville of possible serious health effects due to exposure to toxins. CFA failed to do so.

A neighbouring farming family silenced the room with the chilling knowledge that testing has shown high levels of PFOS in blood tests of their family including their children.

The first they knew there could be a health issue was when a note was left under their door stating the dams and water supply was contaminated.  That farmer was issued a stock contamination notice which was later revoked only days later without warning or explanation.

Coincidentally the revocation order came at the same time when the UFU was agitating the issue of contamination of stock in the media.

As a result of today’s evidence we now know that testing on that farm revealed high toxin levels in their stock.  CFA organised further testing which they have refused to hand over the results to the farmer and his family and the farmers have had to resort to litigation to get their own blood test results.

Their lives are in tatters with uncertainty as to the future of their family’s health and viability of their farm.

Evidence also revealed the CFA offered to buy their contaminated stock but never spoke of any remedial work to recover the property and did not offer to buy the contaminated land.  

Further evidence was heard that the CFA sent a media consultant to advise the farmers how to deal with press interest and advised them to say that the CFA was dealing with the issues – but the family refused to tow the CFA line that all was well.

This family said they were advised by CFA not to get a lawyer, and when they did the then CFA CEO Mick Bourke text messaged that he would no longer be communicating with them.

The farmer also stated that further action by the CFA resulted in some remediation work undertaken at Fiskville which has resulted in more contaminated soil leaching onto that same farm when it rains and into his water supply.

Diane Potter, widow of former CFA Chief Officer Brian Potter, was extremely brave and dignified in her testimony before the Committee which revealed that Brian had directly contacted the CFA in 2011 wanting past and present staff, visitors and community notified that a “cancer cluster” was probably the result of a toxic Fiskville site.  CFA refused to accept or act on Brian’s claims and he ultimately went public with the story.

The Monash University appeared before the Committee outlining the findings of its study into CFA firefighters (1979-1991) which showed the overall cancer for the high group – career Pad staff and Instructors – with melanoma, testis and brain cancer of particular prevalence.

Further bulletins will follow.  In the meantime if today’s evidence is accepted the UFU’s position and its representatives actions in continuing to pursue the Fiskville cover-up has resulted in total vindication of  our union’s position.  Health and safety of firefighters, staff and the community are paramount to the union of which it’s important that those responsible are made accountable for their actions in a very real and meaningful way.

Strength in Unity


Authorised by Peter Marshall, Branch Secretary