Bulletin No: 195 | 20 November 2018




UFUA’s Joanne (Wattie) Watson to take up the position of Secretary of New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union


On behalf of the National President, and in my capacity as National Secretary, we are pleased to announce that Wattie Watson has been successful in obtaining the position of Secretary of the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union (NZPFU). 

Though we are saddened to see Wattie go, we are proud that her next endeavour is as Secretary of the NZPFU, a founding member of the firefighting union global alliance.

As members may be aware Wattie has been a tireless advocate for professional career firefighters, calling upon her extensive industrial and legal expertise in traversing some of the most testing campaigns a union could face. 

Commencing with the UFUA in February 2011, Wattie held the position of National Research Officer for more than 7 years and operated out of the Victorian office.

Wattie demonstrated exceptional service, commitment and dedication to the UFUA and members.  The UFUA is extremely fortunate to have had the experience of working with Wattie. 

Of the many significant achievements during her time at the UFUA, Wattie was absolutely instrumental in achieving legislative reform in Australia with Australian governments for the first time recognising occupational cancer in firefighters.  The work undertaken by Wattie that contributed to the ground-breaking 2011 Senate Inquiry into Occupational Cancers of Firefighters will most definitely be a lasting legacy. 

Wattie was also instrumental in securing presumptive rights legislation for federal firefighters (ACT and Aviation firefighters).  Building upon this enormous success as a result of the 2011 Senate Inquiry, Wattie proceeded to focus on securing the same or similar legislative recognition in Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland.

Wattie has also dedicated countless hours briefing Victorian politicians about occupational cancers, despite the fact that conservative political parties including the Liberals continue to vote down presumptive rights legislation for firefighters in Victoria.    

Wattie prepared for, and has even appeared at, a number of inquiries focussing on occupational cancer and firefighter health including the 2015 Queensland Inquiry into Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation (Protecting Firefighters) Amendment Bill, the 2017 Tasmanian Legislative Investigation into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and 2017 Victorian Inquiry into the Firefighters’ Presumptive Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill.

Wattie has also successfully represented and advocated on behalf of members from various branches whose claims for occupational cancer had been rejected. Wattie is highly respected and valued by our national body as well as Members of Parliament irrespective of political persuasion. 

In addition to national recognition of occupational cancers in the firefighting profession, Wattie also did much of the preparation and finalisation of submissions including, but certainly not limited to:

  • 2013 Senate Inquiry into Recent trends in and preparedness for extreme weather events
  • 2013 Senate Inquiry into Effects of Climate Change
  • 2016 Senate Inquiry into the Fair Work Act Amendment (Respect for emergency services volunteers) Bill
  • 2018 Senate Inquiry into the role of Commonwealth, state and territory Governments in addressing the high rates of mental health conditions experienced by first responders, emergency service workers and volunteers.

Wattie has also prepared and been involved in a number of Federal Court cases and Fair Work hearings during her time with the UFU, always working to advance the interests of members.  These include the Full Federal Court wins for the CFA Operational Staff Agreement which created ground-breaking industrial precedent, as well as the UFU win in the 2014 MFB Termination Case.    

More recently, Wattie has also undertaken groundwork and research and produced campaign material to prevent the attacks on Aviation firefighters which, if implemented, would have resulted in the decommissioning of fire crews at major airports, and worked to reverse budget cuts to fire service training in Tasmania. 

Wattie also contributed to a major win in the Victorian branch recently, achieving the income protection allowance for all operational MFB and CFA professional career firefighters.   

Wattie prepared, researched and produced campaign material for a number of National Committee of Management meetings and forums, including the 2013 Global Cancer Forum in Melbourne, 2016 UFUA PTSD Conference, 2017 UFUA Wellness Workshop, and the recent 2018 National Committee of Management Conference held in Tasmania.  Wattie was also instrumental in the establishment of the UFUA Cancer Foundation. 

Beyond the national realm, Wattie is also highly respected in the global forum and her work and commitment to advance the interests of firefighters is recognised by our global alliance.  Indeed, the quality of Wattie’s representation and her dedication to members goes beyond her legal and industrial expertise and encompasses the personal support that she willingly gave to numerous firefighters and their families who have experienced illness due to an occupational cancer. 

Wattie has achieved many successes during her time with us.  Our union will be forever indebted to Wattie, and the firefighting industry is in a much better place thanks to Wattie’s efforts. 

We encourage UFU members to contact Wattie over the coming weeks to personally thank her for her incredible efforts: ufunational@ufunat.asn.au.


We wish Wattie well in her new role as the Secretary of the NZPFU. 


Strength in Unity

Authorised by Peter Marshall, Branch Secretary