The early years
The Fire Service Fund in it’s present form was established in 1936, however it’s origins extend much further back than that. There are stories that have come down through our older retirees, some of whom have since passed on, that the ethos within the Service of “mates looking after mates” extends back as far as the beginning of 20th. Century. It was back in those days of horses and steam pumps, there was no such benefits as sick leave, workcover and the like that are now just taken for granted. Injury on the job was a common occurrence. It was around this time that on pay days, the then Chief Officer collected 6d. (5c) from each firefighter, and which would be kept in his office drawer. If a firefighter was then off-work through injury or illness, the Chief would visit the firefighter’s wife and give to her 2/6 (25c) per week to help keep the family going until the firefighter was able to return to duty.
These ad-hock arrangements continued, I believe, until The Fire Service Fund was initiated by Chief Officer Jock Whyte in 1936 due to the poor economic status of firefighters during this period. Payments were set at 2/- (20c) per pay and benefits were calculated at first year firefighter’s pay level.
The Fund management was principally coordinated by the Secretary, the late Mr J.J. (Jack) Boyle for some 37 years from 1936 to 1973. Upon retirement Jack was honoured with Life Membership of The Fund, until his passing in 2006. One of Jack’s duties was to physically collect these 2/- payments from all firefighters, and this was done, in part, by using the Headquarters station bike and each pay day riding out to the old Unley, Norwood and North Adelaide stations.
In 1943 Chief Officer Whyte and his small committee formulated a proposal to seek official recognition of the “Fire Brigade Sick and Accident Fund” by a Government Department now known more commonly as Centrelink. Subsequently, with the strong support of a local Member of Parliament whose name has not been recorded, the Sick and Accident Fund received official status to provide approved benefits to its members. These benefits still apply today.
Other principal members involved in providing a solid financial foundation to all future members of the Fire Service were H. Slater, A. Newcombe, J. Crossman, H. Doddridge and P. Clarke. H. Slater was auditor of The Fund from 1976-1990, whilst an outside major influence in the structure of The Fund over period 1976-1991 was Mr K Gannon – Department of Social Security.
In 1947, 2/- wasn’t enough to cover sickness benefits to firefighters, so payroll deductions were introduced as a percentage of pay. At this stage only firefighters were covered, so H. Doddridge and P. Clarke reworded the Constitution so ancillary staff could also join and utilise the benefits of The Fund. The benefits at this time were still equivalent to first year firefighters’ wages of four pounds fifteen shillings ($9.50). This 2/- per pay had increased to $2.70 per pay by 1979.
In the 1970’s, the Fire Service expanded its services to its now familiar continuous four shift (24/7) operation. This required a large intake of personnel, and unfortunately it was this large, rapid growth that was the undoing of the “The Fire Service Health Fund”, which until that time had operated as a private health benefits provider as part of, but separate to The Fire Service Fund. In the words of present Fund Chairman, Mr. C. Smith, “a lot of us joined the Service and started a family”. With such an increased demand, and without the accumulated resources to cover expected ongoing costs, The Fund negotiated with the then Mutual Health Fund (at the time a large South Australia based hospital benefits fund) to take over the members’ health benefits, with The Fire Service Fund becoming an Agent. The Fire Service Health Fund was wound up on 30th June 1980, with “accumulated losses of $5,155.10 recouped from The Fire Service Fund. As at 30th June 1981 accumulated assets of The Fire Service Fund were $339,786.29, basically all in cash, debentures and bonds.
Investments continued to grow as the Fire Service continued to expand, with such reserves necessary should they be needed to cover the range of member benefits payable – death, funeral, sick & accident, and hospital excess benefits. An approach was made by the Firefighters’ Association (now United Firefighters’ Union) in 1982 seeking an investment to assist the Association (Union) purchase its premises at 150 South Road Torrensville. This investment by way of loan was approved on 12th May 1982 at “a rate of ten per centum paid monthly and interest adjusted annually”. The loan was repaid within negotiated terms and conditions.
In 1983, the Committee explored the possibility of purchasing landed assets, in lieu of holding cash investments. On 17th November 1983, the decision was taken to form the Company Fire Service Employees Nominees Pty Ltd with the foundation Directors being Messrs. D.A. Grubb, G.P. Rodis, L.M. Bryant, J.W. Crossman and M.G. Smith. The property at 22/24 Chancery Lane was duly purchased, and a recommendation put to members of The Fund by postal ballot to redevelop the site. 730 ballots were issued to members of which 480 were returned. Of the 480, 353 were in the affirmative, 116 voted no and 11 were informal. Council approval of proposed redevelopment was presented to Committee meeting of 21st March 1985 after which building approval was granted. This building now houses Fire Service Credit Union (ground floor) and Lester Franks – Surveyors (first floor) as tenants.
As reported to The Fund’s 2011 Annual General Meeting by former Secretary, Mr. W.B. Jamieson, management took the decision that rather than maintain the majority of The Fund’s assets in Cash, Debentures and Bonds, these assets could be used for the benefit of members by way of rest and rehabilitation properties available for members and their families’ use. In the event of a major call on The Fund, they could be used either for collateral or liquidated to provide such cash benefits as necessary. This idea rose from the caravans the Firefighters Club had at the time which were parked or dragged around to popular holiday spots.
The Committee sought to purchase Units 41 and 41A Derrick Street, Berri and it was passed at Committee meeting of 8th November 1988 that these units be purchased for a total price of $137,288. It was also passed at 1988 AGM that “AGM supports the action of the Committee in buying the Units at 41, 41A ……..”
Since that time, two Units were also purchased at Victor Harbor and a three bedroom house at Port Hughes. Over the intervening period, the units at both Berri and Victor have been sold with a four bedroom house at Black Point built, a three bedroom house at Port Elliot (since sold), a three bedroom (main with en-suite) house at Normanville and a four bedroom house at Middleton. In late 2016 a larger 4 bedroom – 2 bathrooms, 2 living areas house was purchased at Moonta Bay, some 500m from existing Pt. Hughes residence which has subsequently been sold.
Management of The Fire Service Fund has been by way of elected (voluntary) committee, with majority of administration undertaken by elected office bearers, primarily Secretary and Treasurer. Looking back over old records, it is interesting to note Minutes of AGM of 26th September 1977 noted “Missing Minutes – The Secretary explained that a thorough search of the Board Office and all other likely areas had been made, without success”. However, the AGM of 8th November 1988 noted new Committee as follows:-
W. Jamieson – Secretary
L. Bryant – Treasurer
As The Fund continued to grow it became apparent that the “voluntary” system of administration needed more, such that at meeting of 20th February 1990 there was proposal to “relocate to the Credit Union with eventual aim to have a person working at the Credit Union perhaps 16 hours a week only on Fund business”.
Eventually The Fund’s first Manager, Mr Graham Adams was appointed and joined in June 1992. Formerly, Mr Adams had held position of State Accountant, Dalgety Farmers. He was later joined by Mr Mike Davis formerly of the Credit Union, in March 1996, as a job share situation. Mr Adams retired in July 1998 and was replaced by present Manager, Mr Noel Johnson at that time. Mr Davis retired from his position in April 2004 and was replaced by Mr Barry Hughes. Mr Hughes retired in February 2013 and was replaced by Mr Rodney Reynolds. Both current Managers had former lengthy careers in the Banking industry.
Over the many years The Fire Service Fund has existed, a number of committee members have been honoured with Life Membership of The Fund. The following have been recorded as Life Members:-
Mr JW Crossman (Dec’d)
Mr L Dolman (Dec’d)
Mr JJ Boyle (Dec’d)
Mr LM Bryant
Mr TJ Dew
Mr WB Jamieson
Mr DJ Scarce
Mr CG Smith
Mr MJ Pearce