Presumptive legislation for firefighters

Presumptive legislation has been introduced for Northern Territory firefighters, including volunteers, making it easier for them to claim workers' compensation if they are diagnosed with cancer. This change recognises that firefighters are at greater risk of developing certain cancers as a result of exposure to hazardous substances while performing fire fighting activities.

How does it work?

If a firefighter is diagnosed with one of the 12 cancers listed in the legislation and they have worked as a firefighter for the qualifying period listed for that cancer, it is presumed the cancer is work related and covered under workers' compensation.


The legislation has been made retrospective to 4 July 2011 and applies to firefighters first diagnosed by a medical practitioner after 4 July 2011.

This also applies to retired firefighters who meet the qualifying period and were diagnosed with a prescribed cancer within 10 years of their last active employment as a firefighter, provided they were diagnosed after 4 July 2011.

Sunset clause

A three month sunset clause has been included that applies to firefighters, other than volunteer firefighters. During this period, firefighters who were diagnosed with a cancer before 4 July 2011 can make a workers' compensation claim under the presumptive legislation. However, they must lodge their claims within three months of the commencement of the legislation on 1 July 2015.

Who is covered?

Firefighters, including volunteers of Northern Territory Police Fire and Emergency Services and Bushfires NT are covered under the legislation.

There may be an entitlement to compensation for dependants of deceased firefighters who had cancer diagnosed after the 4 July 2011.

Cancers covered

The following schedule lists the cancers covered under the legislation and the qualifying period for each cancer type. The qualifying period is the number of years the firefighter needs to have worked actively fighting fires for the cancer to be covered.

In addition, volunteer firefighters must have attended at least 150 exposure events. For brain cancer and leukaemia the 150 exposure events must be within the corresponding five year qualifying period outlined in the schedule. For all other cancers in the schedule, the 150 exposures must be within a 10 year period within the qualifying period.

​Cancer type Qualifying period
Brain Cancer​ 5 years​
​Bladder Cancer ​15 years
​Kidney Cancer ​15 years
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma​ 15 years​
​Leukaemia ​5 years
​Breast Cancer ​10 years
​Testicular Cancer ​10 years
Multiple Myeloma​ ​15 years
Asbestos Related Disease15 years
Primary Site Liver Cancer15 years
Primary Site Lung Cancer15 years
Primary Site Skin Cancer15 years
​Prostate Cancer 15 years​
​Ureter Cancer ​15 years
Colorectal Cancer​ ​15 years
​Oesophageal Cancer ​25 years

The following flow chart outlines if a cancer is covered under the presumptive legislation.

Flow chart outlining if a cancer is covered under the presumptive legislation

  • Step 1​​Is your cancer listed in the legislative schedule?

    ​Yes - go to Step 2
    No - go to Step 9

    ​Step 2​Were you actively involved in fighting fires during the cancer's qualifying period?

    ​Yes - go to Step 3
    No - got to Step 9

    ​Step 3​Were you working as a firefighter on the onset day*?

    ​Yes - go to Step 5
    No - go to Step 4

    ​Step 4​If no, were you working as a firefighter in the ten years before the onset day?

    ​Yes - go to Step 5
    No - go to Step 9

    ​Step 5​Are you a volunteer firefighter?

    ​Yes - go to Step 6
    No - go to Step 7

    ​Step 6​Have you met the additional requirement of 150 exposure events during the cancers qualifying period?

    ​Yes - go to Step 7
    No - go to Step 9

    ​Step 7​Was the onset day after 4 July 2011, or does the Sunset Clause apply?
    The Sunset Clause may apply if the onset day is before 4 July 2011, the firefighter is still living and the claim is made within three months of 1 July 2015.

    ​Yes - go to Step 8
    No - go to Step 9

    ​Step 8

    ​You should complete a workers compensation claim for and lodged it with your employer along with your workers compensation medical certificate.

    ​Step 9​Your cancer may not be covered under the presumptive legislation.

* Onset day means the earliest of the following:

  • the day the firefighter is first diagnosed with cancer by a medical practitioner
  • the day the firefighter becomes incapacitated as a result of the cancer
  • the day the firefighter dies as a result of the cancer.

Firefighters who do not qualify for compensation under the presumptive legislation can still claim compensation under the other liability provisions of the Return to Work Act 1986.​