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Thursday, 30 June 2016 00:00

Farewell Chief

On behalf of the VFBV Board and volunteer leaders across CFA, it is with sadness and regret that I write to advise members that today Chief Officer Joe Buffone has tendered his resignation.

The CFA Chief Officer holds a special place in volunteer’s hearts. He is our operational leader and our symbolic head of authority in our shared mission to protect lives and property. Joe has exercised his responsibilities and authority with honesty, integrity and compassion.

Joe has been very clear in his recent messages and letter of resignation, that as Chief Officer he will be unable to discharge his legislative responsibilities under the proposed industrial agreement, confirming that the latest changes do not address his fundamental concerns.  Joe, just as Minister Jane Garrett and CEO Lucinda Nolan before him, has had to choose between following his conscience and his job. As CFA’s most senior operational officer, he has acted with respect and integrity and done everything in his power to protect the safety of Victorian’s and remain impartial. He has, like those before him, been clear and unequivocal about the impacts the proposed agreement will have not just on volunteers but on CFA and its ability to discharge its responsibilities, in particular the powers of the Chief Officer.

Joe was appointed by Daniel Andrews on the 15th October 2015, and came to CFA from EMV where he was the Deputy Commissioner of Risk & Resilience. Mr Andrews also appointed the now Ex CFA CEO Lucinda Nolan in November 2015, a distinguished Deputy Commissioner with Victoria Police with over 30 years’ experience including acting as Police Commissioner.

Attempts by some to discredit a man that has spent over 25 years in emergency services encompassing senior roles with the Victoria State Emergency Service, Marine Safety Victoria, Port of Melbourne Corporation and Department of Infrastructure and served with the Australian Defence Force in Special Forces are quite disturbing. Both Joe and Lucinda have spent their entire lives serving the public in senior emergency response roles. Both have withstood the test of time and responsibility over their careers, that such important roles demand.

Just like the Governments spin about our court injunction “being lifted” and forgetting to tell the Victorian public that it was replaced with an even more onerous Court Order, they have again only told half the story.

Joe resigned on Tuesday.

Joe has stated publically today that Minister Merlino’s statements to the media about the factors underpinning his resignation are “absolutely incorrect”.

VFBV understands that it was Government and/or EMV officials that resisted his resignation, prompting discussions today and yesterday about what terms might be required to convince Joe to stay. It is entirely understandable that those terms might have included ensuring Joe had the organisational standing and powers to perform his role without the threat of being administratively overridden; it is also understandable that he might have sought confirmation about the security of his job tenure in order not to be threatened with being sacked if he didn’t toe the Government line against his assessment of the CFA statutory obligations that create and direct his role.

Despite the half stories being quoted by people in the media VFBV understand that Joe, after carefully considering his options, and concluding that he was simply unable to reconcile what he was being asked to do with what he knows are his statutory and legal obligations, he advised Government he would not reconsider his resignation. As Joe reminded volunteers on the weekend, when things go wrong, it will be the Chief Officer who will be in the stand, as occurred during the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. It is therefore incumbent on the person who holds that office, to ensure they have the powers necessary to fulfil their role, and his assessment was frank and fearless. The proposed agreement is not good for CFA, it was not good for Volunteers and it is not good for Victoria.

Joe broke his silence this afternoon on 3AW, and you can listen to his interview here; http://www.3aw.com.au/news/former-cfa-chief-fire-officer-says-hes-absolutely-gutted-over-his-resignation-20160630-gpvkje.html

Joe has prosecuted his case in a respectful, professional and poignant way. He has gone to extremes to remain balanced and impartial, and operated as a loyal and honest broker. He will be remembered as the Chief who stood up for what he believes is right, and leaves with our utmost respect and thanks. Joe, your stance to attempt to save CFA, has been exemplary.

Thank you for your service and dedication, we won’t forget you.
Sincerely,

Andrew Ford
Chief Executive Officer

Published in VFBV News
Thursday, 15 October 2015 00:00

New Chief Officer for CFA

VFBV welcomes the appointment of former DCO Joe Buffone as CFA’s new Chief Officer, due to take up the role in November.

Mr Buffone is currently the Deputy Commissioner of Risk and Resilience for Emergency Management Victoria (EMV). He has also served as Deputy Emergency Services Commissioner for Victoria, and performed a series of senior roles with CFA in the wake of the 2009 fires and the Victorian floods of 2010-11. He has been a CFA volunteer for more than 15 years.

Joe Buffone will succeed CFA Chief Officer Euan Ferguson. Euan will be remembered as a hands-on Chief Officer, who took up the role in 2010 after 10 years at the head of South Australia's Country Fire Service and led CFA through a time of considerable change, including the effects of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and the move towards a more interconnected Emergency Management Sector.

Published in CFA News

The 2014 VFBV Volunteer Welfare and Efficiency Survey is the third annual survey of Victoria’s CFA volunteers conducted by Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria.

Whilst there are areas for improvement, it is pleasing to see a trend of gradual improvement against many of the survey aspects. The survey’s intent and main benefit is in guiding effort and focusing energy on just such improvements.

The survey is a practical starting point for conversation and continuous improvement, and with the cooperation of all involved it continues to fulfil the hopes we had for it when we launched it three years ago.

The survey is run by VFBV, informed by growing numbers of volunteers and being put to work as a productive tool by both VFBV and CFA. This year’s survey results once again confirm some strong trends that are clear pointers to paths for improvement by CFA.

A practical and productive document, this survey would not have been possible without the support of CFA volunteers, and our special thanks go out to the more than 1,600 members who participated in 2014.

To all of the volunteers who read this report, I urge you to take part in the 2015 survey and to encourage other members of your Brigade and Group to do the same. By registering now, you can receive the survey by email or by post when it begins in July, and by doing so, you add your own voice to those of the more than 1,600 CFA volunteers who had their say last year.

Andrew Ford
Chief Executive Officer
Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria

 

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Published in Uncategorised

The Australian Federal Police have raised the National Terrorism Threat Level for police officers to “HIGH”.

However, Victoria Police advise that there is no change to the threat level for firefighters, which remains at “LOW”.

Click here to see the CFA Chief Officer's advice to all members;

 

Published in CFA News

The Australian Federal Police have raised the National Terrorism Threat Level for police officers to “HIGH”.

However, Victoria Police advise that there is no change to the threat level for firefighters, which remains at “LOW”.

Click here to see the CFA Chief Officer's advice to all members;

 

Published in VFBV News
Tuesday, 09 December 2014 00:00

IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR MEMBERS

By Andrew Ford, Chief Executive Officer

On behalf of the VFBV Board I would like to provide the first of a number of important communiques to follow up on the action taken by VFBV in the lead up to the recent Victorian election and concerns about the Labor Party policy announcements impacting on CFA.

Please rest assured that the VFBV Board did not contemplate nor take the recent actions without a great deal of reflection, agonising and analysis. The reality is that it was vitally important for VFBV to raise the concerns, motivated then and now by a firm belief and deep fear that the policy suite announced by Labor includes elements that could have disastrous consequences for CFA and therefore Victoria’s volunteer firefighting capacity.

Firstly may I take this opportunity on behalf of the VFBV Board to thank VFBV Delegates and volunteers across the State for your support and involvement in helping to communicate the VFBV Board’s concerns. The VFBV campaign was delivered very well given the short time frame, the message was put across well and received by those who needed to hear it most.

Sensitive issues such as this can often cause tension and/or be distorted by people with different views or agendas and I am very proud of the way VFBV Delegates and volunteers engaged in calm, constructive messaging; respected the rights of others to have a different viewpoint; and avoided twisting our concerns or targeting individuals.

Members need to be aware that the policy announcement triggering our concerns about surrendering the decision making powers of the CFA Chief Officer to external industrial interference and union-driven process was only made by Labor on 18 November. This meant that our timeframe for activating and explaining our concerns was very tight.

Whilst our campaign activation required short lead times, the concerns expressed by VFBV are not new. Only a few years ago VFBV collected 23,000 signatures petitioning the Legislative Assembly of Victoria to address volunteer concerns about similar industrial interference with CFA.

The recent Jones Inquiry and countless discussions and representations to Government over the past nine years or so provided a deep background to the concern expressed in the VFBV Board open letter.

The overwhelming response from both the general public and our membership has been extremely encouraging, and will provide a good platform for us to continue to pursue our concerns with the new Government, and a base of understanding to work towards fixing the concerns we have raised.

VFBV remains deeply concerned and our energy will now be put to working with our new Minister and MPs across all political parties to find solutions. I have already spoken to several MPs and Government staff about quickly starting a conversation to improve the understanding of the concerns VFBV has raised, and to find a way forward that not only avoids damage to Victoria’s vital volunteer capability, but sustains and strengthens it.

In the lead up to the election, the CFA Chief Officer and others were not able to comment nor discuss the implications of Labor’s CFA-related policy elements, however we do know that in recent years they have been equally troubled by the very same concerns raised by VFBV. VFBV spoke up because no one else could.

CFA have been seeking, over the last few years, to remove this industrial interference and overriding of the Chief Officer’s powers and to ensure the Chief Officer is in charge of determining CFA operational resource needs, volunteer brigade support needs etc. We are aware that CFA did not request the additional paid staff that Labor announced and we know the CFA Board and management are strongly committed to delivering the direction set down in the CFA Act, maintaining CFA as a volunteer based and fully integrated organisation.

VFBV will now focus on working with CFA and Emergency Management Victoria to ensure volunteers are positively and fully engaged in working within the new Government’s policy context to avoid damage to CFA volunteer capability and to educate MPs, key Government decision makers and the community about what is required for the long term success of CFA.

Now that the new Government has been sworn in, I will be seeking an opportunity to meet with our new Minister, The Honourable Jane Garrett, in the next few weeks. I will continue to pursue and explain the concerns raised by the VFBV Board and will be offering our support to finding a solution to our concerns.

It is important to remember that the VFBV campaign in the days leading up to the election was a campaign about a policy with which we have deep concern. In the same way that our strong campaign for presumptive legislation was highly critical of inaction by the previous Coalition Government but was not anti-Coalition, our recent assertive public campaign and our continued approach on this issue needs to remain focused on the concerns we have about this policy and the way it has been constructed, not party political.

I have said many times that these concerns are not about being anti-paid staff, and are not about being anti-union. CFA members, paid and volunteer alike, working together as one integrated team is vital for effective fire and emergency services to Victoria. Nothing in VFBV’s recent campaign was about detracting from the value of CFA paid firefighters and nothing was about criticising the union pursing the best possible pay and conditions for their members.

I urge all members to stay focussed on the real issues of concern and that is that VFBV believes there should not be external industrial interference with the CFA Chief Officer’s power to decide where and when and how he uses CFA firefighters. VFBV is very concerned about any policy or motivation that wittingly or unwittingly erodes Victoria’s volunteer firefighting capacity, and VFBV is strongly opposed to industrial agreements that override CFA decision making and unfairly impact on the rights and support of volunteers.

On a brighter note, other policy announcements made by Labor included additional CFA fleet funding, the introduction of presumptive cancer legislation for both career and volunteer firefighters, and additional funding for the fire station amenities program.

Some of the detail on these issues is still patchy and I will provide more as soon as I have it. With regard to fleet funding, I will be writing to the Minister to clarify whether the additional $18M is an annual base funding adjustment consistent with our advice about CFA’s annual base funding shortfall for fleet replacement, or whether it is a one-off, in which case our old problem has not been resolved.

I will also be following up to confirm that the intention is not to treat volunteers differently from career firefighters with regard to presumptive cancer legislation, as has been done in the Tasmanian legislation referred to in Labor’s announcements.

I can assure you VFBV will work hard to find the best way forward and in the meantime we will also stay focussed on the many other challenges and opportunities ahead for CFA.

Please pass on this thanks and update to your networks and stay tuned for some further advice in the coming weeks.

The upcoming bushfire season is traditionally a period of high visibility and a showcase of CFA professionalism and dedication. As in years past, VFBV will continue to represent your interests, so you can continue to do the vital work of protecting our communities in their time of need.

Published in VFBV News
Thursday, 13 February 2014 16:09

BRIAN POTTER QFSM NM

It is with great sadness that Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria has heard of the passing of former CFA Chief Officer and long serving CFA volunteer Brian Potter.

Brian was a gentleman, a friend to the volunteers, a respected front line firefighter and a significant reformer of Victoria’s CFA. 

He was a long serving volunteer with the Upper Ferntree Gully, Ferntree Gully and Langwarrin Fire Brigades.  As volunteers, we are proud to have counted him among our number.

As Chief Officer of the CFA, Brian Potter left a legacy of a better fire service for Victoria; he was instrumental in the introduction of the AIIMS system that is the basis of modern Incident Management Teams, and many other fundamental improvements.

He retired from his career employment with CFA in 1991, but was held in such esteem that he was brought in as an expert advisor following the major fires of 2006-07 and 2009.

Having volunteered since 1958, Brian maintained an active involvement in CFA throughout his life and was still an active volunteer with the Langwarrin Fire Brigade in recent years.

In his later years, in defiance of his own illness, Brian Potter was a valuable spokesman for the campaign run by VFBV and the UFU for better access to cancer compensation for CFA volunteers and career staff who suffer cancer as a result of their front line service to the community. 

VFBV extends the condolences of all CFA volunteers to Brian’s family and friends.

Published in VFBV News
CFA Volunteers are the unpaid professionals of our Emergency Services. VFBV is their united voice, and speaks on behalf of Victoria's 60,000 CFA Volunteers.

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