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VFBV's Letter to all State MPs - 28 September 2015

Since the submission date for the Inquiry closed, and following detailed discussion at VFBV State Council in September, VFBV has written to all Victorian Members of Parliament with a summary of our submission to the State Government’s Fire Services Review – see below for a copy of the letter.

The letter includes an introduction to the broader issues and a list of points that volunteers are particularly concerned about.

VFBV has also offered to have volunteer representatives meet with any MPs who would like to discuss the issues or learn more about volunteers’ concerns at the state level or in their local area. 

MPs are invited to call the VFBV office on (03) 9886 1141 if they would like to make contact with their local CFA volunteer delegates.

 

VFBV'S Letter to all State MPs, dated 28 September 2015

Dear Member

VFBV submission to the State Government’s Fire Services Review

As the association representing CFA volunteers, VFBV has recently made an extensive submission to the Fire Services Review. The VFBV submission and relevant material is available via the VFBV website (visit www.vfbv.com.au) and I encourage you to visit our website to read or download this material, as it explains a number of key matters about which volunteers feel very strongly.

Perceptions about the Review’s focus, process and background context have given rise to significant anxiety amongst Victoria’s volunteers, particularly over a number of principles fundamental to CFA’s future success as a volunteer based organisation.

The key and critical principles that volunteers find essential are the following:

♦ The obligations, duties and aspirations both express and implied in the CFA Volunteer Charter as recognised in the current CFA Act and the maintenance of Section 6 of the Act are fundamental to CFA volunteerism and its success in delivering CFA services to the people of Victoria. Critically, flowing from these and in recognition of the core role volunteers play in Victoria’s emergency management, any decision making that may impact on volunteers at any level of government or its agencies must incorporate volunteers in that process and the effects on volunteer capacity must be a clear, transparent and fair feature of such decision making.

♦ Recognition of the importance that the CFA Board has strong volunteer expertise, knowledge and understanding of CFA volunteerism must continue and the engagement of volunteers through current arrangements for volunteer nomination to and level of representation on the CFA Board as currently provided. These arrangements are central to the engagement and utilisation of volunteer knowledge and experience.

♦ The CFA must have genuine ability and empowerment to govern and manage resource decisions, including internal resource allocation and prioritisation of support to volunteers consistent with its current statutory obligations. This includes the powers of the Chief Officer to determine all operational and related matters free of external interference save from the requirements of the CFA Act as currently set out and the statutory role of the Emergency Management Commissioner.

♦ Active removal of external interference and arrangements (including those affecting CFA, EMV and Government) that impede, or block volunteers from being genuinely involved in decision making on all matters which may impact on them including proposed legislation and the adequacy of resources to enable volunteers to deliver the agreed services. 

♦ The CFA Budget and priorities must be established at a level and grow as required with such spending and resource priorities so as to ensure that volunteers maintain and continue to grow their capacity to provide CFA services to the people of urban and rural Victoria and provide Victoria with a high level surge capacity to deal with emergencies across the state. The determination and order of budget priorities consistent with this must be determined without inappropriate external interference or influence, and consistent with its statutory, governance and administrative accountabilities, obligations and requirements.

♦ CFA Budget priorities must ensure that there is sufficient resourcing to provide volunteers with best possible access to necessary training, up to date facilities and equipment including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), communications and vehicles, legal protection, and appropriate financial compensation for injury, illness and personal loss sustained during service to the people of Victoria.

♦ There must be transparency with regard to the determination, collection and expenditure of the Fire Services Levy (FSL).

♦ The total additional cost of any additional initiatives determined by government and not conforming to the order of CFA determined priorities must be resourced separately by government for the duration of the initiative and must not interfere in any way with CFA meeting its resource priorities for encouraging, maintaining and strengthening the capacity of volunteers to deliver CFA services to Victoria.

♦ CFA high level resourcing priorities must include volunteer support and capacity strengthening, including appropriate expansion of the BASO program, training and skills maintenance including first aid training, leadership development, and provision of EMR services to the public by volunteers, fixing communications problems and cyclic vehicle/appliance replacement.

♦ A culture of respect for volunteers, including ensuring there is no discrimination nor any barriers against volunteers simply because they are not paid. This includes barriers to the roles volunteers perform; access to training for volunteers demonstrating a willingness and capacity for higher level training; or utilisation and acceptance of volunteers’ authority and role in command and control within CFA and the broader emergency services.  There should also be a leadership culture of active intolerance to any discrimination against volunteers based on their volunteer status.

♦ Acceptance that appropriately trained and experienced volunteers can carry out duties of any designation within CFA and Victoria’s emergency management sector and proactive effort to engage their active utilisation in such roles. 

♦ Active encouragement and facilitation of individual volunteers demonstrating a willingness and capacity for high level training and utilisation in command and control and other CFA roles for training, building experience and sustaining qualifications, including for IMTs and the highest levels in incident control.

♦ Government and CFA’s active public and institutional promotion and demonstrated respect for CFA (and other emergency service) volunteers and the essential role they play in Victoria’s safety including advocacy against public attacks made on volunteers.

In summary, volunteers are particularly concerned about:

  • Erosion of CFA’s ability to govern, manage resource decisions and allocate appropriate priority to resourcing/supporting the capacity of volunteers to deliver CFA services
  • Erosion of the CFA Chief Officer’s statutory powers and operational decision making ability 
  • The need to improve consultation with volunteers and/or the representation of volunteer knowledge and expertise at key decision forums in any future arrangements
  • Erosion of the obligations, intent and authority of the CFA Volunteer Charter and/or the practical application of the CFA Volunteer Charter
  • Any decision making processes at CFA, EMV or Government that impact on volunteers but block volunteers out of the process
  • Any cuts to CFA budget relating to volunteer support and volunteer capacity building forced because of the need to pay for externally imposed or new commitments 
  • Any failure to fully additionally fund externally imposed or new commitments  for the life of the commitment
  • Ensuring adequate investment in resources for training of volunteers and for volunteer equipment, facilities, personal protection, service related injury/illness compensation etc.
  • Any diversion of funding raised through the Fire Service Levy and the Government’s related share to other cost areas
  • Continuation of industrial agreements that establish power of veto that overrides legitimate CFA decision making or block CFA progressing volunteer support initiatives, resource allocation and CFA organisational structure
  • External direction to CFA Board or management that is not transparent, justifiable and consistent with legislation
  • Resourcing priorities and funding allocation decisions that ignore more cost effective and reliably beneficial opportunities to encourage, maintain and strengthen the capacity of volunteers to deliver CFA services (specifically referencing section 6i of the CFA Act)
  • Any discrimination in the roles volunteers can perform, training opportunities for volunteers or recognition of volunteers’ skills/expertise simply because they are not paid
  • Failure to positively advocate the essential nature, benefits and professional capacity of the CFA volunteer based system.

If decisions are made that are not consistent with these principles and concerns, we fear the consequence will be a legacy of diminished emergency management volunteer capacity for Victoria. Our desire and commitment is to work with you towards a positive atmosphere so that volunteers can focus their energy on continuing to provide dedicated services to the community and prepare for the forthcoming summer.

Volunteers want certainty about the real respect and commitment of all key decision makers across Government and institutions to the service they currently provide day and night, every day of the year.

Volunteers want it known that they are committed to the safety of the communities they serve and will strongly resist changes that they feel are not in the best interests of their community.

I am hopeful that you find the VFBV submission to the Fire Services Review and the points outlined above useful to our continuing endeavour to keep all Victorian MPs well informed about matters of fundamental importance to volunteers.

As always I would be more than happy to discuss these matters with you at your convenience.

Yours Sincerely,

Andrew Ford

Chief Executive Officer

 

<Click here to return to the Fire Services Review Submission page>

Read 17382 times Last modified on Tuesday, 29 September 2015 17:36
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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