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March 2021 Newsletter

Stay Connected and Involved

By Adam Barnett, VFBV Chief Executive Officer

It is normally this time of year that I reflect on the current Fire Season as we enter the home stretch of our summer fire danger period.

And while it has been milder, I want to acknowledge the significant contribution many of you have made over recent months and will continue to make. Thank-you for your service, dedication and stewardship of our communities safety.

And while a milder season infers a slower tempo, one only needs to look at how COVID-19 has impacted on many of the everyday things we once took for granted to appreciate the extra workload that brigades, and groups have had to contend with. It is a testimony to your ability to adapt with a minimum of fuss that speaks measures about CFA volunteers dedication to public safety and their desire to just get on with it. Well done and thank-you.

NEW CFA CEO

Over recent weeks we have formally welcomed Natalie MacDonald as CFA’s new Chief Executive Officer, who took over from Acting CEO Cath Greaves at the end of February.

Natalie comes to us from La Trobe University where she was the Vice-President of Strategy and Development. She has also previously worked as Director-General of the Queensland Government’s Department of Housing and Public Works and worked for the Queensland Ambulance Service as head of Corporate development.

On behalf of the VFBV Board, State Council and members I welcome Natalie to the role and commit on behalf of the whole VFBV family that we will provide her our full support.

I along with many of you want to see a strong CFA, one that is ready and stepping up to lead the work that needs to be done to reaffirm the critical role that CFA plays in our communities. A proudly volunteer service, that is deeply connected to our communities and capably supported by its dedicated, passionate and committed staff.

I want to acknowledge that for many, this will feel like yet just another change on the revolving door of CFA leadership over recent years that has contributed to low morale, change fatigue and widespread instability within the organisation.

Conversely, I hasten to add that a new leadership team selected to suit the changed environment may yet be a strength, and we should embrace the fact that this finally draws a line under all the temporary senior leadership positions filled only in an acting capacity for far too long. Over recent months we have seen the permanent appointment of a new CFA Chair, CEO and Chief Officer.

My hope is that this now brings much needed stability and sets the organisation up for success. And as I have previously stated, I have been impressed so far by CFA’s new Chair Greg Wilson, and our new Chief Officer Jason Heffernan, and my hope is that these appointments signal that CFA is moving from strength to strength, and determinedly moving forward and pivoting to the changed environment.

To add to my optimism, my first interactions with Natalie have been exceptionally good, and I have been deeply impressed by her approach, questions, and desire to understand not just what makes CFA tick (or not) but also seeking to understand the how and why.

My first impression is of someone who shares with us a deep love and connection to our communities, understands that CFA is a ‘people’ organisation, the importance of our front line and the critical importance of our brigades and the need to support them to be the best they can be.

I also commend her first priority was to start visiting brigades and join the Chief on his early tours across the State which again emphasises the importance of our people and how we deliver our services at the coal face within our communities.

This all bodes well, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with Natalie as she settles in.

THANK-YOU

I also want to take this opportunity to say a public thank-you to Cath Greaves who was CFA’s Acting CEO since June last year. In a short period of time, she won both my respect and admiration for her vision and the transformation journey to pivot corporate CFA to its changed operating environment. Her commitment to ensuring volunteers were reintegrated into the organisation’s leadership DNA was outstanding.

Her work to have their voices present in all leadership discussions was both refreshing and inspirational. And her commitment to start rebuilding the consultative arrangements between CFA and the association will be critical to ensuring the CFA leadership is connected to the dreams and aspirations of CFA volunteers and better positions the executive to actively fix and resolve the many issues that challenge us.

Cath made me a promise when she first started, and that was that she didn’t want to be a seat warmer and wanted to make every day count. And when I asked why she took on the role, she told me how much she had admired CFA for a long time, and she too wanted to make a difference.

I have no hesitation in affirming to each of you that in my mind - she did exactly that, and I have been very supportive of the work she has done, and deeply admire the passion and commitment she made to try and make CFA the best it possibly can.

My only disappointment is she will not see the benefits of what she has started. But I am buoyed by the final paragraphs in her farewell message to the membership which said:

“CFA is about to enter into its most rewarding phase yet, and I am incredibly excited about what will be achieved under Natalie and Jason’s collective leadership.”

“I shall miss you all, and CFA greatly, however I will always carry part of this great organisation with me. I will delight in looking in from the sidelines to see CFA flourish – to become the exemplar of a community-based, volunteer emergency service where members work together for the protection of our community. Thank you all for your extraordinary commitment and support.”

And while I shall miss Cath and wish her every success, I similarly feel positive about the next steps ahead of us. I say this to provide you some confidence that I think some really good ground work has been laid and we don’t start with Natalie from a blank sheet of paper.

For those of you tired of the changes, stick in there and lean on those of us who still have enough energy and enthusiasm for another lap. It’s only natural there will be peaks and troughs in what for many of you is a lifelong commitment to an organisation that literally changes people’s lives. Remember why you joined and keep your heads up.

CHILD SAFETY

And thank-you to all members, brigades, groups and district councils that contributed to feedback on CFA’s proposed child safety policies and procedures.

There was a high level of support and consensus for the majority of proposed changes, with an overwhelming majority of support for the introduction of mandatory working with children checks for all new CFA volunteers and staff.

VFBV has provided CFA with comprehensive feedback based on your input. And the VFBV Board has reinforced that it shares with CFA a commitment to child safety and ensuring the child safe standards and principles are embedded across the whole organisation.

There were two aspects of the changes that received overwhelming negative feedback and criticism from volunteers, and which the VFBV Board has agreed to campaign for change.

The first is that VFBV categorically rejects the proposed exclusion of FRV seconded personnel from needing to comply with the new working with children check procedure. And while we acknowledge the difficult industrial relations environment present, volunteers were adamant that CFA has a moral as well as a legal responsibility to pursue other means of achieving organisation-wide child safe policies to protect our children in line with the relevant child safe legislation.

VFBV has also not supported the proposed procedure to deal with adverse notices, echoing the concerns raised by volunteers about the lack of confidence in CFA’s existing privacy and confidentiality processes, but also raising concerns with the lack of procedural fairness. Child safety is too important to let potential administrative error undermine people’s confidence, and are issues we pledge our full attention to resolving.

In welcome developments, CFA has agreed to a VFBV request to form a small working party to work together on a revised procedure that addresses these shortfalls and provides a foundation for a new draft procedure to further consult on.

This demonstrates our approach and commitment in always trying to work positively with CFA in the first instance to influence change, and I am hopeful that CFA’s fast acknowledgment and offer to work further with us to adapt their draft policies and procedures based on volunteer feedback is a sign of positive things to come.

Stay safe and keep connecting and being involved.


March 2021 Quarterly Supplement

Included in the March 2021 edition of Fire Wise was the sixth edition of the VFBV Quarterly Supplement.

The Quarterly Supplement contains 16 pages of relevant news, updates and information on current issues being pursued by VFBV on behalf of members. It also includes links to additional resources or updates that are available via our website.

An electronic copy of the Quarterly Supplement can be downloaded here.

Brigade Captains and Secretaries, Group Officers and Group Secretaries as well as VBFV delegates are requested to please take the time to read this and future editions, and to table at your upcoming meetings for the benefit and knowledge of your members.

 

Volunteers – Uncovering the hidden value

Victoria's Emergency Management Volunteers contribute a conservative indicative value of $1.9 - $2.5 billion dollars of value to Victoria every year.

VFBV has worked tirelessly alongside our partners at the Victoria State Emergency Service Volunteer Association (VicSESVA), Ambulance Victoria, St John Ambulance, the Victorian Council of Churches Emergency Ministry and Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) to research and report on the value of Victoria's emergency management volunteers, volunteering and volunteerism. This project is referred in shorthand, as the 3V's. (Volunteers - Volunteering - Volunteerism.)

The 3V's project has involved exploring additional ways to analyse the value of Victoria’s emergency management volunteers, volunteering and volunteerism. It has provided a framework and model that illustrates various layers of value, and explores the breadth of that value at the local community level. It was sponsored by the Volunteer Consultative Forum (VCF) which VFBV is a founding member of, and worked with Lateral Economics to produce a fresh and original perspective to this unique task using fit for purpose logic, structure and evidence.

The full Final Report, and the Interim Report (published in 2017) are both available for download from the VFBV website.

The reports discuss the 'hidden value' that arises incidentally from the 3Vs that might not otherwise be known, captured and hence appreciated. It aims to bring this value to life through a new way of talking about volunteers, their activities and impact on society, while being accurate and credible.

The 3Vs Final Report presents a simple logic for how the 3Vs generate value to Victorians. Volunteers undertake activities which have positive outcomes or ‘value’, and value can be described in different ways. Describing value in its diversity allows the State to recognise and build on the value accrued by Victorian communities from the 3Vs. In this way, the 3Vs can be conceived not only as an emergency management workforce and a mechanism for building emergency related community resilience, but also as a way to strengthen communities.

Even a preliminary analysis of this kind shows that the value of volunteers is large, and widely distributed across the community. Discussing the size of the 3Vs’ value puts in stark contrast the flip-side of the issue: the possible losses and risk to Victoria from lower 3Vs activity.

VFBV commends these reports to not only volunteers themselves, but emergency management stakeholders, policy makers and the Victorian public in general.

Visible, active, positive emergency volunteerism in a community can make a difference to society as a whole. This difference has both tangible and intangible aspects. Emergency Management Volunteers are fundamental to emergency management in Victoria. It is therefore critical that their value and importance be recognized, and their collective interests and needs be protected, encouraged and supported to ensure they can deliver their services safely and effectively for the benefit of the Australian community.

Read more about the 3V’s final report on the VFBV website.

 

Hamilton Air Base volunteer to be honoured

VFBV Media Release - March 2021 

Volunteer fire fighting in the Hamilton and Dunkeld regions has lost one of its most dedicated supporters in Leighton Wraith but his legacy will live on.

Mr Wraith, the driving force behind the volunteer-run Hamilton CFA-EMV Air Base and a CFA volunteer for more than 40 years, has died at his home near Dunkeld, aged 81.

Earlier this year Mr Wraith was awarded an Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) to recognise his long and outstanding service to CFA and his local community. His contribution will be remembered with plans to name a loading facility at the airbase in his honour.

Mr Wraith, a farmer and licenced pilot, was a volunteer with Bochara and Dunkeld Fire Brigades for 40 years and more recently led the Hamilton CFA-EMV Air Base.

Long-time friend Don Robertson said that Mr Wraith had been a major contributor to the region over many years, highlighted by his efforts to establish and maintain the air base.

Mr Robertson, a former shire councillor and mayor, CFA Board member and Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) district chair, accompanied Mr Wraith to Canberra and Melbourne to campaign for the base.

“Without Leighton, we wouldn’t have an air base here,” he said. “It wasn’t really a shire issue, but we could all see the need for it.”

CFA District 5 Airbase commander Brett Gladki said the decision to name the loading facility in honour of Mr Wraith was driven by his fellow volunteers and recognised his dedication to the facility.

“Leighton lobbied very hard to get this new loading facility which runs like a well-oiled machine,” Mr Gladki said. “Previously the gear and the operators were exposed to the elements but this encloses everything and makes the whole process of loading aircraft more efficient and more comfortable.”

Mr Gladki said naming the loading facility in honour of Leighton recognised his dedication to the airbase. “He really drove this project and was the number one person in getting it off the ground,” he said.

“The naming is very much driven by Leighton’s peers at the airbase and the volunteers who spent many years working with him.”

A sign is being created and will be unveiled at a later date.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) CEO Adam Barnett said Mr Wraith’s commitment showed how CFA volunteers could contribute in different ways at different stages of their lives and the facility naming was well deserved.

“Leighton’s dedication over 40 years with his local brigades and then with the air base was of huge benefit to his community and the region and he will be sadly missed. We pass on our best wishes to his family, friends and loved ones.

“Leighton has left an incredibly powerful legacy. The work he has done has saved countless lives and will continue to protect Victorians for decades to come.”

There are 15 other air bases in Victoria run by DELWP. Located at the Hamilton airport, the air base has 40 volunteers whose main tasks are to have water, foam or retardant ready and to load planes. They are usually needed about 30-40 times each summer.

Two bomber aircraft are permanently based at Hamilton over summer, plus two support aircraft, and the base has access to bombers from Casterton and Stawell.

Volunteers come from different brigades around the Hamilton region, sometimes performing dual roles for their local brigade and the air base. Most are retired or mature-aged farmers. “We’re so lucky; whatever needs fixing they can do it,” Mr Wraith said in 2019. “These guys are old-fashioned farmers who can do anything and fix anything.”

Mr Wraith had been recruited about eight years ago by the regional CFA operations manager to find volunteers to set up the base which is primarily responsible for a 22,000 square kilometre region stretching from Peterborough and Warrnambool, to near Balmoral and Glenthompson.

Mr Wraith said in 2019 that many of the volunteers had been active firefighters for decades but no longer wanted to be in the field.

“They’ve had a lifetime on the back of a truck and in strike teams,” Mr Wraith said. “They’ve had enough of that but still want to be involved so this keeps them active and in the CFA. We firmly believe we are contributing to the bigger picture to protect not only our own patch but the whole of the west, south-west and north-west of Victoria.”

 

Nominations for Trust Fund

The VFBV Board is calling for nominations to the CFA and Brigades Donations Trust Fund.

Following nominations, five new or reappointed members will be appointed by the VFBV Board to serve as VFBV trustees on the Trust Fund for a term of two years. The Trust Fund committee normally meets quarterly, either via teleconference or at CFA HQ.

Nominations close Friday 11th June 2021 and can be mailed to VFBV office, 9/24 Lakeside Drive, Burwood East 3151 or emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on March 8, and is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women while also being a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

This International Women’s Day, VFBV celebrated the women who contribute so much to VFBV, CFA, emergency services and their communities.

The theme for International Women’s Day in 2021 is “Choose to Challenge” – where a challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change. Each day the more than 12,000 female CFA volunteers challenge the stereotype of what a firefighter is and how women can be involved in any and all emergency services, while also leading the way for future generations.

Thank you to all the fabulous, dedicated, highly skilled and much appreciated women in the CFA and across all fire and emergency services.

 

2021 State Championships approaches

Time is fast approaching for the State Championships at Mooroopna later this month – the Urban Juniors on the weekend of 20th and 21st March, and the much anticipated event on the weekend of 27th and 28th March which will showcase the Urban Seniors and the Rural Seniors & Rural Juniors being conducted simultaneously alongside each other at the same venue, for the first time in competition history.

Numbers of teams are down this year as expected, primarily due to COVID delaying the commencement of training and competitions being held, but numbers are still good with so far 41 teams entered to compete at the Urban Juniors on the 20th and 21st March and, in total, 87 Senior teams and 33 Junior teams entered to compete the weekend of 27th and 28th March.

The State Championships Committee, which consists of CFA management, members of both VFBV Rural and Urban State Committees and staff, has worked extremely hard in all the preplanning, preparation and management for these events, to which has been added an extra workload in ensuring the events comply with the Government’s COVIDSafe requirements, and VFBV thanks all those involved for their contribution and efforts.

 

Mental Health Matters Workshops

The Mental Health Matters one-day program, hosted by ESF with support from the State Government, will bring together volunteers from across Victoria’s emergency service sector to discuss how we can better promote and support good mental health in an emergency services environment.

The workshops will be facilitated by experienced mental health professionals from OzHelp , alongside guests who will share their lived experience of working in the emergency services sector.

The one-day event is designed to provide participants with a deeper understanding of the many factors that influence our mental health and wellbeing; educating on how to apply these learnings in caring for ourselves and our colleagues in a volunteer team environment.

Participants will leave the workshops

• Knowing the role of leaders [formal and informal] to support the mental health and wellbeing of a team

• Able to recognise factors which contribute to stress in a workplace

• Able to recognise early indicators of distress in themselves

• Able to recognise early indicators of distress in colleagues

• Confident in being able to start conversations about mental health and wellbeing with colleagues

• Knowing where to access mental health support and resources

Workshop dates and locations and how to apply to attend can be found on the VFBV website

 

Recent articles on the VFBV website

Hamilton Air Base volunteer to be honoured

Volunteers – Uncovering the hidden value

International Women’s Day 2021

Mental health support is available for CFA volunteers and other Victorian emergency workers

Information for brigades competing in the 2021 State Championships – Urban Juniors, Urban Seniors and Rural State Championships

 

 

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Read 4322 times Last modified on Wednesday, 17 March 2021 15:15
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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