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May 2023 Newsletter

EMV home goal 
By Adam Barnett, VFBV Chief Executive Officer 

This month I am drawing strength from a Gandhi quote – “Truth never damages a cause that is just.”

I was most unfortunate to attend the recent meeting of the volunteer consultative forum (VCF) where it was announced by the Emergency Management Commissioner that a decision had been made to disband the VCF. To say that the volunteers at that meeting drawn from the various agencies were saddened, hurt and disappointed would be an understatement.

The VCF was an initiative floated by VFBV during discussions of the Victorian Government’s White Paper on emergency management back in 2012. The concept was embraced and announced by the then Minister, the Hon Kim Wells MP. The VCF was officially formed on the 18th November 2013 and was heralded as delivering on the Victorian Government’s commitment to consult emergency management volunteers across the sector. The forum was designed to provide a multi-agency volunteer feedback loop direct to the Minister for Emergency Services on issues affecting EM volunteers. It was made up of more than twenty emergency management volunteers and agency nominees drawn from CFA, SES, Life Saving Victoria, Australian Red Cross, Ambulance Victoria, VFBV, St John Ambulance, Volunteer Coast Guard, Salvation Army, VICSESVA and the Victorian Council of Churches Emergencies Ministry.

The first meeting of the VCF was attended by Minister Wells who spoke about how grateful he was for the opportunity to consult with volunteers with regard to the emergency management sector and in particular the importance of volunteers having input in ensuring the sustainability and effective utilisation of volunteers across the EM sector. It was widely acknowledged that EM volunteers face unique challenges that deserved dedicated and focussed efforts.

Upon a change of Government at the end of 2014, the new Minister for Emergency Services, the Hon Jane Garrett MP attended her first meeting of the VCF on the 6th December 2014. Minister Garrett was a frequent attendee and echoed the importance of the VCF and acknowledged that ministerial involvement with the VCF would continue to be a priority under the Andrews Government.

On the 4th May 2016, Premier Andrews, along with Minister Garrett and the Emergency Management Commissioner signed the Emergency Management Volunteer Statement that was an agreed commitment between the State of Victoria and emergency management volunteers that committed the State of Victoria to consult with EM volunteers and their representative bodies through the VCF on matters which affect them. The statement was co-signed by each of the eleven organisations represented on the VCF, including VFBV.

Therefore it was rather surprising to learn that consultation around the disbanding of the VCF with the VCF itself had not occurred prior to the decision being made. To disband the forum and ignore the commitments made without so much as a discussion with the very volunteers affected is quite astonishing and represents a significant betrayal of trust and integrity.

Even more remarkable is the fact that the EM Volunteer Statement was a public statement  of commitment signed by the Premier himself on behalf of the whole Victorian Government.

It is at times like these that I remind members why VFBV had to take the extraordinary step of giving the CFA Volunteer Charter legal effect by inserting recognition of the Charter into the CFA Act. A change it should be pointed out, that received and celebrated bi-partisan support across both houses of Parliament.  

Volunteers should not have to fight for governments to simply honour the commitments they make and it is heartbreaking to have to deal with such betrayals.

VFBV has learned that the decision to disband the VCF was made after a secret briefing and recommendation was prepared by EMV and given by the Emergency Management Commissioner to the Minister.

In an effort to hold decision makers accountable for their actions, VFBV has committed to public advocacy and formally advised the Minister of our concern that EMV has failed to acquit its obligations under the Volunteer Charter, which is a hard fought statutory obligation on not only CFA but also the State of Victoria.

In response, the VFBV Board have unanimously declared EMV to be an ‘Organisation of Concern’. This decision has not been made lightly and follows the VCF’s disbandment as well as consideration of recent activities such as the EMV Operating Model Review and the lack of a cross agency after action review for last year’s flooding event.

The VFBV Board has taken this unprecedented step in order to highlight the serious disquiet and concern we have towards this behemoth of a bureaucracy and its recent poor record of engagement and direct consultation with volunteers and their representative bodies on several matters. We take no joy in having to take these steps but are committed to representing CFA volunteers with integrity and transparency.

We have taken no comfort from the Commissioner’s protestations that EMV will conduct some future review and consider future arrangements further. If the machinery of government cannot honour the public commitments made to volunteers under the EM Statement, how can anyone expect volunteers to trust any further promises?

EMV’s development since it first commenced operation on 1 July 2014 has been quite a journey. Moving from a small, dedicated team of less than twelve people who formed the Fire Services Commissioner’s Office, EMV has now morphed into a bureaucracy of several hundred, with its own CEO, Commissioner, Deputy Commissioners and countless executive directors, public servants, consultants and advisors.

Despite those resources, clearly they appear unable to support the peak volunteer forum that was given “enduring effect” under the EM Volunteer Statement.

Volunteers are sick and tired of hearing leaders give speeches about how much they respect and value the contribution of CFA volunteers, to then not match these words with actions.

If we add up all the numerous committee’s and working groups that EMV host across the sector filled with agency representatives and employees, it is quite an indictment that the only committee dedicated to emergency management volunteers who make up more than 90% of the workforce gets dumped. One only needs to track the poor progress of EMV’s actions towards the thirteen strategic priority actions developed by volunteers through the VCF back in 2015 and quietly erased from EMV’s strategic action plan over consequent years to see how far volunteer priorities and initiatives have been abandoned.

EMV’s recent Operating Model review is a further example of poor process.

Readers would recall our concerns from the January and February 2022 editions of Fire Wise where volunteers were expected to provide feedback to their review over the Xmas and New Year period. The final report cemented EMV’s position that the solution to any and every problem facing the sector was to recommend more public servants.

Any cursory review of the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine inquiry will show you the dangers of mixing public servants with incident management. Yet, EMV’s Operating model review advocates for more public sector full-time personnel to be employed to form fulltime Incident Management Teams managed by EMV. It then uses the gaps observed during their recent pandemic (Class 2) emergencies to argue for even more public servants to lead the management of Class 1 and 2 emergencies moving forward.  The review even proposed a business case to train 500 public servants to form a new ‘Emergency Management Corps’.  Where was the recommendation to recruit, retain and encourage another 500 volunteers you ask? Good question, we asked the same thing.

To demonstrate their priorities one need look no further than the announcement in last year’s State Budget of a record $36.2 million dollars for the establishment of EMV’s new fulltime State Control Centre workforce. This isn’t even a new capability. It simply replaces the current workforce contributed by each of the agencies through existing surge capacity. A surge capacity that is being undermined and neglected. The lack of any real action to address consecutive drops in endorsed level 3 incident personnel across the sector over recent years is a good example of just hoping for something to fail and then rushing in with a pre-formed solution.

$36.2M could have bought 80 brand new fire trucks.

The emergency management sector relies on trust, and a workforce that is overwhelming volunteer. EMV’s actions risk it becoming more and more distant from the very people that make up the EM sector.

Advice from the ground will become more and more filtered and censured by the layers and layers of bureaucracy. Governments and Ministers will then be on the receiving end of very poor advice so distorted and disconnected to be almost useless. Current case in point.

Victoria cannot simply afford layers and layers of bureaucracy for no tangible benefit. With a cost-of-living crisis looming large, budgets will become more and more under scrutiny. Priority must be given to CFA’s budget that is already under strain after decades of underinvestment, with ageing trucks, stations and hundreds of personnel transferred out of CFA under recent reforms.

If the Government is looking for savings that won’t impact on front line services and the critical work that emergency volunteer first responders do each and every day to keep our communities safe, then it need look no further than this bemouth of a bureaucracy. EMV’s status as an organisation of concern to volunteers represents a significant deterioration of support.

VFBV will continue to monitor and pursue meaningful arrangements that ensure genuine volunteer engagement and consultation though whatever means possible. We will continue standing up for CFA volunteers and reminding decision makers that EM volunteers contribute more than $2.4 billion dollars every year to the Victorian economy and taxpayer. Volunteers keep doing their bit, it is time for EMV and other sector leaders to step up and do theirs.

You can view a copy of the Emergency Management Volunteer Statement here


CFA Annual Memorial Service

CFA’s Annual Memorial service will be held on Sunday 7 May in Mt Macedon to honour firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

This year’s memorial service will mark the 35th event, which has been held since 1987, with the only cancellation being in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Family members and friends, CFA and VFBV executives as well as government representatives will come together to lay wreaths, light candles, remember lives and honour the personal sacrifices and commitment firefighters make each and every day.

Junior CFA members will also attend the memorial service and will be actively involved throughout the ceremony by assisting wreath layers and patrons.

VFBV CEO Adam Barnett spoke about the importance of the annual memorial service for not only the families, friends and loved ones of the fallen, but for all members.

“The annual memorial service is a time for us to come together either in person or in spirit to remember and honour the 80 CFA firefighters (including 11 from pre-1944) who have selflessly given their lives to protect the lives of other Victorians.

"And while the service is always solemn and reflective, it is also an important opportunity to reflect on our history as we pay tribute to those lost and reflect on the importance of the work we all do in making our communities safer.”

RSVP’s to attend the service closed on Monday 1 May via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

The Annual Memorial Service will be livestreamed here from 2pm on Sunday 7 May.

 

National Volunteer Week
The week of 15 – 21 May is National Volunteer week, and it sets out to celebrate the power of how volunteers drive change and ensure that volunteering is inclusive.

The 2023 theme for National Volunteer Week is The Change Makers.  This recognises that volunteers dedicate time and energy to effect change in their communities which sums up CFA volunteers perfectly.

This year’s theme identifies change makers as people who are driven to contribute for the greater good; passionate about the causes they care about; turn their passions into purpose; are a force for social change; and give their time and energy to make a difference for their communities.  Each of these qualities are evident in CFA volunteers each and every day.

VFBV passes on our deep gratitude, respect and appreciation to all CFA volunteers for the work you do in your communities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

During this year’s volunteer week we reflect on the past 12 months where in addition to protecting their own communities, thousands of CFA volunteers travelled to flood affected areas across the state to effect change in communities in need. While it would have been easy to just say this was someone else’s job, CFA volunteers again put their hand up to come to communities in need. Your ‘can do’ attitude should be celebrated, respected and acknowledged by all sector leaders.

Victorian’s are safer because of the work you do, and VFBV could not be more proud of you, your brigades and all those that support you in the work you do to protect lives and property.

We also acknowledge all our brothers and sisters across all of Victoria’s emergency management volunteer workforce including volunteer first responders from VicSES, St John Ambulance, Ambulance Victoria, Life Saving Victoria, Coast Guard, Salvation Army, Red Cross and the Victorian Council of Churches Emergencies Ministry – just to name a few who work together to contribute their time, skills and resources to make change in their communities as emergency management volunteers.

 

Thankyou

Thankyou to the thousands of CFA volunteers who completed this year’s VFBV vol survey. We are currently analysing responses and preparing this year’s report.

To each of the volunteers who took the time to complete this year’s survey, you have contributed to making CFA a better place to volunteer. Your feedback will be used to pursue positive change and contributes to our tireless advocacy on behalf of all volunteers. We couldn’t do it without you.

 

Vale
As this edition was sent to print we were saddened to hear of the passing of Queensland Fire and Rescue Service firefighter Izabella Nash on 2nd May.

We extend our deepest sympathies, thoughts and prayers to Izabella’s family, friends, loved ones and fellow firefighters at this sad time.

Fellow firefighter Lia Drew was also injured at the same fire and is currently in a serious but stable condition in hospital, we wish Lia all the best in her recovery and our thoughts are also with her family, friends and colleagues.

 

Members’ strong show of support
Again in 2022/23, CFA Brigades and Groups showed that is it more important than ever that volunteers have a strong, united, independent and credible voice with more than 95% of Brigades demonstrating strong support for VFBV’s important work representing and advocating for all CFA volunteers.  Thank you to all brigades and groups who affiliated last year.

2023/24 renewal notices for your Brigade/Group’s VFBV Affiliation and Welfare Fund subscriptions and have now been mailed out to Brigade and Group secretaries with a due date of 30 June 2023.

To thank Brigades and Groups for their support, those who pay their VFBV affiliations before 30th June will automatically be entered into a draw to win one of four extremely worthwhile prizes valued at approximately $4,000.  The prizes have for the third year running been donated by GAAM Emergency Products and Powdersafe and we sincerely thank them for their continued generous support.  For further details of the prizes on offer, see the flyer included with your renewal notices.

As well as affiliating, we strongly encourage Brigades to subscribe to the VFBV Welfare Fund.  The Welfare Fund is a capital fund and an exclusive benefit to affiliated members with VFBV funding all the administration and operating cost ensuring 100% of funds received go directly to CFA volunteers experiencing personal hardship. The VFBV Welfare Fund provides small grants of up to $5,000 to assist volunteer members and long serving ex members.  The grants support members and their families experiencing personal financial hardship/crisis by providing welfare grants, on a needs-assessed basis, that may help alleviate stress impacting their ability to maintain involvement as a volunteer. 

 

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

The purpose of the fund is to raise and receive money and donations of goods and services from the public for distribution to brigades to assist with costs of purchasing and maintaining firefighting equipment, facilities, training and administrative expenses which are associated with their firefighting functions.

Following nominations, five new or reappointed members will be appointed by the VFBV Board to serve as VFBV Trustees on the fund for a term of two years.

All current trustees are eligible for re-appointment.

Please visit the VFBV website for details. Nominations close on Monday 19th June 2023.

 

VESEP

Applications are now open for the 2023/24 Volunteer Emergency Services Equipment Program (VESEP). Applications are due to your District ACFO by the 16th June 2023.

VFBV has updated its VESEP Help Pack to assist brigades and groups with their VESEP applications. This pack is available from our website, or paper copies can be obtained by phoning the office.

VESEP provides grants of $2 for every $1 of Brigade or Group funding to assist brigades and groups in acquiring a wide range of operational equipment.

Now in its 23rd year, VESEP first started out as the Community Safety Emergency Support Program in 2000 and was designed in close consultation with VFBV and volunteers, with the intent being a grants program designed by volunteers with minimal administration required from volunteers.

VFBV wishes all CFA Brigades and Groups well with your applications and thanks you for your untiring service to Victoria!

 

Final Reminder: Draft CFA Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy

Feedback is being sought on a new draft policy covering Alcohol and other drugs, including prescription medication.

The draft policy covers arrangements for the appointment of a ‘responsible officer’, when alcohol can be consumed and a ban on brigades applying for a new liquor licence, with existing licences able to be kept.

All members are encouraged to read the draft policy and provide feedback ASAP. Feedback is due by Monday 8th May 2023.

Please visit the VFBV website for more information on how to provide feedback and view a copy of the draft policy.

 

CFA Board Positions

The CFA Act recognises that it is important that the CFA Board has strong volunteer expertise, knowledge and an understanding of CFA volunteers. To support this, four of the skills-based CFA Board members are appointed by the Minister for Emergency Services from a panel of names submitted by VFBV.

This year, the terms of two volunteer nominees will expire in December 2023, with both members eligible for re-appointment. One is for a volunteer from brigades predominantly serving rural communities, and the other being for a volunteer from brigades predominantly serving urban communities.

CFA volunteers who believe they have the skills, experience and capacity to make a contribution to the Board of CFA are invited to apply. In addition to volunteer experience and knowledge, nomination will have regard to any of the following - knowledge of or experience in; commercial; technical; operational; legal or financial matters; expertise in fire or emergency management; land management; or any other field relevant to the performance of the functions of the CFA.

VFBV is seeking applications from gender and culturally diverse candidates in addition to a diverse range of skills and experience including applications from diverse brigade types and classifications.

Members should familiarise themselves with the CFA Board Charter and further information on the application process is available from the VFBV website or via the office at (03) 9886 1141.

Applications close on Monday 26th June 2023.

 

VFBV Board Vacancies

Vacancies on the VFBV Board will arise when the terms of four VFBV Board members expire on the 1st October 2023. Of the four members whose terms are expiring, two are eligible for re-appointment.

VFBV invites applications from any CFA volunteer who is motivated by the prospect of making a difference and believes they have the skills to contribute to the VFBV Board.

The role of a board member involves contributing to VFBV direction, policy determination and monitoring the performance and governance of the Association. This includes actively contributing to policy discussion, consulting with CFA volunteers and contributing to the identification and management of strategic issues.

VFBV is seeking applications from gender and culturally diverse candidates in addition to a diverse range of skills and experience including applications from diverse brigade types and classifications.

Members should familiarise themselves with the VFBV Board member role statement and key selection criteria available from the VFBV website or via the office at (03) 9886 1141.

Applications close on Monday 28th August 2023.

 

2023 CFA Communications Survey

CFA have recently launched the 2023 CFA Communications Survey on the ‘Your Say CFA’ platform to get feedback on how they can deliver more relevant, timely and easy-to-read communications.

CFA communicate through wide range of channels every day and, as an emergency service, it’s important CFA provides information in the way members want to receive it.  The survey is open to all CFA members.

CFA will use the information from this survey to develop and improve the way they communicate and the options available for members.

The online survey closes on Monday 8 May and written surveys distributed with the upcoming issue of the Brigade magazine need to be received by CFA by Friday 26 May 2023.

The online survey can be accessed here.

 

Fire Wise – May 2023 online only edition

The May 2023 edition of Fire Wise has been published online only, this edition and past editions are available from the Fire Wise website.

You can support Fire Wise and role it plays as an independent voice in keeping volunteers informed   by becoming a subscriber.  To become a Fire Wise subscriber visit the Fire Wise website or contact the Managing Editor of Fire Wise, Gordon Rippon-King either by phone 0402 051 412 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

Recent articles on the VFBV website
Feedback Requested – Draft CFA Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy

Nominations for CFA and Brigades Donations Fund

VFBV Board Vacancies – Invitation to Apply

CFA Board Positions – Invitation to Apply

CFA Annual Memorial Service 2023

2023-24 VESEP Applications Now Open and VFBV Help Pack

Open for consultation dashboard

 

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The latest edition along with previous editions can be downloaded from the VFBV website here.

Read 6097 times Last modified on Wednesday, 03 May 2023 14:34
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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