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Thursday, 12 October 2023 17:04

Our Community, Our CFA

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We are tens of thousands of Victorians, committed to protecting lives and property.

We are skilled, determined and here to serve Victorians now and into the future.

We are from the community and for the community.

We are CFA.


Watch the 'Our Community, our CFA' video here.


Watch the short video to gain an appreciation and understanding of Victoria's iconic CFA, one of the largest and most professional volunteer emergency services in the world. Excerpts from the video journey are displayed below to help you reflect on the incredible fire service built by volunteers with selfless grit and determination to benefit their communities and the Victorian public.

 Determined  We are determined
 Community Focused  We are community focused
 Reliable and Trusted  We are trusted and reliable
 Strength through diversity  We draw strength through diversity
 50,000+ committed members  Are made up of more than 50,000 committed members
 More than 1200 brigades  Across 1,217 volunteer fire brigades
 Proudly protecting 4M+ Victorians  Proudly serving over 4 Million Victorians
 Representing Victorian Spirit  Representing Victorian Spirit from every corner of the State
 Responding to bushfires  We respond to bushfires
 Responding to house fires  ...and house fires
Providing community education  We provide community education both before, during and after emergencies
Providing Road crash rescue  We provide road crash rescue
Responding to 33,000+ calls for help  And respond to more than 33,000 incidents every year
Wherever we are needed  We respond wherever we're needed
Preparing communities  We assist communities prepare for emergencies
 Across 224,000 km2 of Victoria  Across more than 224,000 squared kilometers of Victoria
 Highly Trained  We are highly trained
 Research and Evidence  We use research and evidence to guide our decision making
 Valuable local knowledge  We provide valuable local knowledge before, during and after emergencies
 Experienced across all landscapes  We are experienced across all landscapes
Diverse Skill Sets  We have broad and diverse skill sets
Flexible and inclusive roles  And have flexible and inclusive roles to encourage diversity of skills, people, thought and gender
Strong community roots  We are born from the communities we serve providing strong community roots
Focused on prevention  We are focused on prevention...
Beyond emergency response  ...that stretches far beyond just initial emergency response
Over 75 years of service  CFA has been operating for more than 75 years and volunteer fire brigades existed well before that
Through Victorias darkest days  We have stood by our communities through Victoria's darkest days
Evolving with our community  We have evolved over time with our communities 
Progressive emergency service  We are a progressive emergency service
Adapting to changing climates  Adapting to changing climates and new threats
Ready for our next chapter  We are ready for the future and our next chapter as a proud fully volunteer fire service
Trusted and skilled  Our people...
Deeply connected  ...are what makes...
Our people are what make CFA  ...CFA what it is today
Our Community Our CFA  Our Community. Our CFA

 

Thursday, 12 October 2023 15:54

Now Open - 2023 VFBV Volunteer Survey

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The 2023 VFBV Volunteer Survey is now open for all CFA volunteers to take part. 

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

The survey is an annual snapshot of volunteer opinion, using questions on issues chosen by CFA volunteers.  It is one of the key opportunities for CFA volunteers to have their voices both individually and collectively heard.

The results from the survey will directly influence the upcoming years priority actions while also tracking trends in volunteer opinion. VFBV’s advocacy for volunteers depends on robust volunteer feedback to help inform decision makers of the issues of most importance.

The survey takes only 10 – 15 minutes to complete and all answers and comments provided are confidential, but the results go straight to decision markers at CFA and Government.

The VFBV Volunteer Survey is a critical and reliable method to capture the views of volunteers as well as monitoring short-and-long term trends and the effectiveness of initiatives aimed at improving CFA.  A summary of the 2022 survey results was published in the June 2023 edition of the VFBV Quarterly Supplement which can be downloaded here.

You can also help us by spreading the word and encouraging other volunteers to respond to the survey – the more responses, the more impact the results will have, so please encourage other volunteers to take part.

If you have any questions about the survey – please contact your local VFBV Support Officer or the VFBV office.

We are also able to send out paper copies of the survey to members who do not have internet access, please contact the VFBV office on (03) 9886 1141 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to arrange a copy to be posted out.

 

Thursday, 12 October 2023 15:24

Emergency Services Foundation Scholarships

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Applications are now open for the Emergency Services Foundation (ESF) Scholarships.

The ESF scholarship program provides an opportunity for volunteers and paid staff from Victoria’s emergency services to undertake a study tour that will lead to improvements in Victoria’s emergency management sector. ESF has also partnered with Rotary in 2023 to sponsor an additional two scholarships.

The focus of the ESF scholarships in recent years has shifted towards focusing on applications that address gaps in mental health and wellbeing knowledge. 

ESF scholarships are not for the completion of tertiary or other qualifications, but instead scholarship funds are to be used for economy class air travel, travel insurance, accommodation and meal allowances while undertaking a study tour.

Scholarship recipients must complete a written report on their study as well as presenting findings of your study to the sector which may take place at the Emergency Management Conference, a webinar and social media.

Applications close 19 November 2023 and successful applicants will be announced by the end of the year.

To apply for a scholarship you will need to provide:

  1. details of the problem/issue you wish to study
  2. evidence of the problem/issue you have identified
  3. why you are interested in the topic
  4. objectives you want to achieve
  5. your intended travel destination(s) to undertake the study and why this location(s) were selected
  6. any relevant credentials you have
  7. proposed travel dates and quotes for travel insurance and air travel
  8. evidence of your application being supported by your agency.

 For more information or to apply for a scholarship please visit the ESF website.

Friday, 06 October 2023 12:55

October 2023 Newsletter

Written by

You don’t need to be Einstein 
By Adam Barnett, VFBV Chief Executive Officer 

Honestly, there are days that an eye roll emoji just doesn’t cut it.

I refer to a gathering in Canberra of “key stakeholders” for a national disaster preparedness summit held on the 25th September. It is at this juncture I should inform you that judging from the invite list, apparently emergency service volunteer representatives are not considered by the Federal Government to be key stakeholders, even if they do represent 90% of Australia’s fire service workforce.

One therefore cannot be too surprised that one of the early announcements from this summit was that the Federal Government was considering a national paid “seasonal firefighting” force that would pay people to help out during national disasters. Apparently, this Canberra thought bubble was in response to the “worrying” decline in emergency service volunteer numbers across the country.

Quick memo – perhaps instead of thinking about band-aid solutions to fix declining volunteers, time would be better spent actually addressing the things making volunteers leave in the first place. Sprinkling precious tax payer funds on more wages when all volunteers want is a bit of respect and modern fire stations, trucks, clothing and equipment aptly fits Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Given I quoted Einstein last month, I am reminded of his quote: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

If emergency service volunteer representatives had of been invited, perhaps they would have said something along the lines of; well if you stopped treating us so badly, stopped suffocating us with all your bureaucracy, stopped starving us of funding and actually listened to us - maybe we would stop leaving.

Is it really that hard to figure out what is causing volunteers so much dissatisfaction?

Let me make it really simple; State Governments are doing emergency service volunteering on the cheap, and rather than the Federal Government holding them to account or supporting volunteers directly with some benchmarking, key performance indicators or backing us up with some much-needed funding, they distract with the usual shenanigans of summits and conferences.

For some politicians, volunteers are out of sight out of mind until they need us, and then when there are smoke plumes in the air, they fawn all over us like the second coming as they pose for their selfies while telling constituents how much they support volunteers.

Sorry, but talk is cheap.

A review of volunteer fire service budgets across the country shows the appalling state of support given across the country to our volunteer emergency services when compared to the billions of dollars sunk into their paid services. CFA’s budget was $807 million prior to fire services reform in 2020, dropping to $347 million last year. To put that into perspective, FRV’s overtime budget alone is now purportedly almost the equivalent to one-third of CFA’s entire annual budget. Imagine if FRV needed to run 1,214 CFA fire stations instead of the 85 they do currently.

Yet volunteers are forced to fundraise just to scrape up enough money to buy the very equipment and infrastructure they need to do the job they are being asked to do for free. All while paying the taxes that fund the other paid services.

So please don’t fall for the whole declining volunteerism mantra that some people try to spin as a self-fulfilling prophecy, as if it’s all these external factors and the decline is somehow inevitable. Rather, it has everything to do with how volunteers are treated. You don’t need to be Einstein to figure out volunteer organisations rely on high morale to attract and retain volunteers.

This is exactly why CFA was setup as a statutory authority in the first place. Back then, even Parliament knew getting the government to run a volunteer fire service would be a complete mess. If it’s well accepted that governments should not run private enterprise because they are just not any good at it – why do we think they would be any better at running a volunteer based emergency service? But over time, as the autonomy of a statutory authority has been whittled away, politics has been allowed to interfere, and public servants have been allowed to bring their forms and procedures and all the other things that stifle community innovation, can anyone be really surprised this might in fact be making volunteering unattractive?

If governments actually treated its emergency service volunteers with respect, funded them to the same levels as their paid services, provided them all the equipment and personal protective clothing they needed, built modern and functional fire stations, maintained and cleaned them, provided them with modern fire trucks that were not the oldest in Australia, and then shielded them from needless government bureaucracy, while providing them adequate instructors and training that could be delivered at times suitable for volunteers, well gee, maybe that might send the message that government actually supports emergency service volunteers and restore morale.

VFBV will continue to monitor fire service budgets and watch for any government cuts. We have recently become aware of some Districts and Regions claiming to cut programs due to budget cuts. At this point in time, we are not aware of any HQ mandated cuts, so please ensure you respond to any claim of cuts with a please explain, so we can track down who was responsible.

VFBV is not against efficiencies, or programs being redirected to try new things or bolster other programs where needs have changed. But as always, this should be done in consultation with volunteers. If District Planning Committees were not involved in these decisions – it is time to ask why not?

SUMMER PREPAREDNESS

Due to Victoria’s climate, flora and geography, we are one of the most fire prone places on the planet and therefore don’t need bad conditions to have a bad fire season. Even our mild seasons can be fairly ferocious. With this in mind, members are reminded that part of our commitment to safety and ensuring every volunteer arrives home safely, members are requested to complete their burn-over drill and ensuring your tree hazards awareness is up to date.

For the sake of your families and loved ones, even if you have decades of experience, please commit to completing the Chief Officer’s minimum requirements for the fire season ahead. Even if you know how to radio a mayday and activate the crew protection systems perfectly, perhaps you could assist the less experienced members of the crew by doing the burn over drill with them. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind that every person on the crew has refreshed their safety and survival skills for the season ahead.

PRESUMPTIVE LEGISLATION

VFBV is encouraging all political parties to support the expansion of Victoria’s firefighter presumptive legislation scheme.

Currently Victorian firefighters are only protected by presumption for 12 cancers, with the Commonwealth Government now recognising 20. Western Australia and the ACT have already introduced legislation to expand their schemes to 20, and Tasmania will be the first State to recognise 21. As at writing, the Victorian Government has only committed to expanding our scheme to include three additional cancers.

Members are reminded to please write, call and ask your local member of parliament where they stand on expanding Victoria’s presumptive legislation. A key way politicians can support their volunteer firefighters is to ensure that when they fall sick from the countless chemicals and hazards we face on our firegrounds, they are protected by presumptive legislation. Ask your local MP where they stand.

VALE

It was with a heavy heart that on September 5th we farewelled former District 14 Council President ex-Captain Chris Maries of Doreen Fire Brigade.

Chris commenced with Yarrambat Fire Brigade in 2002 before moving to Doreen, and amongst his many contributions to our fire services, Chris championed presumptive legislation for firefighters long before governments started accepting the scientific evidence from international jurisdictions. This was a cause he advocated fiercely for, long before its personal relevance became apparent in his later years.

To Chris’ family, friends, loved ones and fellow firefighters, I pass on our deepest condolences on behalf of the Association, as we fondly remember his distinguished service to his community and the people of Victoria.


Survey Now Open

This year’s VFBV Volunteer Welfare and Efficiency Survey will open early this month.

Volunteers may complete the survey as soon as its open by scanning the QR code below, or visiting the VFBV website. Paper copies are also available from the office and you can call (03) 9886 1141 to request a paper copy be posted to you.

 

SOP Consultation

Formal consultation has commenced on revisions to six Standard Operating Procedures. (SOPs)

These SOPs include: 6.02 Crew Composition (16 and 17 year olds); 6.05 Helmet identification; 9.15 Mayday and Hostile Acts Radio Signals; 9.32 Entrapment Procedure for Appliances; 10.03 Asbestos Incidents; and 14.06 Notification of Injuries and Fatalities.

VFBV is seeking broad feedback and comment from volunteers in order to inform and assist with VFBV formal responses to these documents. VFBV District Councils have also been invited to lead local discussion at the District level. State Council is yet to determine closing dates for each of these SOPs, but CFA are requesting review as soon as possible in light of the upcoming fire season.

The draft SOPs and closing dates will be available from the VFBV website and your local District Council. Simple feedback surveys are also being developed to assist members provide feedback.

Given the importance of SOPs in CFA’s operational doctrine, VFBV encourages all senior volunteers to make themselves familiar with the proposed changes and provide feedback ASAP.

 

FEM
VFBV has requested assistance from the Minister for Education, the Hon. Natalie Hutchins MP to resolve the complete lack of engagement and consultation by the Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) in its move to a new centralised essential safety measures program.

Brigades have reported receiving letters from local government schools advising that due to the centralisation of essential safety measures under the VSBA, they had no choice but to terminate their contracts with their local volunteer brigade for the performance of this work.

With over 265 CFA brigades conducting accredited fire equipment maintenance (FEM) services across Victoria, the lack of engagement by the VSBA is most concerning.

FEM is not only a critical community safety initiative, but by using professionally trained volunteer firefighters to conduct this work rather than for-profit companies, means the revenue from these services provides essential fundraising for local brigades to invest in critical firefighting equipment that protects the wider community.

VFBV has sought the Minister’s assistance in ensuring the VSBA consider options to ensure CFA brigades can continue to provide this work.

 

Joint Committee EOI
Our expressions of interest process will open on the 8th October for volunteers to nominate to the CFA/VFBV Joint Committee’s for the 2024 calendar year.

If you feel you can contribute and have the time, are passionate about one of the eight streams and want to be an integral part of our Joint Committee process – then please visit our website or talk to your local VFBV State Councillor or VFBV Support Officer for a nomination form.

Nominations are due 20th November 2023.

We are seeking volunteers from broad and diverse backgrounds to participate in our consultative structures. Young members, women and members of culturally diverse backgrounds are highly encouraged to nominate. If you would like to learn more about what the role entails and how to get involved, please contact your local VFBV Support Officer, State Councillor or Executive Officer Mark Dryden.

 

Presumptive Legislation
In addition to primary site cervical, ovarian and uterine cancer, VFBV is pursuing the further expansion of the scheme to pick up the remaining six cancers that were added to the Commonwealth’s scheme being primary site lung, skin, penile, pancreatic and thyroid cancers and malignant mesothelioma.

VFBV is calling on the Victorian Government to align its scheme to ensure Victorian firefighters enjoy the same protections and support as their federal counterparts.

We have published a national overview table on our website that allows members to compare each of the presumptive schemes in operation across the country. As you will see, Victoria is falling behind other jurisdictions.

VFBV is seeking the support of all government, opposition and minor party MP’s including independents to support the amendments introduced by the Greens, that would see Victoria’s scheme expanded to the same 21 cancers that the Tasmanian government has introduced.

 

Urban Champs Skills Workshop
Following the success of the skills workshop held in January this year, the Urban Competition and Rules Committee are holding another skills workshop prior to the commencement of the 2023/24 competition season.

The workshop will be held on Sunday 15 October at the Bendigo Competition Track beginning at 9.30am. The workshop is open to all current and prospective competitors, coaches, judges and officials.

Throughout the day workshops will be conducted with experienced coaches and competitors covering the use of the tray in B Section Hose & Reel events; rolling on; competitor safety; appliance, Marshall and junior events and different skills required as well as a presentation on CFA’s Behavioural Standards.

There will also be mentoring and coaching on the different judge and official roles including judge in the box, announcers, on track judging, ladder catching and starting.

If you are interested in attending the skills workshop please RSVP to the VFBV office via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (03) 9886 1141 by Monday 9 October.

 

AGM
This year’s AGM will be held on Sunday 8 October, following State Council.

Please refer to page 2 of the last edition of the VFBV Quarterly Supplement for further details.

 

Fire Wise – October 2023 online only edition

The October 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
Open for Consultation Dashboard

2024 VFBV/CFA Joint Committee District Nominees Expression of Interest

Presumptive Legislation Update

Feedback Requested – Standard Operating Procedures

 

Enjoy the VFBV monthly newsletter?
If you enjoy reading the VFBV newsletter each month, why not share it with your fellow volunteers?

Either share this page with others who may enjoy the articles or encourage other volunteers to sign up to receive their own copy via email each month here.

 

Want to read the VFBV 2-minute briefings from the CFA/VFBV Joint Committees?
The latest edition along with previous editions can be downloaded from the VFBV website here.

Friday, 06 October 2023 12:25

Feedback Requested - Standard Operating Procedures

Written by

Formal consultation has commenced on six updated Standard Operating Procedures. (SOP's)

The proposed draft SOP's are available for download from the bottom of this page and contain:

  • SOP 6.02 Crew Composition (16 and 17 year olds)
  • SOP 6.05 Helmet Identification
  • SOP 9.32 Bushfire - Entrapment Procedures for Appliances
  • SOP 9.15 Mayday and Hostile Acts Radio Signals
  • SOP 10.03 Asbestos Incident
  • SOP 14.06 Notification of Injuries and Fatalities

 

Members are encouraged to review the revised SOP's and provide any feedback/suggestions/amendments including indicating support/non-support for the proposed policies.

Feedback can be provided by individuals, brigades and groups.  

All feedback is used to inform and influence formal VFBV positions as well as used to influence CFA positions and thinking during the deliberative process. If we need to use your feedback to demonstrate or illustrate the views of members, your personal details will not be shared with CFA, and feedback will always be de-identified to protect your privacy.

We encourage members not to wait until deadlines to provide feedback, but rather provide it as early as possible which will give us a chance to conduct further research that may assist us being able to advocate more strongly for your desired outcome.

Feedback due dates on these SOP's are:

SOP 6.05 and SOP 14.06 are due Monday 13th November, 2023

SOP 6.02, SOP 9.15, SOP 9.32 and SOP 10.03 are due Monday 4th December, 2023 

All members are welcome and encouraged to provide feedback. If you have any questions, please contact your local State Councilor or VFBV Support Officer in the first instance.

 


 

How to provide feedback:

It would be preferred that members provide feedback ASAP, so that it can be received incrementally, allowing us enough time to consolidate, identify trends and research issues raised by members. 

Feedback can be provided via:

  1. Emailing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

  2. Your local VFBV District Council or your local VFBV Support Officer

  3. By Post: 9/24 Lakeside Drive, Burwood East VIC 3151

  4. By Fax: (03) 9886 1618

  5. For those that prefer to answer a survey to provide feedback, individual survey's are currently being developed and will be available shortly.

    The Survey for SOP 6.05 Helmet Identification is available here: https://survey.zohopublic.com.au/zs/hdBtcy

    T
    he Survey for SOP 14.06 Notification of Injuries and Fatalities is available here: https://survey.zohopublic.com.au/zs/pMBcXb 

    The Survey for SOP 6.02 Crew Composition (16 and 17 Year Olds) is available here: https://survey.zohopublic.com.au/zs/LNBtcr 

    The Survey for SOP 9.15 Mayday and Hostile Acts Radio Signals is available here: https://survey.zohopublic.com.au/zs/gCBcXQ 

    The Survey for SOP 9.32 Bushfire - Entrapment Procedures for Appliances is available here: https://survey.zohopublic.com.au/zs/heBcH1 

    The Survey for SOP 10.03 Asbestos Incidents is available here: https://survey.zohopublic.com.au/zs/vGBtd3 

 

Feedback does not need to be long or detailed, but if you do have the time to make substantive comment that is always welcome.

If you generally support a principle or policy, then a quick note letting us know would also be helpful. Similarly, let us know if you do not support it, or which aspects of it you don't support.

Where indicating non-support, it would be helpful to understand the key reasons why, and even a couple of brief bullet points would be adequate. Likewise, if you would prefer to provide a more detailed response, or mark-up and suggest changes to the documents, that is welcome also.

Your feedback will assist us form a VFBV position and response to the proposed changes and help us advocate on behalf of CFA volunteers. Please consider getting involved, and providing us your feedback ASAP.

Please remember to provide feedback in support as well as against. If we only hear from those who are against, it can be harder to determine the general comfort level of members with the proposals.

Thursday, 05 October 2023 16:58

Presumptive Legislation Update

Written by

For several years now VFBV has been active in calling for support for the expansion of Victoria’s Presumptive Legislation scheme. We have campaigned strongly for female reproductive cancers to be added to Victoria’s presumptive legislation, championed by former MP Tania Maxwell through her private members Bill in May of last year, and further expansion following the Commonwealth Governments expansion of the federal scheme in December of last year.

In June of this year, the Minister for Emergency Services the Hon. Jaclyn Symes announced her intent to expand Victoria’s scheme to include the three female reproductive cancers. The VFBV Board formally commended this announcement and acknowledged the Minister’s personal contribution and advocacy in pursuing these changes.

The Government formally introduced legislation to expand Victoria's presumptive legislation on the 15th August 2023, through an omnibus bill called the "Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2023." This bill makes changes to a number of bills relating to Courts, Coroners Act, and the Children, Youth and Families Act while also amending the Firefighters' Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Act 2019 which deal with presumptive legislation.

In addition to primary site cervical, ovarian and uterine cancer, VFBV has been pursuing the further expansion of the scheme to pick up the remaining six cancers that were added to the Commonwealth’s scheme being primary site lung, skin, penile, pancreatic and thyroid cancers and malignant mesothelioma.

VFBV has called on the Victorian Government to align its scheme to ensure Victorian firefighters enjoy the same protections and support as their federal counterparts, noting that the Tasmania and Western Australian Governments have also announced they are adding the additional cancers to their own schemes. 

Acknowledging the similarity of exposure to hazards by all firefighters and given how frequently Victorian firefighters assist their interstate colleagues, it is VFBV’s desire for the prescribed cancers covered under presumptive legislation to be as uniform as possible across Australia.

VFBV supports any efforts to expand Victoria’s presumptive legislation scheme to include these additional cancers.

*** UPDATED 5th October 2023 ***

The "Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2023" was passed by the lower house on the 31st August 2023. It entered the Upper House on the same day as a first reading. During the upper house passage, the Greens Party introduced an amendment to the Bill that sought to expand the list of cancers to pick up the three cancers the Victorian Government had agreed to add, as well as the remaining six cancers that were added to the Commonwealth scheme last year. VFBV supported this amendment.

Denate resumed on the Bill on the 3rd October 2023, and the Bill and associated amendments went to a vote on the 3rd October.

The ten MP's who supported the Greens amendments to expand presumptive legislation elements of the Bill were:

  • Samantha Ratnam MP (Greens)
  • Katherine Copsey MP (Greens)
  • Sarah Mansfield MP (Greens)
  • Aiv Puglielli MP (Greens)
  • Jeff Bourman MP (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Victoria)
  • Moria Deeming MP (Independent)
  • David Limbrick MP (Libertarian Party)
  • Rachel Payne MP (Legalise Cannabis Victoria)
  • Georgie Purcell MP (Animal Justice Party)
  • Rickie-Lee Tyrrell MP (Pauline Hanson's One Nation)

VFBV thanks these MP's for their support.

Unfortunately - Labor, Liberal and National Party MP's voted against the amendments, meaning there were 24 votes against. As a result, the Bill was passed without amendment.

While VFBV welcomes the additions of the three female reproductive cancers, we are continuing to urge and encourage all political parties to support the expansion of Victoria’s firefighter presumptive legislation scheme. The Greens have their own private members bill that will seek to expand the scheme to full list of 21 cancers that we are seeking support for.

With passage of the Justice Amendment Bill, Victorian firefighters will only be protected by presumption for 15 cancers (up from 12), with the Commonwealth government now recognising 20. Western Australia and the ACT have already introduced legislation to expand their schemes to 20, and Tasmania will be the first State to recognise 21. 

Members are reminded to please write, call and ask your local member of parliament where they stand on expanding Victoria’s presumptive legislation. A key way politicians can support their volunteer firefighters is to ensure that when they fall sick from the countless chemicals and hazards we face on our firegrounds, they are protected by presumptive legislation. Ask your local MP where they stand on the full expansion of Victoria's presumptive legislation.

VFBV has prepared a national table to assist members understand what cancers are covered by which State's, and to help members advocate for Victorian firefighters not to be left behind. You can download the table from the bottom of this page.

 

*** UPDATED 7th November 2023 ***

The Tasmanian Government have passed their expansion of Tasmania's Presumptive Legislation, with Royal Assent granted on Tuesday 7th November 2023.

Tasmanian firefighters (both volunteer and career) now enjoy Australia's strongest presumptive rights scheme in the country, covering firefighter's for 21 cancers scientifically linked to be caused by exposures involved in firefighting.

In Victoria, Victorian firefighters are only protected by presumption for 15 cancers, compared to 21 cancers in Tasmanian, and 20 cancers in Western Australia, the ACT and federally employed firefighters such as aviation. 

The Greens have introduced a private members bill to expand Victoria's scheme to the full 21 cancers. Volunteers are reminded to ask their local MP whether they support Victorian firefighters by supporting the Greens private member's bill and asking them how they will vote.

 

***UPDATED 1st March 2024***

QLD is the latest State to expand its firefighter presumptive legislation scheme to pick up the additional cancers added to the Commonwealth scheme in 2022. This now aligns QLD, TAS, WA, NT and ACT, leaving Victoria falling further behind.

VFBV continues pursuing further expansion of the scheme to pick up the remaining six cancers that were added to the Commonwealth’s scheme being primary site lung, skin, penile, pancreatic and thyroid cancers and malignant mesothelioma. 

 

VFBV are seeking expressions of interest from members to be Joint Committee District Nominees for the 2023 VFBV/CFA Joint Committees. 

Interested volunteers are encouraged to submit your expression of interest to your local District Council for endorsement by Monday 13th November 2023.

VFBV/CFA Joint Committees are a critical part of the consultative framework, offering a direct line of communication between volunteers and the state-level decision makers within the CFA.

If you feel you have a passion for one of the eight committees and have the time to contribute please contact your local District Council or local VFBV Support Officer to submit your nomination (nomination form available for download at the bottom of the page).  In particular, VFBV is seeking greater diversity across our structures and highly encourages nominations across the entire broad and diverse membership.

The eight Joint Committees are:

Community Safety Enhancing services for brigades to improve community preparedness, recovery, and resilience in the prevention of fires.
Equipment and Infrastructure Working closely with the infrastructure services and fleet management team at CFA to improve equipment, stations, and appliances.
Member Services 
(formerly Volunteerism)
Consultation with CFA to improve volunteer recruitment, retention, youth, cadets, events, championships and fundraising.
Operational Capability  Building brigade/group capability, addressing gaps in service delivery, personal protective clothing and equipment and specialist response.
Operational Performance 
(formerly Operations)
Policy, doctrine and standards to ensure continuous improvement including service delivery standards, safe operating procedures and lessons learned.
People, Culture and Safety 
(formerly HR, Welfare and OH&S)
Improving the welfare and safety of members by improving HR and welfare services and ensuring CFA is a safe place to volunteer.
Technology and Innovation 
(formerly Communications and Technology)
Working to improve member access to the best innovations in equipment, communication and technology, mapping and communications.
Training  Continuous review and improvement to course design, delivery and access to volunteer training and training equipment.

 

As committees need to be of a reasonable size district nominees are appointed to the committees via an expression of interest process and are approved annually by State Council.

The Joint Committee structure allows for selected district nominees to join State Councillors to be a part of planning for the future, developing strategies and raising issues that have been raised by the wider VFBV membership across all Districts. 

District Councils are asked to seek expressions of interest from members who wish to participate in the Joint Committees and discuss with them a few key considerations:

- A requirement to attend a minimum of four (4) meetings per year at CFA HQ in Burwood (or virtually as required), usually held on a Saturday or Sunday.  (2024 proposed meeting schedule below)
- Relevant subject matter expertise and the ability to actively contribute to the Committees work with a State-wide view of issues.
- A network outside their own brigade which will allow them to communicate views that are not just their own
- Willingness to report back to District Council and engage with members 
 

District Council Endorsement Process

District Council Executives have been requested to review all district nominations and provide a recommendation and priority order prior to submission to the VFBV Executive Officer.

District Councils have been encouraged to have nominations returned to them by Monday 13th November 2023, to allow time for the District Council prioritisation process prior to submission to the VFBV Executive Officer by Monday 20th November 2023.

With District Councils encouraged to wait until all nominations are received before ranking nominations in priority order and submitting all nominations in one batch to the VFBV Executive Officer.

All nominees must be endorsed by their local VFBV District Council.

 

Questions?

Contact your local VFBV Support Officer or State Councillors to find out more about the VFBV/CFA Joint Committees.

 

Proposed 2024 Joint Committee Meeting Dates

(These have not yet been endorsed, and are subject to change)

Round One Meetings

 

Saturday 24th February 2024
Sunday 25th February 2024
Saturday 6th April 2024
Sunday 7th April 2024
   

Round Two Meetings

 

Saturday 29th June 2024
Sunday 30th June 2024
Saturday 6th July 2024
Sunday 7th July 2024
   

Round Three Meetings

 

Saturday 24th August 2024
Sunday 25th August 2024
Saturday 7th September 2024
Sunday 8th September 2024
   

Round Four Meetings

 

Saturday 23rd November 2024
Sunday 24th November 2024
Saturday 30th November 2024
Sunday 1st December 2024

 

Tuesday, 05 September 2023 16:15

September 2023 Newsletter

Written by

Integrity and Honour 
By Adam Barnett, VFBV Chief Executive Officer    

It was theoretical physicist Albert Einstein who said: “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” The quote is taken from what is thought to be the last unfinished manuscript Einstein wrote in 1955, the year of his death.

In an organisation the size of CFA, a significant portion of information is disseminated verbally and through in person briefings, and is handed down through layers and layers, with each person supposedly repeating what they have been told. Anyone who has played a game of ‘pass it on’ would be familiar with the concept of each person whispering a phrase down the line, and observing how muddled the phrase becomes by the time it reaches the end of the line.

From a VFBV perspective, you can imagine the types of reports that often come to us that have the potential to be highly inaccurate. For this reason, our process and structures are designed to ensure reports are investigated and confirmed as best we can as they travel up the escalation path on any given issue. We have a commitment to seeking the truth and pursuing procedural fairness that puts us in good stead to sort the wheat from the chaff.

One of the things that often astounds me is when a member is worked up over something that VFBV has apparently done or not done. When I enquire as to why they think that - I am told “so and so” told me. Now when “so and so” is that far removed from VFBV processes and structures that no one would assume they would be even close to an expert on such things, I am often left a little puzzled.

VFBV has worked very hard with CFA to strengthen our consultative processes and ensure that volunteers are provided with the opportunity for genuine consultation on matters that have the potential to impact upon them. Genuine consultation takes time, energy and effort. It is not perfunctory, nor will we ever accept it as tokenistic.

Over recent months I have become aware of an increase of incidence of briefings emanating predominately from the District level that try to divert blame to VFBV for delays on various things. When these claims are bought to me, each of these claims are investigated and I can confidently report the vast majority are straight out porkies.

The remainder are a gross exaggeration or twisting of the facts. Recently, I have had reports variously ranging from helmets, trucks and training courses. All have been completely false and reflect very poorly on those making or repeating the claims.

For example, I have countless examples of where CFA has taken months and months, sometimes years working something up, to then only have it dumped on us at the last minute because when a manager took it to the executive for approval, they were unable to demonstrate any compliance whatsoever with S.6 of the CFA Act which requires VFBV consultation under the volunteer charter.

Rather than admit their error, every enquiry on these long-awaited projects from this moment on then becomes – “we’re waiting for VFBV.” Nothing about the 8 or 12 months spent beavering away inside their own little echo chamber, or years of inaction. Just look at the date on some of our SOP’s if you are after an example. So I have little tolerance when someone all of a sudden decides something is a priority and then tries to guilt us into rushing our processes after they have sat on the issue for years.

So, when you are told by someone that VFBV is delaying the process, I ask you to please enquire from independent sources when was the item actually referred to VFBV. Also ask to see the project plan that identified consultation milestones and planning.

I am also unsympathetic for ensuring items are out for consultation for long enough to provide volunteers a genuine opportunity to review, think and provide feedback. It takes time to make 1,214 brigades and more than 50,000 members aware of what is being sought. It takes even longer for them to then have their own internal conversations before providing thoughtful feedback and consideration of whatever the issue is. These timelines should be planned well in advance and built into the project brief, not tacked on the end as an after-thought.

And I cannot tell you the number of times that VFBV agrees to expedite a consultation request, only to then wait for months and months after we have provided our feedback for CFA to finally approve and release it. If it takes four months to get proper approvals from a dozen or so folk at HQ, why is it so unreasonable for us to take 90 days to try and reach 50,000?

I have been very pleased with the commitment from the new CFA executive to ensuring CFA commits and respects the relationship between CFA and VFBV and ensuring the charter obligations are met. I am somewhat disappointed however by how long this appears to be taking to drip down to the lower levels of the organisation.

And while this should not be breaking news – the provisions under the Act applies to decisions and processes being made at all levels of CFA, including both the District and Region levels. I find it somewhat ironic that District’s rarely question the delegations they inherit from sections 28 and 29 of the Act, (powers of the Chief and control of brigades) but somehow think section 6 does not apply to them or should be handled by somebody else.

If I sound a little frustrated, you would be correct, but this is a topic that needs to be aired. I have watched over some time now while our delegates have worked their backsides off, giving up their precious time accommodating expedited requests for consultation that are directly the result of poor planning and poor stakeholder engagement. We then have to deal with a frustrated membership who feel rushed, and then look cynically on the changes proposed because no rationale or background has been provided to explain why CFA is proposing the change in the first place. As the messenger, we cop a lot of this frustration and anger, yet take it in our stride that it comes with the territory.

To then be mischievously thrown under the bus by uninformed District briefings is nothing short of a travesty. I hope name and shame will not be required, but I will continue to monitor closely and adjust our comms as appropriate. I will simply not accept the reputation of VFBV nor our hardworking delegates being besmirched by inaccurate and false narratives. And while I normally give people the benefit of the doubt, there have been too many instances recently to just be a coincidence. My message to those giving briefings is if you are going to blame VFBV for your poor process or decision, you better have your facts squared up. We take our responsibilities seriously, and it is incredibly unfair to the tens of thousands of volunteers that rely on us to hold decision makers accountable to their charter obligations. On their behalf we will continue to advocate for robust and informed consultation and not some mickey mouse tick box exercise.

I acknowledge that by and large the majority of Regional and District personnel are people of integrity, and many are working constructively with VFBV to solve issues of concern. However, I urge all senior leaders to ensure we don’t have any outliers in our ranks that are simply ruining it for everyone else. Trust is hard fought and easily lost.

PRESUMPTIVE LEGISLATION

As communicated previously, parliament is considering proposals to expand Victoria’s firefighter presumptive legislation for cancer. Victoria has now fallen behind other States and Territories. Currently Victorian firefighters are protected by presumption for 12 cancers, with the Commonwealth Government now recognising 20. Tasmania will be the first State to recognise 21, and Western Australia and the ACT have already moved to align with the Commonwealth.

VFBV is encouraging all political parties to support the expansion of Victoria’s presumptive scheme.

While the Victorian Government has committed to supporting the addition of the three female reproductive cancers, it has not committed to the remaining ones. As at writing, the Greens is the only party to have confirmed its support for the full expansion of the scheme and has introduced a private members Bill, as well as proposing amendments to the Government’s recent Bill to have the additional cancers added.

Acknowledging the frequency of members interacting with MPs at brigade functions and ceremonies, we encourage every volunteer to ask their MP whether they support the expansion of Victoria’s firefighter presumptive legislation. We are also seeking the support of all government, opposition and minor party MPs, and request you ask your local pollie for their position on Victoria’s presumptive legislation.

I attended our national body, the Council of Australian Volunteer Fire Associations (CAVFA) in recent weeks, and am pleased to report that each State and Territory association has committed to pursing harmonised cancer coverage for each respective scheme. We will continue working together to ensure all volunteer firefighters are equally protected.

VALE

It was with great sadness that we farewelled our dear friend and life member, Ex- Captain Bob Horner AFSM with a beautiful memorial held on 16 August.

Bob was a member of Sassafras- Ferny Creek Brigade for almost 70 years, serving as a State Councillor for almost 19. During his time as a State Councillor he served as VRFBA President for one year, Vice President for two, and Treasurer for three. He also served a number of years as the Association representative to the Australian Assembly of Volunteer Fire Brigade Associations, including as an office bearer. Bob was particularly passionate about equal opportunity and occupational health and safety and tirelessly served on committees dealing with those matters.

On 25 August we farewelled ex-Captain Greg Godkin who we lost in the line of duty on 8 August upon his immediate return from a fire investigation he had conducted. Greg was a member of Donald Brigade for almost 60 years, and served as Captain, Group Officer and was a VFBV delegate.

As Greg passed away in the line of duty, his name will be added to the Firefighter Memorial wall and recognised at the annual memorial service next year.

Each service was deeply moving and a wonderful send off to two people who dedicated their whole lives to helping others. To both Bob and Greg’s family, friends, loved ones and fellow firefighters, I pass on our deepest condolences on behalf of the Association, and thank them most sincerely for sharing their loved ones with us, in service to their communities and the people of Victoria.

May they rest in peace.


 

2023/24 Affiliation Prize Winners
Thanks to all Brigades and Groups who paid their 2023/24 affiliations prior to 31 July this year and qualified for the early payment prize draw. The winners and their selected prizes are:

1st prize - Baranduda Fire Brigade (District 24) – G-Force Nozzle with Quick connect coupling and Gated Wye with Storz inlet and quick connect outlets;

2nd prize - Woodvale Fire Brigade (District 2) – 5 x Helmet Torches and carry case;

3rd prize - Hurstbridge Fire Brigade (District 14) – TFT Break apart Nozzle

4th prize - Watchupga Fire Brigade (District 18) – Root Soaker and Bag

A big thank you to GAAM Emergency Products and Powdersafe for once again donating these great prizes.

Remember, by affiliating, you are making a vital contribution to the important work we do on behalf of all CFA volunteers. Advocacy, support, research and the provision of trusted and credible advice are all strengthened when volunteers work together and stand united as one.

If you are not sure whether your Brigade or Group’s VFBV or Welfare Fund subscriptions are up to date, please contact your secretary urgently, as we encourage all those who have not yet affiliated to do so as soon as possible.

 

Skills Workshop
Following the success of the skills workshop held in January this year, the Urban Competition and Rules Committee are holding another skills workshop prior to the commencement of the 2023/24 competition season.

The workshop will be held on Sunday 15 October at the Bendigo Competition Track beginning at 9.30am. The workshop is open to all current and prospective competitors, coaches, judges and officials.

Throughout the day workshops will be conducted with experienced coaches and competitors covering the use of the tray in B Section Hose & Reel events; rolling on; competitor safety; appliance, Marshall and junior events and different skills required as well as a presentation on CFA’s Behavioural Standards.

There will also be mentoring and coaching on the different judge and official roles including judge in the box, announcers, on track judging, ladder catching and starting.

If you are interested in attending the skills workshop please RSVP to the VFBV office via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (03) 9886 1141 by Monday 9 October.

The Urban Competition and Rules Committee has also released a memo to competing brigades which covers the 2023 team of the year, elevation and relegation, the 2024 state championship dates and a request for applications for the 2023/24 competition season. The memo can be downloaded from the Urban Championships section of the VFBV website.

 

AGM
This year’s AGM will be held on Sunday 8 October, following State Council.

Please refer to page 2 of this month’s quarterly supplement for details.

 

Presumptive Legislation
In addition to primary site cervical, ovarian and uterine cancer, VFBV has been pursuing the expansion of the scheme to pick up the remaining six cancers that were added to the Commonwealth’s scheme being primary site lung, skin, penile, pancreatic and thyroid cancers and malignant mesothelioma.

VFBV has called on the Victorian Government to align its scheme to ensure Victorian firefighters enjoy the same protections and support as their federal counterparts.

Acknowledging the similarity of exposure to hazards by all firefighters and given how frequently Victorian firefighters assist their interstate colleagues, it is VFBV’s desire for the prescribed cancers covered under presumptive legislation to be as uniform as possible across Australia.

VFBV supports any efforts to expand Victoria’s presumptive legislation scheme to include these additional cancers.

Similarly, at least three other jurisdictions have added PTSD to their firefighter presumptive legislation schemes in order to acknowledge the routine mental health occupational hazards frequently experienced by first responders. Tasmania added PTSD in 2019, the Northern Territory in 2020, and Queensland added mental injury to their presumptive scheme in 2021.

VFBV is pursuing similar arrangements here in Victoria.

 

Quarterly Supplement

Included with the September 2023 edition of Fire Wise is the latest edition of the VFBV Quarterly Supplement.

The Quarterly Supplement contains 16 pages of relevant news, updates, information on current issues being pursued by VFBV on behalf of members. It also includes 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 VFBV delegates are requested to please take the time to read this and future editions, and table at your upcoming meetings for the benefit and knowledge of your members.

 

Recent articles on the VFBV website
Feedback Requested - Amendments to CFA policy for Working with Children Check Clearances 

 

Enjoy the VFBV monthly newsletter?
If you enjoy reading the VFBV newsletter each month, why not share it with your fellow volunteers?

Either share this page with others who may enjoy the articles or encourage other volunteers to sign up to receive their own copy via email each month here.

 

Want to read the VFBV 2-minute briefings from the CFA/VFBV Joint Committees?
The latest edition along with previous editions can be downloaded from the VFBV website here.

Friday, 04 August 2023 16:30

August 2023 Newsletter

Written by

Strong, safe and sustainable 
By Adam Barnett, VFBV Chief Executive Officer 

Speaking at an ‘Every Woman Every Child’ event, it was Melinda Gates who said “The world is full of what seem like intractable problems. Often, we let that paralyse us. Instead, let it spur you to action.”

From a CFA perspective, it’s not hard to think we are surrounded by intractable problems and challenges. On those days I remind myself that every journey starts with a single step, and as long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other then today is better than yesterday.

One of the difficulties that VFBV often faces is how to communicate progress on issues that seem intractable, or where inadequate funding or resourcing simply makes solving them next to impossible.

This month, I am updating members on some of these ‘slow burn’ type issues that we are working very hard on in the background but are still struggling to get traction or see results. I can however assure you we have not forgotten, nor have we given up.

TRAINING REVIEW

It won’t surprise anyone that training floats to the top of the list.

VFBV continues to hear from many of you about the difficulty brigades are having embracing the new general fire fighter program (GFF) that replaced minimum skills. While the new package was designed to be more flexible and modular to support a diverse range of delivery options, many continue to report difficulty in getting new volunteers through the program.

VFBV continues to pursue a review of GFF. While a review was committed to when the original program was rolled out, it has taken some time for CFA to recommit and schedule it. In fairness, the CFA Training department has had a little bit going on with other packages but given the frequency of brigade complaints - CFA has agreed to prioritise this work and are commencing a review.

Members would also recall that the Chief Officer commissioned AFAC to conduct an independent peer review into CFA Training back in 2021. That review made 14 recommendations, with CFA accepting all of them.

We along with many others have poured blood, sweat and tears behind the scenes to ensure this is not yet another review that simply adorns a shelf gathering dust. We have contributed to work groups, focus groups, steering committees and implementation plans to try and influence outcomes and results from this review.

While we remain optimistic that good work continues, both Samantha Collins and I, in our roles on the Steering Committee have continued to raise the concerns of volunteers about the lack of meaningful demonstrable progress. Volunteers tell us they should be able to touch, feel and experience improvements from this work, not just read about all the great work that has been done to date. We are told that the recommendations of the working groups are progressing to the executive and have been assured progress is not far away. While confidence is waning, we will continue to apply pressure to ensure all the good will and massive effort that has gone into addressing the report’s recommendations are not lost.

One stumbling block will be the lack of additional funds to implement some of this work that makes implementation very challenging. The lack of government investment in CFA systems and technology remains a significant impediment to progress. But we are encouraging CFA to make incremental progress and communicate transparently about which initiatives cannot be implemented due to funding, and those that can - ensuring that relevant business cases and funding bids can be made for government consideration.

And while I could dedicate pages and pages on the work we are doing to progress training issues that have been raised with us through District Councils, I will finish this section by assuring members their concerns around the ever expanding training requirements, longer courses and additional skills maintenance requirements is well heard and understood.

Delegates are working very hard to highlight to CFA the issues of concern and are offering to work with CFA to try and find solutions.

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

While CFA offers multitudes of different leadership style programs, these have been inconsistent and fragmented across different organisational units resulting in no clear or formalised pathways for volunteers to access formal leadership opportunities. CFA agreed to address these gaps by forming a volunteer leadership development project back in October 2020. The project was designed to establish a strategic approach to leadership development and implement a connected suite of programs that provide deliberate pathways to build transferable leadership skills.

While COVID interrupted a lot of this work, as did significant changes to personnel across CFA’s Human Resources and Training areas, progress on this project has been painstakingly slow. VFBV continues to express its disappointment in lack of progress on this project and will continue to monitor and encourage more tangible progress.

HEARING ADVOCATES

Readers of our regular 2- Minute-briefings would be well aware of the significant work we are doing to assist CFA improve its conflict and discipline processes.

VFBV remains deeply concerned about CFA’s formal hearing processes that require volunteers to be self-represented or left to arrange their own representation. We continue to express how unjust this is as well as the lack of checks and balances that should assure procedural fairness and natural justice being observed during the hearing process.

We continue to highlight the significant power imbalance that exists between CFA and the volunteer member being accused of wrongdoing. Everyone deserves a fair go.

VFBV has been calling for a program of hearing advocates that would undertake the same training that CFA’s hearing officers undergo but would be responsible for assisting the volunteer present their case and ensure volunteers are receiving the same duty of care and support as any other member.

The cornerstone of Australia’s justice system is set on principles such as procedural fairness, justice being blind and the presumption of innocence. While CFA has made significant progress on reforming its conflict and discipline processes, there is still much work to do. Sadly, we have approached an impasse with middle management on the development of a hearing advocate program. Efforts are now being made to escalate internally, and we will keep you apprised of progress.

RECRUITMENT HUB

Volunteers continue to raise concerns with the new volunteer recruitment hub. While the system appears to work well when both the brigade and recruit have access to reliable internet and technology, the advantages start to fade very quickly if either party can’t access or are not comfortable with doing everything online.

While there was considerable push back during early discussions, we are starting to see these concerns being heard and taken seriously. Delegates to our Member Services Committee are continuing to monitor and advocate for improvements.

HOSE TESTING

In a good news story, CFA has recently released its revised Hose Testing SOP incorporating much of the VFBV feedback that was provided. The SOP is well set out, concise and easy to follow.

Pleasingly CFA has removed the requirement to pressure test every hose after every use. Brigades highlighted that this practice was unnecessary unless the hose had been used in a hostile environment, and that firefighters should be trusted to inspect hose for damage and make a decision on whether it needed further pressure testing or not.

In response to this feedback, CFA has modified its procedure only requiring hose to be inspected after use. Pressure testing is now only required if defects are found or suspected. Hose is still required to be tested at least once annually and each time after repair or recoupling. This is a commonsense approach and shows CFA is listening to feedback.

In closing, while hearing about some of the intractable issues we are working on may be a depressing read for some, VFBV is pursuing more than 100 of these kind of issues through our structures. To its credit, CFA is at the table and indicating it is eager to work with us on finding improvements.

Please don’t lose sight of the incredible work that both CFA and VFBV achieve together, and the fact that regardless of our different approaches - each is seeking to achieve a strong, safe and sustainable CFA for all.

From a VFBV perspective, I can assure you we won’t ever stop trying.


Presumptive Legislation
For several years now VFBV has been active in calling for support for the expansion of Victoria’s Presumptive Legislation scheme. We have campaigned strongly for female reproductive cancers to be added to Victoria’s presumptive legislation, championed by former MP Tania Maxwell through her private members Bill in May last year.

In June of this year, the Minister for Emergency Services the Hon. Jaclyn Symes announced her intent to expand Victoria’s scheme to include the three female reproductive cancers. The VFBV Board formally commended this announcement and acknowledged the Minister’s personal contribution and advocacy in pursuing these changes.

In addition to primary site cervical, ovarian and uterine cancer, VFBV has been pursuing the further expansion of the scheme to pick up the remaining six cancers that were added to the Commonwealth’s scheme being primary site lung, skin, penile, pancreatic and thyroid cancers and malignant mesothelioma.

VFBV has called on the Victorian Government to align its scheme to ensure Victorian firefighters enjoy the same protections and support as their federal counterparts in the ACT and NT, noting that the Tasmania Government has also announced it is adding these cancers (but not primary site uterine) to its own scheme.

Acknowledging the similarity of exposure to hazards by all firefighters and given how frequently Victorian firefighters assist their interstate colleagues, it is VFBV’s desire for the prescribed cancers covered under presumptive legislation to be as uniform as possible across Australia.

VFBV supports any efforts to expand Victoria’s presumptive legislation scheme to include these additional cancers. Similarly, at least three other jurisdictions have added PTSD to its firefighter presumptive legislation schemes in order to acknowledge the routine mental health occupational hazards frequently experienced by first responders. Tasmania added PTSD in 2019, Northern Territory in 2020, and Queensland added mental injury to its presumptive scheme in 2021. VFBV is pursuing similar arrangements here in Victoria.

 

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.

 

Mandatory WWCC

Feedback is being sought on a CFA proposal to update its policy covering Working with Children Clearances.

This draft policy extends the requirement for all volunteers to hold a current working with children check (WWCC). The policy proposes a phased approach, requiring all members of a brigade management team and various other roles to hold a WWCC by June 2024. The policy then extends this requirement to all group and deputy group officers, as well as all members of a brigade that has members under 18, requiring them to hold a WWCC from June 2025. The final phase requires every volunteer across CFA to hold a WWCC from June 2026 as a condition of membership.

VFBV is seeking feedback from volunteers to help inform a VFBV response. Feedback can be provided by individuals, brigades, groups and District Councils. Please visit the VFBV website for more information, including a copy of the draft policy.

Feedback is due by Monday 14th August 2023.

 

Finance Polices

Feedback is being sought on a proposed CFA Brigade/Group Finance Policy suite. The suite encompasses six draft policies that seek to clarify the processes surrounding the management of brigade and group finances.

The draft policies cover things like approvals required for purchases, restrictions on the number of bank accounts, how funds can be spent and records required etc.

Brigades and groups are encouraged to go through the policies and provide any feedback to help inform VFBV response to CFA.

Feedback from members ultimately leads to either VFBV support or non-support for a specific policy, as well as contributing to our advocacy around amendments. Feedback can be provided by individuals, brigades, groups and District Councils. 

Please visit the VFBV website for more information, including a copy of the draft policies. 

Feedback is due Monday 14th August 2023.

 

Flood Inquiry
Volunteers are likely to be incredibly disappointed to read EMV’s submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the 2022 Flood Event in Victoria.

Neither VFBV or VICSESVA were consulted on EMV’s submission. This fact becomes obvious upon reading the submission and the underwhelming and brief mention of the efforts made by the volunteer workforce during the four long months of the flood campaign. Of the 115 page submission, the only overall metric of volunteer contribution recorded is contained within one sentence of the whole report:

“More than 2500 volunteers from 147 VICSES units were involved in the flood response, with more than 145,000 hours collectively volunteered.”

If members are looking for the section that covers CFA’s significant contribution to the flood event, you will not find one. In fact, the single sentence above is the only reference to the total volunteer contribution to the event.

Given conservative reports show more than 2,700 CFA volunteers responded to flood incidents during the event, and are estimated to have contributed over 8,000 deployments to the campaign, VFBV believes these facts should have warranted coverage.

VFBV continues to remind members that EMV has been officially classified by the VFBV Board as an organisation of concern and cautions any member relying on EMV statements claiming they respect, appreciate and consult with volunteers advising these statements are likely to be disingenuous at best.

 

Thank you

Thankyou to the thousands of CFA volunteers who completed last year’s VFBV vol survey.

We are currently analysing responses and preparing this year’s report. Summary results have been provided in the June edition of Fire Wise in our Quarterly Supplement.

To each of the volunteers who took the time to complete the most recent 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.

 

Fire Wise – August 2023 online only edition

The August 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 – Amendments to CFA policy for Working with Children Clearances

Feedback Requested – Brigade Finance Policy Suite

VFBV Board Vacancies - Invitation to Apply

 

Enjoy the VFBV monthly newsletter?
If you enjoy reading the VFBV newsletter each month, why not share it with your fellow volunteers?

Either share this page with others who may enjoy the articles or encourage other volunteers to sign up to receive their own copy via email each month here.

 

Want to read the VFBV 2-minute briefings from the CFA/VFBV Joint Committees?
The latest edition along with previous editions can be downloaded from the VFBV website here

Monday, 17 July 2023 15:52

July 2023 Newsletter

Written by

Feedback Loop 
By Adam Barnett, VFBV Chief Executive Officer 

The last several months have seen some significant items out for broad consultation, with the two most recent items eliciting a very high number of responses.

We sought feedback on draft changes CFA was proposing to its Radio Allocation policy and procedure, and feedback on a new draft policy that CFA was proposing to cover the consumption of alcohol at social functions and other activities.

First and foremost, I wish to thank every volunteer that took the time to submit feedback and comment. Our networks are designed to provide the opportunity for volunteers from every part of the State to provide feedback. This is important as a policy impact can be very different depending on the location of your brigade, how large or small it is, the makeup of the membership, and your own experiences which often provide different perspectives. To canvass feedback from 52,000 volunteers across 1,214 brigades takes considerable time, effort and hard work.

Our forums are also the perfect place for volunteers to discuss these impacts. Often there may be a perception of what a policy is saying that elicits strong feedback. Being able to discuss the policy in open forums such as our District Councils allows volunteers to hear feedback from their peers and often leads to a much better understanding and appreciation of what impacts may or may not occur in their own brigade.

Essentially, this elaborate and well-structured network is what drives VFBV to be determined to ensure decision makers use it, and treat volunteer consultation seriously to ensure issues are well understood, discussed and tested, with enough time for these discussions to be meaningful.

And yes, sometimes it can be difficult. No one likes hearing negative feedback, but if a draft policy has missed the mark, or has not prepared for a potential impact or other negative consequence, it is better for everyone to know that while there is still time to fix it.

In this sense, VFBV was inundated with feedback from members on CFA’s draft alcohol and other drugs policy. Only 13% of respondents indicated a high level of support for the draft policy. It was clear from going through the feedback that the draft missed the mark and underestimated many of the impacts caused by lose wording and vague scope and intent.

Without declaring what problem the policy was hoping to fix, it was left open to interpretation, of which there was many. In an organisation the size of CFA, it is important that policy writers maintain strict discipline in crafting policy language, scope and intent.

It is important to note that while there was overwhelming criticism of elements of the draft policy, we did not receive any feedback that advocated inappropriate policy settings or suggested volunteers did not support an overarching policy context that encourages the responsible use and serving of alcohol. This is unsurprising given the extremely high trust and reputation that CFA volunteers have built and earned in their communities.

However, there was overwhelming feedback that CFA policy must first and foremost be framed in the context that CFA is a volunteer and community embedded organisation and creating six pages of red tape that sought to reach across into people’s personal lives and simply tie people in knots was neither well received, nor appropriate given the very low incidence of issues. The point that many made was that the CFA behavioural standards, founded on the volunteer code of conduct that volunteers themselves designed and wrote - expressly outlines the behaviour expected of CFA members, so why the need for more bureaucracy?

The VFBV Board and State Council have considered the feedback received and have developed five high level principles to guide a future sensible policy. We have formally advised CFA that we cannot support its draft policy in its current format and have offered to assist CFA revisit its base assumptions, proposing a more effective policy that incorporates volunteer feedback.

While CFA has not yet formally responded to VFBV’s feedback, I have been informed that our feedback has been welcomed and is being taken seriously, with the intent of diligently considering the feedback provided before discussing next steps.

While we don’t always have to agree, this is the mature and professional way to approach consultation. Neither side is served by digging in or ignoring the others perspective, and I remain optimistic that genuine consultation, and a culture of actively seeking, listening and acting on volunteer feedback continues, and I congratulate the CFA CEO and Chief Officer on their approach to working with us to ensure volunteer consultation is not merely lip service.

There are two further major pieces of proposed policy currently out for consultation. Given their potential impacts, we are seeking broad feedback from all brigades, groups, district councils and individual volunteers.

The first is a revised CFA Finance Policy suite that proposes to streamline the various financial management policies and clarify processes for the management of brigade and group finances. In many respects, the new policies simply pick up elements from the brigade management manual that have been in place for some time now.

To its credit, CFA embarked on internal consultation with VFBV as it was developing its draft policies prior to their release, which has resulted in a better developed draft for broader consultation. While much of our initial feedback has been picked up, we are keen to hear from brigades and groups about the practicalities of some of the proposed changes, such as leasing arrangements, the use of brigade derived income from commercial activities such as fire equipment maintenance and the use of brigade social and welfare accounts.

The second item out for broad consultation is a revised working with children clearances policy. While CFA admits that the majority of roles in CFA do not perform “child related activities” and therefore do not require a working with children clearance under the Worker Screening Act, it is proposing to expand its policy to mandate that all members must hold a working with children clearance by June 2026.

Again, we are seeking brigades thoughts about the appropriateness of this requirement, and whether there may be any unintended consequences. In particular we are keen to gauge from volunteers their feeling about the administrative burden this may create, especially in remote and regional communities and the likelihood of maintaining such clearances in the future, and the workload of brigades to monitor and support members meeting the new requirements.

Interestingly no new funding or administrative support has been announced or proposed to accompany the modified proposal, so we are also keen to hear from volunteers on what additional support they or their brigade may require to support the proposed position.

While I suspect that every member supports CFA being a child safe organisation (of which it currently is), people may differ in how they think an organisation actually becomes child safe vs administrative processes that simply tick a box. I encourage members to have mature and robust conversations about the practicalities of the proposal, and provide your feedback, both positive and negative. It is critically important we don’t only hear from those opposed, but also those who support. We are committed to representing the diversity of views that are likely to be found across the membership. But unless we hear from you, this is difficult.

We are also keen to hear your views on the timelines of each schedule, the roles contained within each, how to manage members who rarely attend the brigade and the role of brigade management teams in overseeing compliance with the proposed policy.

I often remind people that genuine consultation isn’t simply about asking a question and then waiting upon a single response. It’s a journey – not a destination, it takes time, involves many discussions and sometimes it is difficult and challenging. But in the end, you get good policy and the desired outcome that because of the support, is actively complied with.

Good consultation is about empowering and trusting volunteers, engaging them as equal partners in the journey and sharing the underpinning issue, challenge or opportunity that we are seeking to address. While I am not convinced we are quite there yet, I do see positive signs.

Robust and genuine volunteer consultation is achieved by the proper analysis of the issue in partnership with volunteers; consideration of alternatives; providing timeframes that are respectful and appropriate for a large dispersed volunteer-based organisation; as well as a commitment to show how feedback has been taken into account and considered before decisions or next steps are taken.

Your voice matters and will have an impact on decisions affecting the future, so please get involved. And while we will keep striving for improved consultation arrangements with CFA, your involvement in feedback requests is critical. Visit our website for the drafts and where to send your feedback. We want to hear from you.


 

CFA’s newest brigade

VFBV welcomes CFA’s newest Fire Brigade at Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust in District 11.

This decision follows representation from the dedicated volunteer members who’ve protected their land for two decades as a satellite station of Toorloo Fire Brigade.

In accordance with the wishes of the local community and the principle of self-determination, an indigenous name for the new brigade will be determined following engagement with Elders.

A local CFA presence was established in early 2000s by a group of First Nations women who wanted to join CFA and be trained as firefighters following a series of blazes on the former Lake Tyers Mission in East Gippsland.

You can read about the history of CFA’s newest brigade, via CFA members online.

 

Transferring members
VFBV delegates have been raising concerns with the process of members transferring brigades. For some time now, there has been a changed process that has altered an operational member to non-operational status upon their transfer and has required the brigade to then specifically request their status be changed back to operational.

This has resulted in many members unaware their status has changed, and has the potential to impact on service records, insurance coverage and the like.

The Chief Officer has agreed to a VFBV request to rectify this anomaly, and the process has now been amended to ensure current operational members who hold a firefighting qualification retain their operational status upon a transfer, without the brigade having to submit a change of status form. Transferring members may not turnout or respond to fires until the Captain of the receiving brigade has endorsed that member to respond (as is the case now), but this no longer requires any paperwork and can be managed at the local brigade level.

 

Mandatory WWCC

Feedback is being sought on a CFA proposal to update its policy covering Working with Children Clearances.

This draft policy extends the requirement for all volunteers to hold a current working with children check (WWCC). The policy proposes a phased approach, requiring all members of a brigade management team and various other roles to hold a WWCC by June 2024. The policy then extends this requirement to all group and deputy group officers, as well as all members of a brigade that has members under 18, requiring them to hold a WWCC from June 2025. The final phase requires every volunteer to hold a WWCC from June 2026 as a condition of membership.

VFBV is seeking feedback from volunteers to help inform a VFBV response. Feedback can be provided by individuals, brigades, groups and District Councils. Please visit the VFBV website for more information, including copies of the draft policy.

Feedback is due by Monday 14th August 2023.

 

Finance Policies

Feedback is being sought on a proposed CFA Brigade/ Group Finance Policy suite.

The suite encompasses six draft policies that seek to clarify the processes surrounding the management of brigade and group finances.

The draft policies cover things like approvals required for purchases, restrictions on the number of bank accounts, how funds can be spent and records required etc.

While many of the topics covered are similar to those that currently exist in the brigade management manual, there are several areas of changed policy.

Brigades and groups are encouraged to go through the policies and provide any feedback to help inform VFBV response to CFA.

Feedback from members ultimately leads to either VFBV support or non-support for a specific policy, as well as contributing to our advocacy around amendments. Feedback can be provided by individuals, brigades, groups and District Councils.

Please visit the VFBV website for the draft policy.

Feedback is due Monday 15th August 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.

 

AFSMs for Dawn and Paul

VFBV congratulates the five CFA members who were among almost 1,200 Australian’s recognised in the first King’s Birthday Honours list this year.

Captain Dawn Hartog AFSM has provided 18 years of dedicated and exceptional service to CFA, initially as a staff member and now as a volunteer and member of the CFA Board. Dawn has extensive emergency management experience both as a firefighter and within Incident Management Teams as an accredited Level 3 Public Information Officer and has distinguished herself with her ability to effectively engage with a broad range of stakeholders to achieve outcomes which have made a significant contribution CFA.

Captain Paul Denham AFSM has been recognised as a highly experienced and respected firefighter in both urban and rural settings for more than 40 years. Paul has served in leadership roles with Boronia Fire Brigade, Knox Group and Buxton Fire Brigade as well as serving as a State Councillor with VFBV for more than 20 years and three years as a CFA Board Member. Throughout his service Paul has been passionate about training, the safety of protective clothing and equipment used by CFA members as well as advocating for improved amenities at fire stations.

VFBV congratulates Dawn and Paul for their outstanding contribution to CFA and the broader community. Congratulations are also extended to fellow CFA volunteers Leslie Kelly and Ian Graham as well as CFA Board Member Tony Peake who each received the honour of the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

 

Fire Wise – July 2023 online only edition

The July 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 – Amendments to CFA policy for Working with Children Clearances

Feedback Requested – Brigade Finance Policy Suite

King’s Birthday Honours List 2023

VFBV Board Vacancies – Invitation to Apply

 

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Either share this page with others who may enjoy the articles or encourage other volunteers to sign up to receive their own copy via email each month here.

 

Want to read the VFBV 2-minute briefings from the CFA/VFBV Joint Committees?
The latest edition along with previous editions can be downloaded from the VFBV website here

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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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