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Wednesday, 24 June 2015 00:00

Fiskville Inquiry - Interim Report Released

Just released: The Interim Report from the Parliamentary Inquiry into the CFA Training College at Fiskville is available for download below

NOTES FROM THE STATE COUNCIL DISCUSSION BEFORE VFBV’S PRESENTATION TO THE PARLIAMENTARY INQUIRY ON 15 JUNE 2015

The Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into the CFA Training College at Fiskville has the potential to affect far more than the future of the Fiskville site.

VFBV has provided a written submission and more than an hour of evidence and we have been invited to provide additional information in a second written submission.

The issues to be presented to the Parliamentary Committee were workshopped at the VFBV State Council on 13 June. The State Council determined that the key points to be presented to the Inquiry hearing were;

The safety of our members and support to any members who have been exposed in the past is paramount and should remain the primary concern.

The Committee must ensure the focus remains on safety of our members and support to any members, whether exposed in the past during training or at fire incidents, or members who may be exposed in the future.

Firefighters, paid and volunteer alike, need access to the best possible training and the most real-to-life training. If Fiskville operations are to be closed for rectification works, scaled back or ceased altogether, then the resulting gap in Victoria’s training capacity must be fixed immediately.

If this requires funding for improvements, alternative interim training facilities, or new facilities, then this must not only be a recommendation of the Committee it must also be backed by a firm funding commitment from all sides of politics.

Just as being safe whilst training is paramount, there is a huge risk to firefighters when they are confronted with real life situations if they haven’t had access to appropriate real-to-life training.

The Inquiry process must work to establish a level of confidence amongst firefighters, the community, the Government and the firefighters’ representatives, about the facts. There has been a lot of discussion of what is or isn’t safe, and what can or can’t be fixed. Our members need the Committee to ensure the facts are on the table, that the opinions and assessments of the independent experts are known, and the analysis, decisions and regime going forward are transparent and beyond partiality or self-interest groups.

Having spoken with volunteers across Victoria, we believe it is of utmost importance that the Inquiry must unbundle the issues;

  • Past versus present
  • Which problems have ceased or been fixed
  • Which current problems can be fixed
  • Which current problems require further solutions or warrant cessation of use
  • If there is a need for cessation of use;

o   Is it for all uses

o   Is it forever

o   Is it until the results of the remaining independent expert examination

Decisions about the future must also represent a sensible use of public money; funds already invested in the site, money that must be spent regardless of whether Fiskville continues to operate or not, and the cost of new facilities or new water treatment regimes. Compromising safety is unacceptable; compromising access to training is unacceptable; and any waste of scarce funding is likely to be met with equally severe criticism.

The importance of the real-to-life training undertaken at Fiskville over the years cannot be overstated; not just hot fire training but the full range of state level and specialised skills in incident management, incident leadership, operational decision making and real-to-life operational exercises.

Much of this requires multi-day and live in courses. The live-in experience and relationship building experiences are fundamental to the preparation required for firefighters to battle major emergencies.

Also of vital importance is access; the availability of training at a time and place, and in a format that suits members. We must fill the gap in local and state level training capacity left by any cessation at Fiskville, including in the interim until permanent solutions can be put in place. And while there is discussion of fixing Fiskville, we must also stress the importance of investment in training not just at Fiskville but at all CFA training facilities, and in the context of growing demand in future.

It is important that the Fiskville Inquiry gives careful consideration to the feasibility and cost effectiveness of all options, with no compromise on safety.

From the beginning, volunteers have asked for expert, independent, transparent and accountable analysis of decisions, and the Parliamentary Committee’s Fiskville Inquiry gives us the opportunity to ensure decisions, messages and treatment are based on facts, established independently by experts, in a properly transparent process.

It is also important that the Parliamentary Committee gives our members clarity, based on expert and independent analysis and facts, about the issues surrounding PFCs, PFOS and what is necessary to ensure safe water quality standards.

It is important to set clear standards and gain the support of Government and sufficient funding to establish this level of treatment and controls to ensure the cost of training, just as it shouldn’t jeopardise the safety of trainees, doesn’t jeopardise the accessibility of state of the art training. This may require a link to the full site audit currently underway before any final decisions – particularly any decisions along the lines of a permanent closure of Fiskville.

Fiskville is, of course, just a part of the big picture on training and maintaining the skills of our volunteer-based CFA and of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of its members, both paid and volunteer, and VFBV is alarmed at the continued delay in the introduction of presumptive cancer compensation legislation for Victoria’s firefighters.

Moving forward, we need;

  • Independent assurance of safety, based on facts
  • Informed decisions on any options for rehabilitating, fixing and reopening Fiskville
  • Protection of firefighters, not just during training
  • Empowerment and support to CFA to address training based on need, not capped artificially based on budget
  • Removing the rumour, speculation and uncertainty, and making decisions on independent, expert analysis of the facts

Ends….

Read 13024 times Last modified on Sunday, 02 August 2015 09:39
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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