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Thursday, 24 September 2015 00:00

Fire Services Review - Latest Update

Click here to hear ABC774’s on air forum on the Fire Services Review, with Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley, VFBV’s Andrew Ford and the United Firefighters’ Union’s Peter Marshall. The forum went to air on Thursday, 7 April, on Jon Faine’s Conversation Hour.

VFBV Chief Executive Officer Andrew Ford’s Note to Members on the Government’s Response to the Fire Services Review’s recommendations

The Government has now released the Fire Services Review report and probably more importantly the State Government’s response to the report’s recommendations.

Both of these documents are available for download below and also from the Fire Services Review website.  The Fire Services Review website includes copies of all public submissions including VFBV, CFA and EMV submissions.

I think most CFA volunteers will be pleased overall with the Government’s response to the review.  A key theme throughout the review is a recognition of the enormous front line and collective capacity of Victoria’s fire services.  There is a very strong theme of needing to ensure there is a culture and collective respect of the skills, knowledge and professionalism of Victorian firefighters, volunteer and paid staff alike, regardless of pay status.  The report calls to improve leadership and to address a concerning culture that has tolerated; treating people differently based on pay status; bullying and harassment; poor front line worker and management relationships; and a ‘them and us’ approach.

There is a strong call for everyone in the sector to focus more energy on working as one.  There is strong recognition of the need for CFA to have more flexibility in the way it deploys resources to support local brigades and community circumstances, and there is an identified need to improve leadership from agency executive level through to Brigade level and across the sector’s collective leadership.

The review recognises the strengths of the existing fire services and says that effort should be focussed on ensuring the separate fire services share common effort, reduce duplication and work as one.  The report explicitly advises against any contemplation of amalgamating the MFB and CFA, reporting that this would have a negative rather than constructive impact. 

The report acknowledges the extensive and essential capacity of CFA’s volunteer Brigades and the fundamental value of sustaining and building strong integration in those communities where paid staff are required to supplement volunteer capacity.  The report identifies the essential nature of CFA’s volunteer Brigade surge capacity for major and concurrent events.

There are 20 recommendations, and the Government has identified an action to address 18 of these.  Several recommendations are earmarked for further discussion/work and the Government has committed to work with VFBV and others on the detail of these.

Based on some commonly discussed issues during the review, many volunteers will be particularly interested in the following recommendations and government response;

  • Recommendation 9, concerning consideration of a Firefighters’ Registration Board – Government response is to initiate national consultation on this over the next five years.  The report detail suggests this would need to be open to volunteers and paid firefighters alike and would provide an opportunity to facilitate lateral entry and recognise skills, irrespective of whether they are paid or volunteer.
  • Recommendation 18, concerning deploying Leading Firefighters or Station Officers to provide administrative, technical, community engagement and operational support to volunteer Brigades.  The Government has supported the intent of finding ways to support volunteer Brigades, but has noted the best means to deliver that support requires further consideration.
  • Recommendation 17, includes recommendation that CFA review the process for selecting Brigade Captains.  Government response suggests a selection process be developed to enhance the current approach to focus on ensuring the necessary leadership and technical skills needed for the role.  This work has a timeframe of the next two years.
  • Recommendation 5, includes developing best practice models for initiation and planning for the establishment of integrated Brigades and the selection of leaders of integrated Brigades, drawing on successful processes adopted to date.  Government response is that CFA is to lead a short review to identify best practices.
  • There are also recommendations concerning training; health & wellbeing; developing leadership; and better engagement with volunteers and representative bodies.

VFBV will seek to be very closely involved with work on these and the actions proposed for all other recommendations.

Of interest is an acknowledgement to include VFBV on EMV’s Fire Services Interoperability Committee.  This is consistent with VFBV’s previous requests to EMC Craig Lapsley and also an issue covered in our submission to the review.  VFBV has previously expressed dissatisfaction to the EMC about not being included in this important forum.

There are several recommendations relating to culture in the fire services and issues specifically relating to bullying and harassment.   VFBV has already welcomed the CFA-commissioned Equity and Diversity Review being conducted by VEOHRC.

At a more strategic level, there are recommendations involving consideration of possible future service delivery models, a review of CFA and MFB legislation, and a review of the legislation giving powers to EMV, but no specific direction set down as yet.  VFBV will certainly be taking a keen interest to ensure these important issues progress in a positive way.

See below to download a copy of VFBV’s media release supporting the Government's response, the Fire Services Review report and the Government’s response.

VFBV has supported the Government’s response to the Fire Services Review and commended Minister Garrett for taking the time to make a sensible and considered response.  We have also welcomed the invitation to work with Government on the issues requiring further consideration.    Over all, our reaction to the Government’s response to the review’s recommendations is positive and I believe this provides a good foundation for us to work constructively with Government and the CFA.  I have said publicly, as you will see in our media release, that in the main the Government’s response to the Fire Services Review is on the mark, and for the issues requiring more work, VFBV looks forward to working with Government, the agencies and other stakeholders.

Andrew Ford

Chief Executive Officer


VFBV's submission to the Fire Services Review

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) lodged a detailed 48 page submission with the State Government’s Fire Services Review, with considerable contributions from VFBV Delegates and individual volunteers. It was lodged alongside many more submissions from District Councils, Brigades and volunteers.

Our submission drew upon the work we have done on 11 other inquiries and reviews since 2008, including data from the annual VFBV Volunteer Welfare and Efficiency Survey and issues already being raised through VFBV’s extensive consultative networks.

Volunteers noted the Minister’s statements at the time of the announcement of the Review, that an amalgamation of CFA and MFB “is not on the Government’s agenda” and that “Victoria’s fire services and their boundaries will remain intact”.

The covering letter from VFBV and VFBV’s submission to the Review raised a number of issues familiar to volunteers, and there was a detailed summary in the accompanying VFBV Notes for Volunteers – all three documents are available for download below.


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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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