News & Media

News posts from Claire Higgins

Resignation of CFA Chair

On Saturday 29 August, I advised the Minister for Emergency Services The Honorable Jane Garrett MP that I was resigning from the position of Chair of CFA, effective immediately. The reasons for my resignation are my own. CFA is a remarkable organisation. We can truly say that it was forged by fire and the tough lessons learned by those who battled it in the bush in the 19th century, and the wood cutters, forestry workers and farming families of the 20th century. The foundations of CFA are the resilience and self-sufficiency of country families and that same know-how can-do attitude is carried on by tens of thousands of members today. I’ve been exceptionally proud to serve as Chair of the CFA Board since 2012 and associated with CFA for almost 8 years. It has been a privilege and an absolute pleasure to be invited into fire stations across Victoria for station openings, truck handovers and brigade dinners. There have been so many memorable events such as the Easter art show at Hillside, lunch with representatives of peer support, meeting members and speaking at the Womens Forum at Berriwillock about leading change, sitting and chatting with staff from various stations such as Warrnambool, Portland, and Wodonga. I take away memories of many treasured conversations with members eager to clue me into their brigade’s particular challenges and achievements. I hope you feel I have listened to your concerns and feedback. I’ve been stirred to see the new recruits marching into the parade ground on graduating into the career firefighting ranks, and to see hard-won national emergency medals presented to our members. I’ve met members who are not just hardworking and well trained but utterly passionate about their brigades and communities. There are members who are meticulous about the truck and others whose lives have blossomed in retirement as they’ve launched head first into a brigade or group leadership or community safety role. People don’t join CFA because it’s easy. In fact, in many cases they join because it presents them with challenges they want to take on. They want to put their hand up for their community and be part of its protective shield against fire, flood and other emergencies. CFA is a proud volunteer and community-based fire and emergency service organisation. It is going through a turbulent transition but change is a positive. The heart and soul of CFA remains the front line: your surge capacity and commitment to training, and your connection to our communities.  I know you will continue to polish these ‘nuggets’ every day, value your community, your relationships and yourselves. I warmly thank the other members of the CFA Board, the executive, and the VFBV for their support and encouragement. To all the members of every fire brigade across the vast territory covered by CFA, I thank you for your support and goodwill and my best wishes for your future emergency service endeavours.

11.25 AM 31 August, 2015

Resignation of CEO Mick Bourke

Today I have accepted the resignation of Mick Bourke as Chief Executive Officer of CFA. Mick has led the organisation for the last six years through a period of enormous change and challenges including the post- Black Saturday response, the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and the government’s emergency management reforms. Mick is well-respected for his work within the emergency management sector as a leader and a professional. Mick has made significant inroads into CFA’s cultural change program which will meet the challenges of the future and I’m confident this work will continue. He has now decided to pursue other challenges.I have enjoyed working with Mick who demonstrated a commitment and enthusiasm to working with CFA and its people. Mick has expressed to me his gratitude to the Board for all their support and to the Executive Leadership Team for their hard work and commitment. He would especially like to thank CFA volunteers and those who support them for all the work that they do for the Victorian community. Michael Wootten will act as the interim CEO until further arrangements are made. I would ask that you give him your full support through this time of change. Regards Claire HigginsChair

3.30 PM 9 February, 2015

Diversity brings strength

Brigade members often talk about their CFA service as ‘from the community, for the community, by the community’. It’s an inspiring message of resilience and communities helping themselves. The wider organisation also operates on this same principle. Our members come from all walks of life, backgrounds, occupations and interests. We serve communities comprising men and women, boys and girls of all ages from a very broad range of ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, sexual preference and gender identification, and people living with disabilities. By honouring the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, CFA is proud to strive for greater inclusiveness and diversity, breaking down language and cultural barriers so we can truly be representative. As our communities change, we must change to better serve them. We do not serve them if we ‘play small’. If we are not relevant we will be left behind. Diversity within our ranks brings a much richer culture. Having a diverse membership is one of CFA’s key strengths, but we can do even better. Our recruitment practices strive to demonstrate our relevance to a wide range of Australians. While only two women went through career recruit courses last year out of just 34 female applicants, one of these women received the Instructors’ award at graduation – a first for CFA. Our 2014 women and career firefighting information day was extremely well attended resulting in 126 female applicants for 2015. That’s a dramatic change in numbers in one year. Well done to our career firefighting recruitment team. Two recruits from 2014 have an Indigenous heritage and another recruit can speak fluent Cantonese, which is also a first for CFA. To all our new career and volunteer members, welcome. You have joined a proud organisation with proud traditions forging a path towards greater inclusiveness and diversity. CFA’s Access and Inclusion Guidelines and other tools to support inclusion and diversity within CFA are being updated. We want to make it easy for you to better understand the diversity of your community and support you with the resources you need to better engage. Our Koori Inclusion Action Plan will be officially launched in National Reconciliation Week in late May. It lays out actions that will ensure our structures, behaviours, culture and values will reflect our respect for the Koori community, the traditional owners of the land. We recognise their connection to country and pay our respects to their land management practices and their elders past and present. Chief Officer Euan Ferguson is a White Ribbon Day ambassador as part of a national, male-led campaign that stands up against violence against women. Euan’s advocacy has encouraged more CFA members to swear the oath to never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. More than 60 CFA members marched in February’s 2015 Pride March in solidarity with all people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and intersex. They were led by our Chief Officer alongside Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley and MFB Chief Officer Peter Rau. CFA plays a critical role in keeping our communities safe and members of the emergency services are leaders in their communities. We are strengthened when we define our leadership role more broadly. Diversity and inclusiveness are the path to that greater strength and to relevance and resilience.

11.54 AM 9 February, 2015

Thanks for all your work

The new year has dawned and our crews are well and truly in the thick of it. Dramatic fires around Victoria demonstrate once again what an unpredictable and destructive beast fire is. Fire also has a terrible sense of timing with some members called away from the Christmas lunch table and kept away, in some cases, until after midnight. Unfortunately some members lost more than a shared meal at the Christmas table. To all those members who have lost fencing, stock and buildings, it’s a devastating blow to livelihoods. The road to recovery can be long, taking its toll on the most robust individuals and families. For many years now, CFA has offered its members and their families support through the Member Assistance Program which can be accessed by calling 1300 795 711. This free, confidential service helps people work through issues affecting their mental health or wellbeing. While many members have found either face-to-face or over-the-phone counselling an effective way to manage their mental health, the program also now offers an alternative. Skills for Psychological Recovery was developed as a result of the findings which came out of communities recovering from the impact of Hurricane Katrina in the USA. Over up to six phone consultations, a psychologist will help you develop skills to manage and/or resolve the issue troubling you. This may include building coping and problem-solving skills; building healthy social connections; developing strategies to promote improved relationships and promoting work/life balance. The health and safety of all our members is CFA’s highest priority. Firefighting is a strenuous and sometimes dangerous job. Please task yourselves according to your health and fitness levels, particularly in very hot weather. Heat-related illness, including exhaustion, is a very real danger. Please ensure that you are well hydrated on high fire danger days. It will benefit you even if you’re not called out. To those of you on the Victorian front-line who protect lives and property, responding from our fire stations day and night, thank you for your professionalism and community commitment.  We hear reports of packed community meetings in fire-affected communities and firefighters greeted with wildly-enthusiastic applause when they attend. Know that the respect and gratitude of Victorians and all CFA leaders goes with you as you go about your CFA tasks.

2.02 PM 16 January, 2015

Strategy workshop blog

The CFA Board, Executive Leadership Team and some members of the Senior Leadership Team took part in a one-day strategy workshop in late November to look at the five strategies that fall under CFA’s overarching Towards Resilience 2013-18 Strategy.

2.04 PM 12 December, 2014

Stategy workshop for Board and senior leaders

The CFA Board, Executive Leadership Team and some members of the Senior Leadership Team took part in a one-day strategy workshop in late November to look at the five strategies that fall under CFA’s overarching Towards Resilience 2013-18 Strategy. The workshop was arranged to finalise these strategies and shape their implementation plans. We needed to satisfy ourselves that the strategies form a coherent and integrated set of documents which guide our annual plans in the short term (one to five years) On a day with a number of speakers, the key tasks were to identify any gaps, duplications or inconsistencies in the five strategies, and begin discussions on service delivery challenges and strategy 15-20 years ahead. A substantial amount of time has been given to the Volunteerism Strategy, with the Asset, People and Finance strategies also covered recently, so the emphasis at the workshop was on the draft Service Delivery Strategy and the links between the five. Deputy Chief Officer John Haynes gave a presentation on this last strategy which is the key mechanism for ensuring that both CFA’s statutory obligations and the community’s needs will be met. This strategy is focused on the services CFA delivers externally and informs our future service planning and capability requirements across the whole organisation. With shared responsibility being put into practice, the community becomes the first line of both action and defence. In the context of growing and changing demand, will our current service delivery model and service mix ensure we continue to take our share of responsibility for community safety and resilience? DCO Haynes laid out the changes putting pressure on the way we currently deliver services. Against a background of emergency sector reform and financial prudence, our increasingly urbanised population is growing, ageing and more diverse while our volunteer workforce and climate are also changing. More frequent large-scale emergencies demand greater surge capacity but it’s also vital that the way we deliver our services respects our demand on volunteers’ time. The new interoperable era of all-hazard response gives us greater responsibility but also a need for the best coordination of doctrine, training, equipment and support. We can better understand our effectiveness by harnessing better data, analysis and performance monitoring.  Greater knowledge and innovation go hand-in-hand with technological advances, changing the way people learn, communicate and share information. These advantages must improve our response and also serve our increasing emphasis on prevention and recovery. The strategy must ensure that prevention and preparedness are recognised as fundamental to effective collaborative emergency management, just as warnings and public information are now recognised as fundamental to emergency response. It was a very productive day full of invigorating discussions. The Service Delivery Strategy is still under development and targeted consultation will occur in late December/early January.   The CFA Board will shift from authorising strategy to holding the executive accountable for implementation with our eyes firmly on the horizon 20 years out.

2.01 PM 12 December, 2014

Draft Volunteerism Strategy endorsed by Board

The CFA draft Volunteerism Strategy, developed in collaboration with VFBV, has been endorsed by the Board.

11.20 AM 7 October, 2014

Nine members appointed to new skills-based CFA Board

As Chair of the CFA Board, I would like to congratulate the new CFA Board announced today by Minister Kim Wells. The nine Board Members have been appointed as a result of changes to the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 to ensure the CFA Board represents a more diverse skill set. The new Board brings a mix of technical, financial and operational experience to lead CFA in best practice emergency management now and into the future. Its members also provide greater expertise and representation of CFA’s 55,000 volunteers, with four of the Board Members being appointed from a panel nominated by Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria. The appointments are: Chairperson – Claire Higgins FCPA, FAICD Appointed on 2nd October 2013, I will continue to serve as Chair of the CFA Board. I am a Board Director of the Victoria State Emergency Service, of Ambulance Victoria and of Vital Healthcare Property Trust. Deputy Chair – John Peberdy ANZIIF (Snr Associate), CIP John Peberdy, who joined the CFA Board in September 2009, is a business consultant, coach and a former Board Member of the Insurance Council of Australia. John was the CEO of Ansvar Insurance from 1999 to 2010, and is the Chair of Global Interaction Australia, and Chair of The Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA). Ross Coyle Ross Coyle, who joined the CFA Board in March 2010, is a farmer on a 5,000-acre family farm at West Wodonga. Ross is heavily involved in the rural community and has been a member of the Wodonga West Brigade since he was 14. Ross is currently the brigade's Captain. Katherine Forrest Katherine, who joins the CFA Board as a new member, is a partner in the Banking and Finance practice of King & Wood Mallesons law firm. She has nearly 20 years’ experience advising financial services clients. Katherine has also been a member of the Law Council of Australia Financial Services sub-committee since 1998. Michael Freshwater Michael Freshwater, who joined the CFA Board in October 2013, has served as both Mayor and Deputy Mayor with the East Gippsland Shire Council and continues to chair numerous committees and boards in the area. Peter Harmsworth AO, BComm, GradDipDP Peter Harmsworth, who joined the CFA Board in June 2007, has extensive experience in senior level management across the public sector including as Chair/CEO of the State Services Authority, Secretary of the Department of Justice and Director General of the Office of Corrections. James Holyman James, who joins the CFA Board as a new member, was until recently Executive Director of Strategy and Innovation at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. He has a strong background with CFA, previously working as the Executive Manager of Regional Services and Executive Manager of Human Resources and Quality. John Schurink John, who joins the CFA Board as a new member, is the Chief Customer Officer at the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority and has previously worked as General Manager of Operations at Rural Ambulance Victoria. Michael Tudball AFSM MBA, Grad Dip Bus (Mgt), Dip CD, FAICD, MIPAA Michael Tudball, who joined the CFA Board in October 2003, has held senior executive positions in state and local government and has managed his own business management consultancy for more than 10 years. Michael is President of the Djerriwarrh Health Services Board and a former Councillor and Mayor of Moorabool Shire Council. We warmly thank retiring Board Members Paul Denham, Reid Mather, Don Robertson and Mike Taylor for their dedication to CFA over the years and acknowledge them for the significant contributions they have made to the organisation. The new Board appointments will come into effect 1 September 2014. Regards Claire Higgins Chairperson

6.45 PM 28 August, 2014

Working towards a joint volunteer strategy

CFA welcomed the external scrutiny of the Jones Inquiry and, in 2011, developed the Jones Inquiry Implementation Action Plan in collaboration with VFBV. Last year we welcomed the Victorian Auditor-General's Office (VAGO) investigation and its Managing Emergency Services Volunteers report was tabled in State Parliament in February 2014. The VAGO report assessed whether CFA and SES effectively and efficiently manage volunteers. It looked at whether strategic and operational planning is adequate to identify and address volunteer resourcing requirements, including the capacity and capability of the volunteer workforce. The particular focus areas were attraction, recruitment, retention and support as well as the adequacy and effectiveness of training and education and the allocation and use of volunteers including surge capacity.The report acknowledged that CFA has an overarching support service strategy but we lack a sound understanding of the total number of volunteers we need. We also have limited knowledge of how effective our recruitment methods are because of a lack of performance frameworks.To quote from the report, "Neither agency can be assured that it has the capacity to respond to incidents when they occur because assessments of current workforce capacity overestimate their emergency response capabilities."CFA and SES's decentralised approaches to the recruitment, training and deployment of volunteers mean neither agency can assure itself that these activities are effectively addressing workforce needs. CFA is in the process of implementing programs that aim to address these concerns, however SES's attempts to resolve these issues are presently inadequate."Furthermore, VAGO recognised that, while CFA volunteers are supported, the reasons members choose to leave are not well understood because we don't currently conduct exit interviews.A new program management team will focus on implementing recommendations from both the Jones and VAGO reports. This team will receive strategic advice and direction from a steering committee made up of members from CFA, VFBV and the Department of Justice. The committee will be independently chaired by Dr Heather Wellington who has extensive experience in public administration and community services. Dr Wellington has served as chair of the board of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. She is currently a Surf Coast Shire councillor where she is a strong advocate for efficient service delivery and robust planning for a sustainable future. Her concerns mesh well with CFA's impetus to continuously improve our services for and support of volunteers. Against this background, CFA and SES have begun work on a joint volunteer strategy which will incorporate the key themes of the Jones Inquiry and VAGO. A workshop will be convened in the next few weeks involving key stakeholders. Over the next six months there will be extensive consultation with the field to ensure we are thoroughly addressing the recommendations.This work is vital. Tackling the issues raised in both reports is critical to our long-term sustainability and the safety and protection of Victorian communities.

11.00 AM 7 April, 2014

Working in an incident control centre

The response from our front line members to the Hazelwood open-cut fire has been nothing short of extraordinary. Firefighters have travelled from across Victoria, from MFB and from interstate. We've also had people from the same far-flung locations travel to work in incident control centres and regional control centres. An emergency means all hands on deck and that's how incidents have been responded to across a very busy summer. Our brigades and groups can always benefit from having more members and so can our incident control centres. Volunteering doesn't mean doing what you have to do but doing what you want to do; serving your community in the way that plays to your strengths and interests. Not interested in getting on a fire truck? Have you thought of the secretary or treasurer role? How about a role in getting community safety messages across to locals? Would you love to work with the Juniors? Does catering appeal to you or working in group communications? Are you technical or practical or sociable? These are all vital skills for CFA members fulfilling a range of roles. If you haven't found your niche yet, keep looking around and asking questions. Talk to your captain or group officer. Drop into your district headquarters to get a broader sense of the opportunities for advancement and challenge offered by CFA.The current issue of Brigade magazine contains information on working in incident control centres (ICCs). There are a wide range of roles from Planning and Situation to Community Liaison, Logistics and beyond. Does working in an ICC sound right for you?The Incident Management Team Training Project (IMTTP) aims to improve the capability of incident management personnel in Victoria. The project develops common training packages, leadership and exercising frameworks, robust accreditation programs, coaching and mentoring programs and experience-based learning tools.If ICCs are new to you, you'll be glad to hear that the project is developing programs to help people gain experience and exposure to the incident management environment more rapidly, learn from others and from previous incidents. These programs include computer simulation, coaching and mentoring and field-based case studies. In 2013, 935 people participated in IMTTP computer simulation program activities.A good portion of the project is focused on ensuring that all Victoria's emergency services agencies train their Level 2 and Level 3 incident management personnel to the same standard. In addition, an accreditation pathway is being introduced across all emergency service agencies. This pathway will see personnel nominated to key Level 2 and all Level 3 roles, and follow a rigorous process to develop and confirm their knowledge, skills and experience for the role. If you are interested in performing an incident management team role, contact your group officer or operations manager to find out more. Your energy, enthusiasm and local knowledge would be most welcome.

11.00 AM 17 March, 2014

Protection of lives and property via social media

More activity on the fireground over summer generates more social media activity for CFA.Emergency service agencies use social media to both share the most up-to-date information and engage in a two-way conversation with the public. Recent disasters in Australia such as floods in Queensland demonstrated that accurate information is spread widely during emergencies and misinformation can quickly be corrected if emergency services are actively monitoring and engaging with the online community.Traditional media channels remain important sources of emergency information but they require listeners or viewers to be switched on at the relevant times. During emergencies, many people are unable to constantly monitor radio or television to ensure they get the critical information that's relevant to them.It's vital that the public uses a range of sources to gather their information. This includes social media, the new Vic Emergency website at and agency websites such as media is delivered directly to people's mobile phones. Even people on the move can check the most up-to-date information when it suits them, not when the media chooses to broadcast it.The new FireReady app was released in December by the Fire Services Commissioner, supported by the Department of Justice and emergency service organisations. CFA lent a great deal of support to ensure the best possible product with about 117,000 people now registered users.The FireReady app is complex given all the data it must gather and deliver. Take time to get to know the new app: set up your watch zones so you can get direct alerts. Any feedback should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. // " mce_serialized="72" mce_' + path + '\'' + prefix + ':' + addy27998 + '\'>'+addy_text27998+''; //--> At the heart of social media is basic communication. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook build a connection to the community, but conversations you have online don't have to be any harder than a chat with someone who wanders into the station.  Well done to the many CFA brigades now engaging in these online chats and taking the protection of lives and property online. Brigades from Narre Warren to Mt Hotham-Dinner Plain are active on Twitter. A number of our regional directors are also regularly tweeting.CFA has almost 27,000 Twitter followers with numbers tripling in the past year. A tweet sent on New Year's Eve warning of penalties for illegal fireworks reached a potential 325,000 Twitter accounts through retweets and fireworks-related hashtags.CFA's Facebook page has doubled the number of followers in the past year to 208,000. Last October this post reached more than two million people through forwarding, sharing and liking: Join us in wishing our Victorian crew a safe journey as they join firefighting efforts in NSW. Hundreds of messages of support and gratitude poured in. CFA Social is a new group on Facebook where CFA members managing social media can share ideas and ask questions. There are 169 members so far and their brigade pages have over 70,000 fans between them. Any brigade wanting to learn more about social media should contact the Digital Media team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. // The Template Toolkit also includes helpful information: ‘Facebook for Brigades' and ‘Twitter 101'.CFA Facebook: Twitter:

11.00 AM 7 January, 2014

Take care through the summer season

Every December, CFA members have their eyes firmly trained on the summer ahead wondering what the conditions will bring. There's not much mystery for members from Loddon Mallee Region where there is a declared fire danger period for six months of the year. In fact, there's not much mystery for any of our members: emergency response is all about being ready for the unpredictable and trained up for random events and volatile conditions. In the protection of lives and property, always keep safety and wellbeing in mind - your own and that of others. The first lives you protect are your own and those of your crew. The CFA mission means every firefighter returning home safely after every incident.On behalf of the CFA Board, I thank you all for your dedication to your brigades and communities through 2013. You've all made a difference again this year in keeping your families, friends and neighbours safer. No doubt it's been a juggling act again for so many of our volunteers, whether employed or self-employed. There are many generous and cooperative businesses around Victoria willing to let our members turn out during work hours and we thank each and every one. To all our self-employed members who down tools or put the mouse aside to attend incidents, thank you for dedication. We acknowledge that you make sacrifices and sometimes have to step back from CFA: thank you for whatever you can give. We hope it is balanced out by the camaraderie of your brigade and the satisfaction of a job well done: locals working towards a common purpose and enjoying each other's company along the way.Our members are a cross-section of the Victorian community and that means that some of you are shift workers. All members must learn to identify fatigue but this is especially critical for our shift workers (and members with a new baby). Some of the highest-risk times for fatigue are at the end of a long shift or during the first night shift after a break. This current issue of Brigade magazine includes information about the dangers of fatigue. I urge all members to read the material and think carefully about what you could do differently to ensure you don't build up a sleep debt. Finally, I would like to thank everyone who stands up in a leadership position in CFA. Leadership can be both richly rewarding and arduous. A CFA leader is a community leader. CFA is held in enormous respect around Victoria because of the professionalism of our career and volunteer members and the personal reach you have into communities large and small. Stay safe through this summer season and enjoy time with your family and friends.

11.00 AM 12 December, 2013

Member support just a phone call away

When fires raged in New South Wales in October, CFA members gladly volunteered to go north and lend a hand. We can say that the fire season is well and truly under way but, with members paged at all hours of the day and night 12 months a year, the ‘fire season' is a misleading term. In July alone, brigades attended 191 house fires. Being a CFA member can be tough, and the 2009 fires highlighted both the dangers and the aftershocks that sometimes go hand-in-hand with emergency response. While emergency response is a round-the clock, year-round commitment you have made to your communities, the free and confidential CFA member assistance program is also available 24 hours a day. The program has been upgraded to provide a more tailored service for members and their immediate families. Closer links with other CFA support services such as peer and chaplaincy support and compensation programs, as well as short-term counselling support across Victoria, make it easier for members and their families to access the support they need.This service now has a new phone number: 1300 795 711. This is a number for every CFA member to have on their fridge and saved in their phone. Comprehensive help and support is just a phone call away.Presentations of the National Emergency Medal are now being made around the state to some 4500 CFA members. These medals acknowledge the extraordinary service to others of both frontline firefighters and the tireless workers in incident management and behind-the-scenes support.CFA's pride rests in the professionalism of our brigades and the skill and dedication of our members to the protection of lives and property. This is never so obvious as during a major emergency when members' commitment to both their local area and the wider community - be it in Victoria or interstate - is thrown into sharp relief. The medal ceremonies have been attended by significant government representatives who give their thanks on behalf of a grateful Victoria. Each event has been marked by that characteristic CFA mix of gravity and informality. Members in uniform step up to receive their medal in front of their family members and their brigade; a stirring moment for all those who gave so much time and effort and expertise to the firefight.Finally, I would like to pay tribute to former Operations Officer Peter Brereton who lost his life in a light plane crash while working in support of the New South Wales firefight. In almost 40 years with CFA including a stint as the Officer in Charge of Shepparton Fire Brigade, Peter dedicated his considerable energy and enthusiasm to the brigades and members of Hume Region. He was much admired and appreciated and his untimely death is being keenly felt throughout CFA.

11.00 AM 7 November, 2013

Inter-agency initiatives

As the Board meetings move around the state every couple of months, the preceding Sunday night gatherings with senior staff and volunteers are a particular highlight. Wodonga played host in early September and District 24 invited captains, group officers, staff and VFBV representatives to discuss their concerns. Thanks to all members who took the time to attend and give us a lively update on local issues.It was also a privilege to see Chief Officer Euan Ferguson award a Commendation for Courage to Senior Station Officer Sean Crosthwaite for actions taken when he was stationed in District 8. The commendation praised SSO Crosthwaite's calm and compassionate approach to an agitated resident at a property fire. Backed up by excellent teamwork, he defused a highly volatile situation and prevented further injury to a vulnerable community member. In a room full of the Board and very experienced members, the award generated a strong feeling of reflected pride. Congratulations Sean. I have now been appointed CFA Board Chairperson and look forward to the excellent support of John Peberdy as Deputy Chair. The September meeting was also the first outing for new Board member Michael Freshwater. Michael is a former East Gippsland mayor and is proud to be a fifth generation East Gippslander. He comes with a strong CFA background including stints as captain and first lieutenant at Lindenow brigade and deputy group officer of the Bairnsdale/Mitchell Group. Welcome Michael.Also welcomed at the Board meeting was the registration of CFA's newest brigade. Bellbrae has operated as a satellite of Torquay brigade but is now a brigade in its own right with a new two-bay station in a rapidly-expanding area. This is an excellent result for both the community and the Coastal Group. The strength of the new brigade is a credit to Torquay brigade which amicably negotiated the transfer of vehicles and sundry items. The Board briefly discussed the Ernst and Young review recently announced by the state government. The review will look at the way CFA headquarters does business with relevant government departments and help us to identify any opportunities for improvement. The four focus areas are governance; the structure of CFA's finance function which will be a useful input into Creating Our Future Together; financial reporting; and budgeting and forecasting.CEO Mick Bourke gave the Board an update on his membership of the Victorian Information Network for Emergencies program control board. VINE is an ambitious technological platform working towards the ideal of a common operating picture that will give decision makers a strategic overview of incidents. The community resilience module, for example, will aim to deliver a new single emergency management incident page and a new phone app.This information was complemented by the Chief Officer's update on the Common Doctrine project that aims to underpin emergency services interoperability with a common language and approach. Nine areas have been chosen to kick off the project: common capstone; emergency response driving; swift water rescue; hazardous trees; red flag warnings; warnings and advice; evacuation; readiness arrangements; and dynamic risk assessment.

11.00 AM 30 September, 2013

CFA Strategy 2013-18: Towards resilience

In early July, the Board signed off the CFA Strategy 2013-18. Its subtitle is ‘Towards resilience' to acknowledge the shared responsibility for planning for and responding to major emergencies. Together with individuals, communities, industry, government and our emergency service partners, we must take a more resilient approach founded on the principle of collaboration.The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission identified that traditional approaches to emergency response cannot mitigate their full impact nor take advantage of social and technological changes that can empower communities and make them safer. Our strategy is based on a shift in thinking. We recognise our vital role as responders to all-hazard emergencies, but a more comprehensive approach is needed in large-scale incidents. Our role is also to energise, equip and partner with all Victorians to prepare for, and survive, major emergencies.There are eight key factors in our shift in thinking and the first is responding to climate change. The increasing severity and frequency of extreme weather is impacting on the volume and intensity of emergencies. CFA needs to better engage communities so people fully understand their individual and collective risk.Traditional communication systems are not as rapid and responsive as social networking. Communities receive, share and respond to emergency information via their social networks and it is essential that CFA harnesses this power to deliver our services. Advances in communications and computer technology is changing the way people - all generations, in the city and country - learn, share information and make decisions. From community education through to our management of emergencies, CFA's programs and services must be technologically connected and move with community expectations and needs.Communities are no longer just made up of people who live close to each other. Interest-based communities form online, and the members might travel widely to pursue their interests and meet other community members. CFA service delivery has always been place based, but we must link to a broader range of community networks to encourage and sustain membership.The private and public sectors across Australia have to learn to operate within a tight economy. CFA must maintain public safety while delivering its services more efficiently and with greater flexibility.With the introduction of Victoria's Fire Services Commissioner and the State Government's Victorian Emergency Management Reform White Paper, CFA must embrace a collaborative sector approach and contribute strongly to the success of future arrangements.Underpinning the reforms in the White Paper are new governance arrangements designed to provide clear emergency management responsibilities. There are three key principles: the embedding of a collaborative approach; emergency management founded on community participation, resilience and shared responsibility; and capability with an all-hazards all-agencies approach built on networked arrangement, greater interoperability and a stronger emphasis on risk mitigation.Finally, CFA's shift in thinking moves us from a Victorian-based to a national perspective. The National Disaster Resilience Strategy, adopted by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2011, points us in a challenging new direction. Disaster resilience requires a national, coordinated and cooperative effort to build enduring partnerships and achieve long-term behaviour change.

11.00 AM 16 July, 2013

The CFA Plan and the Operational Training Strategy

A dinner held in Bendigo the night before the June Board meeting gave members of the CFA and VFBV Boards the chance to say goodbye to Regional Director Pat O'Brien and acknowledge the excellent work he has done in his 18 years at the helm in the north west. Some senior Loddon Mallee staff and volunteers also enjoyed the dinner. The Board meeting began with an update on the draft CFA Plan 2013-2018 from the Performance and Strategy directorate. It has incorporated the findings from a series of workshops run with a cross section of members and regular discussions with the executive leadership team.The draft establishes our strategic priorities as a collaborative emergency response agency that delivers services which mitigate risk and improve public safety; a community that shares emergency risk mitigation through capable first response and committed partnerships; improved land management practices advance resilience in the built and natural environments; frontline people who drive efficient, effective and sustainable service delivery; with our people being safe, capable, engaged and sharing a common purpose.The same directorate also presented the quarterly Risk Report which gives an overview of organisational risks. While the risks of extreme events and interoperability remain unchanged, the report acknowledges that all standard operating procedures and memorandums of understanding between the agencies were tested during a long and intense fire season with no major issues found, although post-season debriefs are not yet complete. The other three of the top five risks are improving: government and stakeholder relations were deemed to be progressing along with training campus issues with $16.8 million allocated to Fiskville in the recent State budget.The third improved category of risk was health and safety and this was also the subject of the Health, Safety and Environment Policy statement endorsed by the Board. Two overarching statements lay out the policy principles: the health and safety of our people will at all times remain our first priority; and CFA is committed to protecting our environment by using our resources efficiently and striving to minimise the environmental impact of our activities and operations. Another significant piece of work presented to the Board was the Fire and Emergency Management Operational Training Strategy 2013- 2018; part of CFA's response to the 2011 Jones Inquiry into arrangements for CFA volunteers. It also follows on from the 2012 Operational Training Discussion Paper which received 190 responses from teams, brigades, groups, districts and regions.This consultative approach has led to a strategy that highlights the importance of developing our people, demonstrating leadership and continually seeking to develop our capability. Successful implementation of the strategy will ensure that Fire and Emergency Management staff drive the planning and achievement of training goals in partnership with brigades and groups to ensure that training is aligned with service delivery priorities.

11.00 AM 29 June, 2013

Fiskville, Kilmore East trial, radio dispatch, minimum skills

The May Board meeting was held at Fiskville and it was a pleasure to be part of that hive of activity. CEO Mick Bourke and I were grateful to have the chance to meet and talk to staff, many of whom are long-time employees who live locally. It was the chance to acknowledge that, while they have laid out the welcome mat countless times for tens of thousands of members of CFA and other organisations, the recent media campaign is hitting very close to home.The staff of Fiskville look after our people so they can go home and better look after their communities; they directly contribute to the protection of lives and property. The CFA Board and the wider CFA community are utterly supportive of our Fiskville staff and invested in the future of Fiskville.Mick Bourke updated the Board on the Kilmore East trial. The plaintiff's case has been heard and discussions have begun around the electricity case that SPI will mount. It is expected that the government's case through CFA, DEPI and Victoria Police is not likely to be heard until July at the earliest. The government parties have also offered to assist both the plaintiff and the defendant in growing an understanding of the property loss and personal injury cost of the Kilmore East fire.The CEO also detailed the consistent approach now being taken to fire station construction and renovation. This means that the combination of station types will be quite different from what it was a year ago with 250 stations due to be either built or upgraded by the end of the government's first term.Chief Officer Euan Ferguson informed the Board of the Doctrine of Victorian Fire and Emergency Agencies that has now been signed by all agencies. The doctrine will set a common standard to achieve interoperability based on industry best practice, providing guidance on actions and judgements to all agency personnel.The Chief gave an update on the Regional Radio Dispatch Service that will directly benefit almost 1000 brigades. Some 500 brigades currently operating as Category 1 dispatch on the Interim Regional Dispatch Radio Service will migrate alongside another 500 currently operating as Category 5 dispatch with no direct radio communications to ESTA.All the recommendations of the recent Minimum Skills review have been endorsed by the Chief Officer. These include the establishment of new training specifications for an all-hazards skills program and its incorporation as the initial training program for volunteers; and the assessment of these skills to be conducted on the job with members under training entering the fireground under direct supervision. The changes may also include the forming of a strategic partnership with TAFE to deliver training to address gaps associated with the awarding of national competencies.

11.00 AM 31 May, 2013

Occupational Health and Safety Act, Kilmore East, fire season facts

The April Board meeting began with a presentation on health, safety and environment leadership and compliance. The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 sets out the law and due diligence with CFA officers and leaders required to take reasonable steps to acquire knowledge of health and safety matters; understand operations and generally associated hazards and risks; ensure resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks; ensure processes for timely information and response to incidents, hazards and risks; ensure processes implemented to comply with specific duties and obligations under the Act such as consultation and incident notification; and verify the provision and use of resources and processes. Perhaps the most vital aspects of the Act in relation to the CFA Board are to ensure that CFA most effectively uses what it has; effectively leads and influences; and ensures a focus on the interaction of CFA with other emergency services, related organisations and the community so that skills and resources are effectively coordinated. With these priorities in mind, the Board committee structure has been reshaped into four committees with each now in the early days of establishing its priorities, a work plan and a charter. They are the Health, Safety and Environment; Finance, Risk and Audit; People, Remuneration and Culture; and Service Delivery committees. CEO Mick Bourke updated the Board on the Kilmore East class action. With class applications now closed, there is more potential for the parties to establish the limits of their liabilities and consider potential options to resolve the matter without running the trial through this year and perhaps even into 2014. The Board was advised of the Bushfires Preparedness Program Evaluation Project that will provide an understanding of a solid cross section of the 59 projects, their benefits and effects within CFA and the wider community. This will include gathering data about what people did on high risk days and what actions they took in response to CFA program information. The CEO also informed the Board of the proposed content to be mailed out to every brigade mid-year on a USB. Inclusions are likely to be a community engagement video, media training and the ‘We are CFA' PowerPoint presentation and video. This material is designed to support brigades as they reach out to their community either directly or through the media, and convey that all households must partner with us in confronting fire risk. Chief Officer Euan Ferguson presented the Board with a very impressive list of facts and figures about the fire season: 4139 bush and grass fires from December to February with 23 of these proving very significant in terms of duration and threat; with fire investigators attending 325 fire scenes. More than 18,000 calls were made to the Victorian Bushfire Information Line in January alone while 110 emergency warnings were issued across the season.Some firefighting aircraft remain in Victoria to support planned burning operations into the beginning of May. Under threat from fast and intense fires, a number of crews were forced to enact full crew protection. All crews followed correct procedures as learned in training and the Chief, with pride, commended this quick thinking under difficult conditions. The Board approved the formation of the specialist Oscar 1 Emergency Response Brigade. The primary purpose of the brigade is to provide first response to incidents in disused mines and quarries, a service they provided with distinction just days earlier when a man fell 35 metres down a disused mine shaft. Congratulations! As with all our brigades this fire season, your training and teamwork have served you and your communities exceptionally well and done CFA proud.

11.00 AM 22 April, 2013

Reviews of the fire season

The March Board meeting was held in Bairnsdale and was preceded by a gathering with many local staff and volunteers. It's always a privilege and a pleasure to spend an evening socialising with members and learning more about local issues. The topic of the night was the replacement of the pagers. The Unication Alpha Legend was the only pager to meet all the technical criteria, but CFA received critical feedback during the initial phase of member testing that led to modifications. A second phase of testing is currently being extended to 400 users as requested by VFBV. These members will be able to check on the requested upgrades to the software, but some things cannot be modified. The Unication Alpha Legend is the toughest pager screen on the market but it is smaller and members must scroll through the messages with no medium font available. More information will be provided as it becomes available.The Board meeting began with a briefing from the Chief Officer Euan Ferguson on the fire season. Such a busy season throws up a number of reviews into vehicle incidents and emergency response. Such enquiries fit into the stream of continuous improvement and are simply good practice.A key review currently underway is the Harrietville review into the management of fire suppression during the first 72 hours as requested by the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and to be led by the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner. Members who were significant decision makers will be important in helping assemble the facts, make statements or perhaps work as subject matter experts. We thank them in advance for their diligence. All members have CFA's full confidence and will have our practical support as the review progresses. No doubt it will spark considerable public and media interest.The Chief also provided an update on discussions between CFA, the Department of Treasury and Finance and DSE about volunteers conducting planned burns on public land. In its early days, this project is considering the availability of volunteers, training needs, blocks to participation, equipment, operational risks and the legislative framework.Meanwhile, the background work of CFA goes on. The Chief is monitoring the commissioning of aerial pumpers, hazmat and rescue vehicles to ensure they are actively managed. Ten heavy tankers on an Iveco cab chassis are being manufactured as proof of concept for the medium concept tanker. A remaining 261 stations have been identified as not having toilets. This is a matter that is being worked through.The five volunteer and five integrated stations taking part in the Emergency Medical Response pilot are participating in a review due to be completed this April. All 10 brigades continue to provide the EMR service while the evaluation is being completed.Chief Executive Officer Mick Bourke informed the Board that the Regional Radio Dispatch Service (RRDS) State Government contract has now been signed. CFA will be the initial managing agent for the State build and operationalisation of RRDS. It will not only enable radio dispatch capability to more than 500 brigades who do not have that capacity now, but will offer great potential for other emergency services. The CEO also advised that the general agreement about ongoing funding for VFBV has been accepted by all parties. The Kilmore East civil action trial began on 4 March and the CEO provided an update on the first week of proceedings. At the outset, SPI emphasised that the warnings case was not directed at individual officers but directed to the general spread of information. Chris Caleo, Senior Counsel for CFA, DSE, Victoria Police, emphasised shared responsibility and that, as part of community education about bushfire safety, communities were consistently warned that the circumstances of a fire may mean that warnings would not be able to be given, or may not reach them, and individuals would need to rely on their own judgment about when to leave.Importantly, prior to trial, the suppression case against CFA was dismissed. This is great news for all those CFA members who fought hard on Black Saturday to protect lives and property.

11.00 AM 22 March, 2013

February Board meeting

Victorian fire services are mourning the loss of four firefighters in the line of duty this fire season - an incalculable loss to their families, friends, colleagues and communities. CFA and the Department of Sustainability and Environment stand together, devastated by their tragic deaths that are all being investigated by the coroner. Chief Officer Euan Ferguson addressed the long and arduous fire season in his report to the Board and the risk of fatigue that comes along with it. The health and safety of our people on the frontline is the most important thing. The Chief expressed his absolute confidence in the professionalism of our firefighters, with a range of communication channels being used to reiterate key messages: look out for yourselves and each other, stay hydrated and maintain situational awareness. Fireground injuries and ailments this season have ranged from debris in eyes through to a driving near-miss due to fatigue. Two vehicle rollovers are still under investigation. Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria CEO Andrew Ford gave a presentation to the CFA Board on the results of their recent welfare and efficiency survey. The Board and senior management have been invited to work with VFBV to understand the issues and perceptions behind the survey results with a second survey to be conducted in March-April this year. All interested members are strongly encouraged to participate and share their views. CEO Mick Bourke updated the Board on issues with the CFA website, especially the Incidents and Warnings page, and the Fire Ready app. The CEO led the project team investigating the website slowdown on the fire weather spike day of 4 January. He reported that the app placed heavy loads on the available bandwidth for data transfer which slowed and reduced the web service capacity. The website was stabilised and has been fully operational since 5 January. We are working with the Department of Justice, Department of Premier and Cabinet, the Fire Services Commissioner, DSE and MFB on improving the settings for the app. The CEO informed the Board of the appointment of former Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe as the independent monitor on Fiskville. Reporting directly to the CFA Board Acting Chair, Mr Walshe will oversee CFA's progress in implementing the ten recommendations and eleven management initiatives resulting from the Professor Joy report. Mr Walshe's reports will be made available to the public, as was that of Professor Joy in July 2012.

11.00 AM 19 February, 2013
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