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CEO's first 100 days
After three months as CEO and thousands of kilometres on the road attending CFA events and meeting members, Lucinda Nolan is most impressed by “the pride in the organisation, the pride in services delivered and problems worked through, and the pride in continuous improvement”.
By Leith Hillard
Lucinda has gone out one or two days every week, setting the agenda so she can learn about the myriad of CFA roles, functions and risks across Victoria from East Gippsland to central Victoria, in integrated and volunteer brigades, and from leadership demonstrated by everyone from district mechanical officers through to dynamos running catering vans.
When it comes to telling some stories from the road, Lucinda says, “Where do I start?
“I’ve seen the professionalism of the DMOs, getting our trucks in good working order and back into the field as soon as possible while maintaining a safety-first focus. I’ve spent time with professional outfits like Werribee brigade who are really busy and run a very organised brigade.
“I visited the Longwarry Fire Brigade market and was blown away by their self-sufficiency. The brigade runs and coordinates the market, they fundraise, they innovate, they maintain a sustainable budget. They’ve invited other neighbouring brigades along to contribute and receive a cut of the proceeds in return. They’re really well set up with a fantastic catering van pumping out scones. They’re so proud of the market and no wonder – it’s such a successful model.
“I’ve been able to observe CFA in action. People have been so willing to share their personal and professional experiences, share their issues and discuss things like local risks. Importantly, though, people also let me know their solutions.
“I’ve come on in the midst of issues like the Fire Services Review, the Fiskville Inquiry and the EBA so it’s been about learning the business.”
A number of large initiatives are now looming.
“Diversity is a big one,” continues Lucinda. “We want to make CFA a more attractive workplace for both men and women. We’re currently unable to facilitate any form of part-time employment, which isn’t inclusive or flexible and doesn’t reflect modern workplaces.
“In other workplaces, many women as well as men return to work on a part-time basis after having children. Other emergency service organisations , including all other firefighting organisations around Australia, have the capacity to provide operational staff with part-time work and it’s time CFA did the same. Amending the Fire Fighting Industry Award 2010 (Award) which currently only provides for full-time employment for operational staff including firefighters is a first step.”
The award provides a baseline for CFA and its operational members to negotiate an enterprise agreement. The Fair Work Commission reviews modern awards every four years and the Fire Fighting Industry Award 2010 is now up for review. CFA and MFB have asked the Commission to remove a restriction in the award that prohibits the fire services from employing firefighters on a part-time basis and the matter will be heard in April.
Training will also be a significant focus this year. Since 2008 there have been 13 independent reviews into training at CFA and Lucinda agrees that “we’ve been reviewed to death.
“We’re finalising a draft action plan – emphasis on action – to be sent out to the membership for consultation. It’s a risk-based plan that aims for every brigade to have the capability to complete all jobs they’re called out to. Twelve months after its release, we’ll send out a scorecard to check the initiatives are tracking well.
“Flexibility is key here. We’re a diverse organisation and we have to be flexible in how we deliver training and build capacity.”
The Red Paper has also gone out to the membership for consultation and will be used to inform a 10-year capability plan. It aims to be a distillation of the current five networked strategies: service delivery, volunteerism, people, assets and finance.
“One concise plan will give us a clear line of sight on the future,” says Lucinda of a document that recognises that business-as-usual cannot and will not lead to a more sustainable, fit-for-purpose organisation responsive to the challenges of change.
And finally, one overarching theme: the provision of safe workplaces for each and every member, no matter their membership classification.
“There’s an obligation that everyone be respected for their contribution,” says Lucinda. “Disrespectful communications and behaviour must be called out. Bullying, harassment and intimidation, whether of peers or managers, must have an effect on the professional delivery of services.”