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Draft CFA Volunteerism Strategy feedback
'What members have said'
In late 2014, CFA members were invited to provide their feedback on a draft CFA Volunteerism Strategy. The draft strategy puts forward principles, objectives, strategic actions and performance measures to ensure that CFA remains a thriving volunteer-based emergency service well into the future.
This strategy is one of CFA’s five networked strategies in development, spanning service delivery, people, volunteerism, asset management and finance.
In addition to providing the draft strategy online and through mail to all brigades, groups, District Planning Committee Chairs and VFBV District Council Presidents, regional forums were held in Beechworth, Nagambie, Hamilton, Winchelsea, Boronia, Ararat, Horsham, Ballarat and Dandenong. These small, focused forums provided great opportunity for discussion on the issues and ideas that volunteers have about the future at CFA. The strategy was also presented at various DPCs and Group meetings including those in Swan Hill, Castlemaine, Warragul, Melton, Maffra, Morwell, Yarram and Traralgon.
To summarise the feedback received during the consultation process, an outcomes report titled ‘What members have said’ has been prepared. This feedback will help shape the revised Volunteerism Strategy which is being submitted to the CFA Board.
The consultation outcomes report looks at a number of major themes raised by members. Some of these are summarised below.
“Why we volunteer”
Members feel that this is the foundation for all that follows in a volunteerism strategy. They stated that it is important to understand the range of motivations that drive people to become volunteers.
Culture and leadership
Members underline the need for a culture that is genuine in how it values and respects volunteers. Members also want leaders at all levels with “good people skills”. For many, this is seen as a “make or break” issue for CFA.
Senior members’ experience
The subject of valuing senior members, including those who step down from Brigade Management Team roles, has been regularly raised. Retaining these members, and drawing upon their experience to help in developing newer members is important.
Flexible training and mentoring
This was a key area of feedback. The need for more flexible training programs in suitable formats, at suitable locations and at flexible times is highlighted as a key enabler to sustaining volunteerism. While some members want training to be kept to the minimum amount necessary, others want CFA to explore better options for enthusiastic and experienced members who seek to continue to learn and develop into diverse roles, leadership roles or advanced firefighting.
The importance of mentoring was also repeatedly stressed by members, who believe that this is key to building the next generation of volunteers.
Exploring membership models
Discussion about “Shaping the future” was generally positive with many members agreeing that while our brigade model has served us well, there is a need at CFA to also look at potential alternative or modern membership models.
CFA’s expanding service delivery brings opportunities and challenges for many brigades. While some enjoy this diversity and have members keen to take on new roles, others are of a view that firefighting is the true core business of CFA volunteers and expanding service roles can be distracting or just difficult to manage.
Attracting, recruiting and retaining volunteers
Attracting and recruiting new members, particularly younger members, is seen as one of the major challenges facing CFA and volunteerism. Members highlighted the need for innovation, improved processes, and CFA support to tackle the important issue of maintaining a spirit of volunteerism in local communities.
Overall, feedback on the draft strategy has been very positive with a key message to “keep it simple.” Many members have been keen to note that action speaks louder than words, and that action to support this strategy should be seen as a priority.
We thank all those who have provided feedback and the many members of OT&V and others who have assisted in coordinating consultation sessions, sharing the draft strategy and contributing their ideas and input.
The “What members have said” consultation outcomes report can be accessed online at: https://cfaonline.cfa.vic.gov.au/mycfa/Show?pageId=displayDoc&docId=024547