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Victorian Fire Services Review released
It’s a wide ranging and, at times, confronting review. But it’s also one that will assist us to continue improving how we deliver services and protect the community.
It looks at resourcing, operations, management and culture of CFA and MFB, and outlines 20 recommendations. The State Government has accepted the majority of these.
We are continuing to review many of the recommendations and what they mean to CFA.
Some of you were concerned the review would seek to amalgamate CFA and MFB. This has been ruled out and the organisations will continue to operate separately. However, there will be a greater focus on interoperability between the fire services.
Victoria will continue to rely on both paid and volunteer firefighters, and the review found that the community remained well serviced by firefighters and the "passion, courage, competence and commitment of the state’s firefighters … remain outstanding".
However, the review has outlined recommendations that will mean changes across CFA, ranging from how we serve our communities to how we improve our culture, as well as other areas such as training, management and resourcing.
Over coming days, I expect there will be some media coverage about CFA and MFB’s cultural issues which the review highlighted.
While I believe issues around our culture, bullying, harassment and morale aren’t widespread, they do exist and we need to build on the work already underway to address this.
Changing our culture won’t be easy and it will take time, but it will be done.
Over coming weeks a dedicated independent hotline will be established to provide you a place to report bullying, harassment and other unacceptable behaviour. The hotline will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and an external team will be set up to manage the complaints. This hotline will be available within the next few weeks.
We are also establishing a taskforce to address workplace culture, diversity and inclusion. The group’s focus will be wide ranging and will include finding ways to increase diversity as well as improve workplace culture and behaviour. It will also work with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission during its review of the fire services and implementation of any recommendations.
We are also increasing resources to investigate workplace conflict and support local managers to address unacceptable behaviour, and CFA management will be looking at how stronger relationships can be built across our organisation.
But improving our culture won’t be solved by strategies and initiatives alone – everyone in CFA needs to take a stand and do their part to improve our culture.
The review also found that service delivery must be appropriate for the community that is being serviced.
This means that how we deliver our services in some parts of the community will change in order for us to keep up with changing demographics, volunteering patterns and growth of our regional communities.
We are looking at different ways to provide our service to communities. This could be through seasonal staffing, day staffing, hub and spoke models or industry partnerships.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to delivering our services and we will work with you to determine the right model for our brigades and the communities they operate in.
I want to commend each of you on the work you do to protect and support our communities.
This review is not a reflection on the work you do, but on the organisation as a whole.
The review itself states: “The fire services have an incredibly strong culture of getting the job done. They overcome challenges and work around issues to respond immediately to calls. At an incident, firefighters bring all of their skills, experience and training to the fore, working together to provide the best possible response, time and time again.”
Over coming weeks, Chief Officer Joe Buffone and I will be visiting all regions to discuss this review and what it means for CFA.
We are also organising a Q&A session so that you can ask any questions around the review or have any of the issues clarified. As we review what these recommendations mean to CFA we will provide you further information and updates.
I would encourage you to read the review, which will be uploaded here. (Due to a high volume of traffic, the page may not load immediately).