The Chair of the Board, Mr Greg Smith AM, and Board members were pleased that the Deputy Premier and Minister for Emergency Services, the Hon James Merlino MP, was able to join them for a discussion at the start of the meeting. The Minister was very generous with his time, and he and the Board were able to canvass a wide variety of issues of importance to CFA and the Government.
Board member Peter Shaw presented the Safety Share, recently implemented as a standing item at all Board meetings. Mr Shaw recounted a presentation at Beyond Blue about the need for ongoing awareness within the emergency services sector about mental health issues. The Board agreed and noted that a mental health strategy is being developed by CFA.
The Board noted reports from each of the Chairs of the Board’s Committees. These reports will be a standing item on the agenda from this meeting onwards to ensure that the Board is aware of the key issues being addressed at Committee level.
The Board had a detailed discussion on an important new policy on the Operational Use of Firefighting Foam. The Board approved the policy, noting that it has been developed jointly by CFA and MFB, who have been working together since the discovery of PFAS at the Victorian Emergency Management Training Campus (VEMTC) Craigieburn. It was noted that further negotiation is required with the UFU and consultation will be undertaken with the VFVB. The Board also noted that the work has been done in conjunction with independent subject matter experts, the EPA and Worksafe.
The Board considered a report on progress by CFA in meeting the requirements of the Minister’s Statement of Expectation, in conjunction with consideration of the Quarter Two Performance Report for the organisation. The Performance Report contains a comprehensive range of metrics covering corporate governance, business enablers and service delivery outcomes.
The Chief Executive Officer highlighted a number of current issues for the Board including:
- The Review of Equity and Diversity in the Fire Services by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC);
- The development of a new policy on surveillance, which will update the existing Business Rule on Closed Circuit Television (CCTV); and
- The changes to legislation at the end of 2016 that require the CEO to notify the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) when there are reasonable grounds to suspect corruption is occurring or has occurred within the organisation.
The Board noted the Chief Officer’s Report, including that:
- Preparations are well advanced for the forthcoming burning season, which will see CFA and DELWP working together on coordinated burns at state level; and
- CFA is working in partnership with the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) to gain a deeper understanding of the causes of fires during harvesting operations in order to more effectively treat the risk.
The Chair noted that he had received a letter from Her Excellency, the Hon Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria thanking the CFA, volunteers and staff for all the work done in strengthening the Victorian community. The Board asked the Chair to respond on behalf of CFA, expressing its appreciation for the Governor’s warm sentiments.