CFA action plan to tackle rural decline

Following successful multi-agency workshops, CFA has developed a new action plan to tackle rural decline.


Across Victoria, many communities are increasingly impacted by rural decline, retraction and ageing. These impacts are impacting CFA’s frontline service delivery, as available operational and support volunteers are declining and our current volunteer workforce ages.

To ensure CFA has the capability to protect life and property in these communities, service delivery innovations are essential.

To address these challenges the CFA Rural Decline and Retraction Steering Committee (consisting of CFA representatives from across North West and West regions and staff from RM Consulting Group) carried out a range of activities, including a literature review and a series of facilitated workshops with key internal and external stakeholders in July and October 2017.

The first workshop brought together CFA volunteers, operational staff and Community Safety staff from districts which are being heavily impacted by rural decline, retraction and ageing.

In the second workshop, CFA was joined by external stakeholders including Victoria Police, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, Department of Health, Department of Education, Victorian Farmers Federation, local councils,

SES, Regional Partnerships, RMIT, Birchip Cropping Group and Emergency Management Victoria. They discussed the common service delivery challenges and explored opportunities where collaboration may help to drive significant change.

In late November, based on the information gathered at the two workshops, a Rural Population Decline, Retraction and Ageing Action Plan was developed. The Action Plan aims to set the strategic direction for rural decline work in CFA and emergency services more broadly.

The Action Plan proposes a series of initiatives to better understand and address the issues. The goals of the Action Plan are:

  • community-led service delivery that increases resilience in rural communities
  • inter-agency collaboration
  • development of key partnerships with external agencies and organisations
  • developing a positive culture within CFA brigades.

Within the plan there are four key action areas:

  • Supporting change to allow adaptive and community-led service delivery. This action area focuses on working with the community to better understand the changing environment while developing innovative solutions to meet the individual need.
  • Building partnerships to enable collaborative service delivery. This includes a recommendation to create a cross-agency rural decline strategy.
  • Developing our leaders to ensure a welcoming and inclusive workplace. It’s recognised that carrying out volunteer leadership positions can be challenging, and we want to support the development of our current and future leaders.
  • Vehicles, technology and training. Through vehicle suitability assessments, understanding of alternative vehicle options and contribution to research and development activities, we aim to provide a local input from the Wimmera and Mallee regions.

To support the adoption of the Action Plan there will be some additional activities during 2018 to help CFA better understand the impacts of rural decline, retraction and ageing at two distinct levels within CFA. The first will involve working with selected communities to gain an understanding of the local changes, challenges and impacts on the community posed by rural decline, retraction and ageing. This key activity is about providing local opportunity to contribute to an adaptive and community-led service delivery. Through this work, CFA will establish partnerships with external organisations that are also focused on addressing service delivery in rural Victoria.

The second key activity looks to ensure we have an organisational focus on this emerging issue. We will bring together various sectors within CFA to improve organisational collaboration and to support clear direction and focus across all areas of CFA to support volunteers and communities in areas experiencing decline, retraction and ageing.

Volunteers attending the ESF Volunteer Leaders Forum at the end of April also had an opportunity to contribute to the program through rural decline workshops hosted by Volunteer Sustainability Regional Managers Karen Marini (North West Region) and Raelene Williams (West Region).


Author: Raelene Williams