24July2024

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Having waited since 2012 for the latest CFA review to strengthen the role of the Group, the VFBV/CFA Joint Operations Committee is disappointed with the lack of progress or CFA leadership, and has endorsed a plan for a volunteer-led review instead.

The review will gather feedback from all Groups to arrive at a formal position for which volunteers can advocate.

Starting after the Fire Danger Period, we will need representatives from all Districts to lead and coordinate discussion.  We will also use the feedback from CFA’s previous review as well as discussing the many ideas that may have been rejected by CFA at the time.

In the previous review, VFBV advocated for;

  • Greater support and recognition from CFA to Groups and the Group structures in local command and control
  • Greater flexibility in how Groups can structure themselves to accommodate and respect local and regional differences and flexibility to match operating models to local risks.  A ‘one size fits all’ model is not supported.
  • Strengthening the chain of command to empower and enhance the capability and capacity for local command and control being exercised by CFA members at the local level ensuring that local participation continues as incidents grow in size and complexity
  • Systems of work that recognise and enhance how Brigades, Groups, OOs and RDOs interact and support each other in Operational Readiness & Response, Training & Mentoring and Community Education
  • Strengthening the role of Groups in assisting Brigades building local capability for Incident Management and volunteer upskilling and mentoring for Level 2 and 3 incident management roles
  • Greater support and recognition of the important role of Group Comms including role, systems and processes in supporting local incidents and deployments, and recognition in CAD processes and procedures of this vital role
  • Greater support and recognition of the important role Groups play in readiness, pre-incident planning & coordination, strike team resourcing & deployment, maintaining situational awareness and training delivery

All members can share their thoughts, and VFBV will help Groups and Districts to participate in structured discussions and share information from neighbouring Groups and Districts.

To get involved, contact VFBV at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or (03) 9886 1141 and we will record your details.

How CFA activates thousands of TRAINED, EXPERIENCED VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS to deal with multiple major incidents, anywhere at any time.  How MELBOURNE’S SUBURBS PLAY A MAJOR ROLE.  How VICTORIA NEEDS CFA’S SURGE CAPACITY hundreds of times a year.

Our colourful animated video explains how CFA’s volunteer surge capacity works.  Our computer-generated video shows a satellite view of hundreds of brigades as they respond.

Our animated video gives you a quick demonstration of CFA’s volunteer surge capacity.

Our computer-generated video shows modelling of official CFA data, put together by VFBV and the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety to show how CFA’s great volunteer surge capacity can deal with multiple major incidents.

FACTS ON CFA VOLUNTEERS’ ESSENTIAL ROLE IN VICTORIA’S EMERGENCY SERVICES:

  • CFA Brigades protect 60% of suburban Melbourne, regional cities and all of country Victoria
  • Volunteers are more than 95% of Victoria’s firefighting force, CFA has almost 55,000 volunteers.
  • CFA Brigades in Melbourne’s outer suburbs contribute thousands of the volunteers that give CFA the surge capacity to mobilise large numbers of trained, experienced firefighters at short notice to deal with large and long running emergencies
  • CFA Brigades protect over 4 million Victorians and one million homes every day and night of the year
  • CFA Brigades respond to all manner of emergencies, including fire, flood, industrial/chemical incidents, medical and road accidents

An explanation of CFA Volunteer Surge Capacity

CFA volunteer surge capacity is the ability to field thousands of trained, experienced volunteer firefighters at short notice while at the same time maintaining normal day to day service delivery and protection of local communities. 

One of the fundamental benefits of the CFA volunteer based model is the depth of capacity and capability it provides to maintain response across Victoria to widespread, large scale, multiple and concurrent emergencies whilst maintaining local fire cover for the rest of Victoria.
  The blue dots on the map above show the location of CFA volunteer brigades across Victoria that provide a network of brigades all contributing to volunteer surge capacity.
  CFA volunteers attend local fires, day to day emergencies and major disasters anywhere in the state. 
  They are professionally trained and equipped for all fire risk situations - from houses, shops and factory fires to major hazards, bushfires and motor vehicle accidents.
  Your local CFA volunteer brigade is much more than just 3 or 4 firefighters on duty – it’s dozens of volunteer firefighters on call and ready whenever needed 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Every day of the year.
  This regular activation results in a well-motivated, exercised and prepared emergency force that maintains operational readiness across the whole year. This not only keeps communities safe but ensures the highest levels of firefighter safety due to frequent use of their skills.
  CFA’s huge volunteer numbers mean we have the ability to combat multiple fires at a time and keep supplying firefighters on the ground. Often for weeks, months or more as required.
  A huge portion of our CFA volunteer surge capacity comes from the ever-growing outer metropolitan Melbourne and provincial cities. So maintaining our volunteer numbers in these areas is vitally important for Victoria.
  These volunteers from outer metro along with CFA volunteers right across the state means we have thousands of trained, experienced volunteer fire-fighters in the field ready to be deployed every hour of the day and we can keep supplying these firefighters for weeks at a time wherever they are needed.
 

This enormous surge capacity is recognized by fire experts as one of the most fundamental benefits of the CFA volunteer workforce.

They are embedded in cities, suburbs, regions and even the smallest rural communities.

  The 2009 Bushfires Royal Commission said that the CFA volunteer surge capacity, together with the local knowledge and the ability of CFA volunteer fire brigades to mobilise a rapid response was a key strength during the 2009 Black Saturday Fires.
  This capacity is not just demonstrated during summer, but across the entire year. The 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire is just one example of a non-bushfire emergency that extended over 45 days and required thousands of well trained volunteers. And this volunteer surge capacity is essential for Victoria’s continuing ability to deal with large fires.

In this Edition

- Editorial - Summer and Business as Usual

- Apply Now for Scholarships

- Coalition Moves to Change CFA Act

- Delegate Development course

- Digital Scanners at Cost Price

- Youth Network in 20 Districts

- Planned Burning as Training

- Chainsaw Training

- 2017 Championships

- Australasian Championships

- Cancer Law Reminder

- Donations Welcome

 

SUMMER AND BUSINESS AS USUAL

By Andrew Ford, VFBV Chief Executive Officer

I am hoping that everyone has found at least a few quiet moments to enjoy Christmas and managed to reflect, re-energise and prepare for 2017.  It has been a hot few weeks and certainly looks like some parts of the state will have a very busy summer.

As we go into a new year, it would be easy to think that over the past 12 months the CFA and emergency sector has been tied up with just a few major issues.

But while there have been major challenges at the statewide level and attention to CFA issues right up to the Federal level, your volunteer association that is VFBV has been quietly getting on with business as usual in the background.

Volunteer delegates on the VFBV/CFA Joint Committees, and any number of volunteers on working groups and at the District level, have been working on the equipment, training, projects and other issues that make up our everyday representation work for volunteers and Brigades.

As just a few examples of the association’s work over the past 12 months; VFBV has launched its VFBV Multi-Agency Youth Network, another class of VFBV Leadership participants has graduated, a VFBV-advocated partnership with CFA has delivered 10,000 subsidised digital scanners to Brigades and Groups, we have provided practical assistance to Brigades applying for VESEP grants, and we have launched two innovative short videos, the first explaining in simple terms how CFA’s great volunteer surge capacity works, and the second transforming CFA turnout data into a graphical depiction of how Brigades from all over the state contribute to CFA’s ability to deal with multiple major incidents at a time while still protecting every Brigade’s local community.

We have also contributed to the State Government’s Fire Services Review; worked with CFA, DELWP and EMV to increase volunteer participation in planned burning; given assistance and support to the VEOHRC Independent Equity and Diversity Review; provided submission and input to the Fiskville Inquiry; and we continue the work on yet to be resolved issues like presumptive legislation, the role of CFA Groups, chainsaw training, 40 kph speed limits near incidents, new BA acquisition and electrical safety mobile props.

It is very satisfying to note that volunteers have given their association’s work a very strong stamp of approval through the year, with record numbers of Brigades affiliating with VFBV, record numbers subscribing to the VFBV Welfare Fund, record numbers of volunteers taking part in the annual VFBV Volunteer Welfare & Efficiency Survey, and higher levels of activity across District Councils and on our social media sites.

And I’d like to add a final note appropriate to the season.  Summer is here, volunteers are busy in many parts of the state, and we all need to be mindful of safety and wellbeing; our own and that of our fellow members.  So stay safe, look after yourselves and keep an eye out for one another.

 

VFBV VOLUNTEER LEADERSHIP SCHOLARSHIPS - APPLY NOW FOR 2017

VFBV’s Volunteer Leadership Program scholarships will be available again in 2017 and we are now calling for Expressions of Interest from potential participants.

The two 2017 courses will be based in the Euroa (District 22) and Ararat (District 16) areas, they will run from late March to the end of the year, and successful participants will achieve the nationally recognised Certificate IV in Leadership & Management.  Both locations have been chosen based on an effort to rotate the courses across the State, and their location on major highways to make travel to and from those areas as easy as possible for members from neighbouring Districts.

The VFBV Volunteer Leadership Program has already produced over 250 graduates and many are in leadership positions with their agencies, volunteer representative organisations or local communities.  Graduates will graduate with a nationally recognised Cert IV in Leadership & Management (BSB42015).

You can download the application pack from the VFBV website.  We are offering scholarships to volunteers from CFA, Ambulance Victoria, Australian Volunteer Coast Guard, Life Saving Victoria, VICSES and St John.   Nominations close Friday 27 January 2017.

The VFBV Leadership Scholarship course has been designed for volunteers, with a mix of lectures and interactive activities designed to suit the needs of adult students, as well as ample support using distance learning methods.  The course involves 12 units, eight face to face days (six Saturdays and two Sundays) throughout the year, with course work and assignments spread throughout the year.

The course includes units on; leadership, decision making, planning, safety and risk management, team effectiveness, making presentations, managing projects, and engaging the community.

Any questions or queries can be directed to any of VFBV’s Support Officers, and information packs are being posted to all Brigades.

 

COALITION MOVES TO CHANGE CFA ACT

The Coalition parties have introduced a Bill into the upper house of State Parliament, in an attempt to introduce additional protections for volunteers’ rights into the CFA Act.

The Bill is designed to prevent any outside deals that affect volunteers but bypass the existing protections of the CFA Act and the Federal Fair Work Act.

The proposed legislation is listed for debate in State Parliament in the new year, and is worthy of support from all Members of Parliament.  We encourage volunteers to raise the issue with local MPs – talk to your VFBV State Councillor if you need advice.

The explanatory notes included with the Bill say it would make minor adjustments to the CFA Act “to protect volunteers from the implementation of any deed, agreement or arrangement that may have adverse effects on the volunteer firefighters across the state.”

The notes also say: “Deeds, agreements and or arrangements to commit the CFA to implement clauses, which would otherwise be subject to approval by the Fair Work Commission (FWC), is not compliant with the principles of the Volunteer Charter. This amendment will ensure the CFA Act 1958 supports the integrated model of fire fighting in Victoria, a volunteer organisation with support from career staff.”

 

ENGAGING DIVERSITY WITH DELEGATE DEVELOPMENT

VFBV will soon offer more than 100 Brigade Delegates, BMT members and other volunteers a nationally recognised training course in skills for volunteer representatives.

The course will offer modules that go towards Cert II in Public Safety (Firefighting Operations) and Cert III in Public Safety (Community Safety).

Participants will develop practical skills in understanding the structure and communications channels of VFBV and CFA, the Delegate’s role, communication skills and problem solving skills.

The newly developed course will involve two full day sessions several weeks apart, and each participant will work with a more experienced volunteer as a mentor.

The course will be free to all participants, details will be posted on the VFBV website in January, and volunteers interested in taking the course should discuss it with their District Council executive or their VFBV Support Officer.

 

DIGITAL SCANNERS AT COST PRICE

 

We are still receiving enquiries from members about digital scanners, and we have good news for everyone still needing a scanner.

Digital Scanners are still available at cost price - $446.75 plus postage and handling - which is hundreds of dollars below retail, and CFA is still accepting orders from Brigades, Groups and individual members.

The digital scanner subsidisation program was advocated by VFBV and run in partnership with CFA, and has been an overwhelming success since it began in October 2015.   Over 10,000 digital scanners have been delivered to over 1,000 Brigades and Groups, with savings to members adding up to over $3 million dollars.

To order a scanner now, you will need to place a Tier 3 order, using the order form that’s available for download here.

 

 

VFBV MULTI-AGENCY YOUTH NETWORK

The VFBV Multi-Agency Youth Network now has active groups in 20 Districts, including 16 where young members, the Champions – experienced local volunteers chosen to assist and mentor them – and VFBV District Council representatives have begun work on recruiting young volunteers and discussing issues and suitable projects.

Districts 4, 5, 6 and 22 are still seeking Champions and all Districts are looking for more young volunteers – if you’d like to get involved, talk to your VFBV Support Officer or call Chris Fryer in the VFBV office on 9886 1141.

In District 12, young volunteers taking part in the VFBV Multi-Agency Youth Network, supported by the VFBV District Council Executive, are to begin work on a new smart phone app.

The app will create a register of volunteers matched with their skills, qualifications and attributes, and will be accessible by other members, making it easy for them to get in contact with volunteers with particular skills and capabilities.

Looking for a volunteer who has expertise in a particular Brigade skill?  Or perhaps a volunteer who is a local plumber or garden contactor?  Consult the app.

The VFBV Multi-Agency Youth Network in District 12 has also had success with new members from VICSES.  Three young SES volunteers have joined the Network and are now working to recruit more young volunteers from their agency.

In Districts 9, 10 and 27, young volunteers are working together to create an interconnected CFA paging system using mobile phones instead pagers.

The app and pager projects are part of a theme that is building up among the young members of the Youth Network, the need to make better use of modern technology.

Young volunteers interested in getting involved should contact their VFBV District Council, or Chris Fryer at VFBV on (03) 9886 1141 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

PLANNED BURNS AS TRAINING

For many years now VFBV has been advocating for a more holistic approach to planned burning, and for CFA to promote the training advantages of participating in planned burns.

The VFBV/CFA Joint Community Safety Committee has been very pleased to observe that recent planned burns have developed into exercises, not just in fire behaviour and fuel load interactions but also extend to learnings in weather behaviour, impact on flora and fauna, bush heritage and Indigenous fire management practices.

The camps are very practical ‘hands on’ for all involved, each participant is specifically tasked with both coaching and mentoring roles, allowing involvement by volunteers across all aspects of the planned burning.

Recent burn camps also saw attendances from Traditional Owners, Trust for Nature (landowners) bird scientists, along with DELWP, plantation owners and CFA paid staff. The attendees worked well together and contributed experience and expertise, building valuable relationships and creating an atmosphere of co-operation in complex burn scenarios.

These camps offer a great opportunity for volunteers to train in realistic settings and gain extensive firefighting experience. The Joint Committee has requested CFA produce a brochure which clearly explains and illustrates upcoming Burn Camps to Brigades.

 

CHAINSAW TRAINING

The VFBV/CFA Joint Training Committee continues to advocate for much greater access and support for members to attain chainsaw qualification and training.

Despite two Mobile Chainsaw Training trailers developed through the Mobile Prop Project back in 2015 to add additional capability for members to access chainsaw training, a UFU grievance over the training package, equipment and trailer use and design has resulted in a yearlong ban on paid instructors using these trailers to deliver any chainsaw training, resulting in the widespread cancellation of CFA planned courses for volunteers.

CFA advises that the IR issues are now close to being resolved, and has confirmed that there are no IR restrictions that relate to volunteer trainer and assessors accessing, towing and using the trailers.

Whilst disappointed that Brigades are currently unable to access paid support and delivery of chainsaw courses through CFA’s training pool, the Joint Committee has requested that CFA increase the number of endorsed volunteer trainer and assessors to deliver this training, so that Brigades can access this vital training.

CFA has agreed to streamline and prioritise volunteer access to the new trailers, equipment and training package, as well as investigate an Expression of Interest process for subject matter experts to be identified and endorsed for volunteer training and delivery.

 

2017 CHAMPIONSHIPS

Over 900 competitors are expected at this year’s VFBV State Urban Championships, with 59 senior teams and 74 junior teams entered.

With Bendigo hosting its 30th urban senior championships, there will be a limited edition commemorative medal for every competitor, free entertainment in the Bendigo CBD after the torchlight procession, and a spectacular display of Chinese lion dancing.

Dates and locations the state championships are as follows:

  • VFBV State Urban Junior Championships - at Tatura, on 25/26 February 2017
  • VFBV State Urban Senior Championships - at Bendigo, on 11 to 13 March 2017
  • VFBV State Rural Championships - at Wodonga on 1 and 2 April 2017

Visit the Urban Championships area of the website for the latest rule book, entry forms, and judges’/officials’ nomination forms.

More details and entry forms will be posted on the Rural Championships page soon.

 

AUSTRALASIAN FIREFIGHTER CHAMPIONSHIPS

The Australasian championships will be held at Carterton, New Zealand, on 17 to 19 November 2017.

Expressions of interest are open until 1 March.  Send your Brigade name and contact details to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or call the VFBV office on 9886 1141.

 

CANCER LAW REMINDER

Throughout summer, public attention turns to fire and firefighters.

If you encounter any Members of Parliament this summer, VFBV urges you to remind them that

Victorian volunteers and paid firefighters were promised presumptive legislation two years ago, but this important issue for all firefighters remains unresolved.

Your local MPs need to know volunteers won’t accept second best just because they are not paid.  Click here for more information on the Firefighters' Cancer issue.

 

DONATIONS WELCOME

 

GET THE LATEST NEWS

Download the latest Joint Committee Two Minute Briefings here.

Join the discussion on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cfavol

Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/vfbv or Instagram @volunteer_fire_brigades_vic

Expressions of Interest are now open for Victorian Brigades wishing to compete at the 2017 Australasian Firefighter Championships.

The Championships will be held at Carterton, New Zealand, on 17 to 19 November 2017.

The Australasian Championships will comprise 10 events with 30 teams from Victoria, NSW, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and New Zealand.

The closing date for EOIs is 1 March 2017 – send your Brigade name and contact details to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. call the VFBV office on 9886 1141 or write to J. Laing, VFBV, PO Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149.

A VFBV-supported project for secondary students has won the Education Award at this year’s Fire Awareness Awards, thanks to local CFA volunteers and the Maryborough Education Centre.

The Emergency Services Journey takes Year 9 students to their local brigade, Police and ambulance station to see how each service operates and learn practical skills.

What began as a Brigades in Schools program run by Maryborough Fire Brigade volunteers in 2004, has been developed into an innovative course at the Maryborough Education Centre by teacher and CFA volunteer Samantha Rothman.

There’s a camp in the Mallee, sessions at a surf life saving club, activities like open water swimming and fire brigade competition events, and the students achieve certificates in Life Saving skills and First Aid.

The Fire Awareness Award judges said the project goes beyond the basics in building resilience, with a range of partner organisations and reaching great numbers; over 40 students participate each year, and several have become CFA volunteers.

Principal David Sutton says the school is proud of the Emergency Services Journey program and students for doing so well, and particularly Samantha Rothman for her work in developing and championing the program.

Pictured are: VFBV’s Andrew Ford, Maryborough CFA Captain Darryl Wagstaff AFSM, teacher and CFA volunteer Samantha Rothman, and Maryborough Education Centre Principal David Sutton at the Fire Awareness Awards.

VFBV’s Volunteer Leadership Program scholarships

Applications for 2017 have now closed, but volunteers considering applying for future courses are invited to download the information packs below.

The 2017 courses will be based in the Euroa (District 22) and Ararat (District 16) areas, starting in late March.  Successful participants will achieve the nationally recognised Certificate IV in Leadership & Management. The locations have been chosen based on an effort to rotate the courses across the State, and their location on major highways to make travel to and from those areas as easy as possible for members from neighbouring Districts.

The VFBV Volunteer Leadership Program has already produced over 250 graduates and many are in leadership positions with their agencies, volunteer representative organisations or local communities.  Graduates will achieve a nationally recognised Cert IV in Leadership & Management (BSB42015).

You can download the 2017 application pack for CFA volunteers here.  Scholarships are also open to volunteers from Ambulance Victoria, Australian Volunteer Coast Guard, Life Saving Victoria, VICSES and St John.  You can download a 2017 multi-agency application pack here.

The VFBV Leadership Scholarship course has been designed for volunteers, with a mix of lectures and interactive activities designed to suit the needs of adult students, as well as ample support using distance learning methods.  The course involves 12 units, eight face to face days (six Saturdays and two Sundays) throughout the year, with course work and assignments spread throughout the year.

The course includes units on;

  • leadership
  • decision making
  • planning
  • safety and risk management
  • team effectiveness
  • making presentations
  • managing projects, and
  • engaging the community.

Any questions or queries can be directed to any of VFBV’s Support Officers.  You can download the 2017 flyer here and a copy was posted to all Brigades as part of VFBV’s regular mail-out.

This is an exciting program and is well respected in the sector.  Applications always exceed places available, so please encourage your members and keep in mind that your Brigade Captain’s endorsement is very powerful when assessing potential students.

In This Edition

- Editorial – Reflecting on a Challenging Year

- Fire Awareness Award for Kids Program

- VFBV Welfare Fund helps 1,000 Volunteers

- 10,000 Scanners save Brigades $3 Million

- Fiskville – Action Still Needed

- Introducing VFBV Support Officer Peter Sharman

- Vale Former State Councillor Barry Pyke

- Fundraising Still Important

- Cancer Law – Remind Your Local MPs

REFLECTING ON A CHALLENGING YEAR

By Andrew Ford, Chief Executive Officer

As we look back on 2016, I am sure most people will agree it has been a very challenging year.  And this year, more than most, I am looking forward to Christmas and focussing on the important things of family, friends, neighbours and enjoying the community I live in.

I want to take this opportunity to wish all of our members, friends and supporters a very happy and safe Christmas.

As always I wish for a quiet Christmas and summer but we only need to reflect on this time last year to know how unpredictable things can be.  And as always I know that this is a good time of the year to remember why volunteers do what they do, how incredibly valuable that is for our communities and how good it feels to focus on why we joined CFA rather than the frustrations.

So I am not going to talk much about the latest developments in the CFA and UFU ongoing industrial dispute, other than to say it seems to be far from resolved.  CFA is seeking to have the proposed EBA considered by the Fair Work Commission under the amended Fair Work Act, and the UFU is pushing to stop this from happening. 

For CFA volunteers one of the great successes of 2016 came in the form of the changes to the Federal Fair Work Act that now provide a truly fair umpire and clear respect and protections for volunteers.

We have said all along that volunteers and VFBV have no interest in paid firefighters’ pay increase negotiations, so it can only be hoped that in addition to the recent pay increases announced by CFA, any further matters that are still outstanding can be agreed quickly.

By now CFA Brigades right across Victoria are well into gearing up and preparing for summer so, from a VFBV perspective, let’s keep this and protecting our communities as the big CFA focus for now.

Once again thanks for the tremendous activity and support over the past year.  From any turmoil there is often good to emerge and it has been extremely pleasing to see the exponential growth in the numbers of volunteers who are now deeply connected and active within VFBV.

Brigades across Victoria are more connected with VFBV than ever; our VFBV State, District and Brigade delegates are more informed and active than ever and doing a great job. We have made great progress in establishing our VFBV Multi-Agency Youth Network and we have substantially raised the profile of volunteer issues. Thank you!

Our VFBV affiliation levels for this year are at a new record high, with just under 95% of Brigades affiliated with VFBV and 90% of Brigades subscribing to the VFBV Welfare Fund.

On a sadder note, the year saw the departure of some very respected people and I want to recognise and thank once again those who suffered the consequences of standing firm on their principles; Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett, CFA Board Members, CFA CEO Lucinda Nolan and CFA Chief Officer Joe Buffone, others including MFB Chief Officer Peter Rau, and many other senior CFA volunteer and paid personnel.

To all CFA volunteers and the paid staff who work with, and in support of us; to our families, employers and supporters, thank you, well done for what you do and have a safe and happy Christmas.  I am going to head into Christmas looking forward to next year and hopefully a rethink by some who need to stop and think about just how good the CFA can be if everyone is respected and respectful.  

 

AWARD FOR KIDS’ PROGRAM

A VFBV-supported project for secondary students has won the Education Award at this year’s Fire Awareness Awards, thanks to local CFA volunteers and the Maryborough Education Centre.

The Emergency Services Journey takes Year 9 students to their local brigade, Police and ambulance station to see how each service operates and learn practical skills.

What began as a Brigades in Schools program run by Maryborough Fire Brigade volunteers in 2004, has been developed into an innovative course at the Maryborough Education Centre by teacher and CFA volunteer Samantha Rothman.

There’s a camp in the Mallee, sessions at a surf life saving club, activities like open water swimming and fire brigade competition events, and the students achieve certificates in Life Saving skills and First Aid.

The Fire Awareness Award judges said the project goes beyond the basics in building resilience, with a range of partner organisations and reaching great numbers; over 40 students participate each year, and several have become CFA volunteers.

Principal David Sutton says the school is proud of the Emergency Services Journey program and students for doing so well, and particularly Samantha Rothman for her work in developing and championing the program.

Pictured: VFBV’s Andrew Ford, Maryborough CFA Captain Darryl Wagstaff AFSM, teacher and CFA volunteer Samantha Rothman, and Maryborough Education Centre Principal David Sutton at the Fire Awareness Awards.

 

 

VFBV WELFARE FUND HELPS 1,000

Since its creation by the urban Brigades association in 1913, the VFBV Welfare Fund has helped 1,079 volunteers in need, with more than $1.4 million in small assistance grants.

VFBV Welfare Fund grants are financed by Brigade subscriptions and the interest earned on the Fund’s invested capital, which provides the income necessary to pay grants and at the same time maintain the Fund’s asset capital base to ensure it can provide support to CFA volunteers in need for generations to come.

VFBV funds all operating and administrative costs of the Fund – so every dollar earned by the Fund’s investments and subscriptions goes to assisting volunteers in need.  Typical cases involve volunteers who are facing significant financial difficulty because of prolonged illness or a sudden death in the family.  An average individual grant from the Fund is just under $3,500.

The VFBV Welfare Fund is run as a government-approved charity by a VFBV Committee of Management under Australian Taxation Office rules, with its books independently audited every year.

Individual volunteer applications are considered by their Brigade before an application is made to the VFBV Welfare Fund Committee of Management, and over the past five years 92.5% of applications have been approved.  VFBV has also negotiated discounts on some of the volunteers’ bills, worked with their Brigades to monitor the situation in case the family needs additional assistance, and referred volunteers to sources of financial planning.

For more information, visit the VFBV Welfare Fund page.

 

10,000 SCANNERS DELIVERED - $3M SAVING FOR BRIGADES

The Digital Scanner subsidy program advocated by VFBV and run in partnership with CFA is an overwhelming success, with 10,478 digital scanners delivered to Brigades and Groups so far.  The savings to members represent over $3 million.

More than 970 Brigades and 80 Groups have received their Tier 1 & 2 orders, and CFA is still accepting Tier 3 orders, from Brigades, Groups and individual members.

Tier 3 units are available at cost price, which has been significantly reduced due to the bulk orders placed during the subsidy program.  Members can order units for $446.75 plus postage and handling, while stocks last.   Download an order form here.

 

FISKVILLE FINAL REPORT – ACTION STILL NEEDED

The State Government has responded to the Fiskville Inquiry’s final report, endorsing all recommendations either fully or in part – you can download a copy of the response here.

VFBV now hopes it will be the trigger for urgent Government and CFA action on replacing Fiskville’s vital training capacity, ensuring properly monitored water quality standards for all CFA training sites, and maintaining ongoing support to all of those affected by exposure at the Fiskville site.

The announcement follows years of work from VFBV since the issue was first raised in the media in December 2011.   VFBV has consistently called for urgent remedial action at the site, independent, expert monitoring, ongoing support for everyone affected, and the urgent replacement of Fiskville’s lost training capacity. 

The closure of the site came in 2015 after the surprising discovery that water quality problems were persisting in spite of the reassurances of WorkSafe, the EPA, technical experts and CFA.

The State Government’s response to the Inquiry is not the end of the issue, but a cue for action to resolve the problems left in Fiskville’s wake.

 

VFBV SUPPORT TO BRIGADES

Newly arrived at VFBV is Support Officer Peter Sharman. 

Peter is an experienced volunteer who will work with District Councils, Brigades and volunteers in Districts, 4, 5, 6 and 7 to facilitate strong VFBV engagement with volunteers, assist District Councils with issues resolution at the local level, and support ongoing consultation with volunteers on all matters affecting them.

Peter has been a CFA volunteer since 1987.  He is an ex Captain and a currently serving Group Officer, and has served as a VFBV State Councillor, and on the VFBV/CFA Joint Volunteerism Committee and the Joint Communications and Technology Committee.

You can contact Peter Sharman on 0428 751 652 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

VALE BARRY PYKE

We were sad to learn of the recent passing of former VRFBA District 12 State Councillor and VFBV Life Member Barry Pyke.

Barry was a 50 year CFA volunteer and a long time member of the Whanregarwen Fire Brigade.  He served volunteers and the community for many years, and was an active participant in the creation of a single association in District 12 as part of the move towards the creation of VFBV.

Our sympathy goes out to Barry’s family, friends and fellow volunteers.

 

FUNDRAISING IS STILL IMPORTANT

VFBV’s work to defend the volunteer based and fully integrated CFA continues, and VFBV is still actively fundraising.

The new Federal Legislation has changed the legal ground rules to protect fire and emergency service volunteers from industrial interference, but it must be supported in the Fair Work Commission and possibly Federal courts, so we still look to the public for their support.

The public, corporate donors, community organisations and volunteers can donate to the VFBV Valuing Volunteers Fund, BSB 633 000, Account number 157 728 221, send a cheque to the Valuing Volunteers Fund, PO Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149, or make a donation by visiting www.mycause.com.au/cfa

Note that VFBV is a non-party political organisation: it does not accept donations from political parties.

 

CANCER LAW

In the last edition of FireWise, we urged volunteers to remind their local Members of Parliament of the commitment the Government made to Victorian volunteers and paid firefighters two years ago.

Sadly, nothing has happened since then, Parliament has closed until February 2017, and this important issue for all firefighters remains unresolved.

Labor’s commitment just before it took power in 2014, said “Victorian legislation for career and volunteer firefighters will reflect the cancers covered and timeframes for duty of service as in the Tasmanian legislation”. Importantly, this promise explicitly contained no reference to unequal treatment or extra eligibility requirements for volunteers.  The Government has since hinted at imposing a discriminatory extra requirement for volunteers to prove an arbitrary number of turnouts before they become eligible for compensation and VFBV will be extremely disappointed if this eventuates.

Your local MPs need to know volunteers won’t accept second best just because they are not paid. Click here for more information on the firefighters' cancer law.

 

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The State Government has responded to the Fiskville Inquiry’s final report, endorsing all of the recommendations, either fully or in part - download the State Government response here or download the Fiskville Inquiry Final Report here.

VFBV now hopes it will be the trigger for urgent Government and CFA action on replacing Fiskville’s vital training capacity, ensuring properly monitored water quality standards for all CFA training sites, and maintaining ongoing support to all of those affected by exposure at the Fiskville site.

The announcement follows years of work from VFBV since the issue was first raised in the media in December 2011.   VFBV has consistently called for urgent remedial action at the site, independent, expert monitoring, ongoing support for everyone affected, and the urgent replacement of Fiskville’s lost training capacity. 

The closure of the site came in 2015 after the surprising discovery that water quality problems were persisting in spite of the reassurances of WorkSafe, the EPA, technical experts and CFA.

The State Government’s response to the Fiskville Inquiry is not the end of the issue, but a cue for action to resolve the problems left in Fiskville’s wake.

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 20/11/2016)

NEW DEPUTY CHIEF OFFICER - TRAINING

The CFA Training department has again been restructured, with the Committee informed that Training has now been transferred to the F&EM (Fire & Emergency Management) directorate, and is now led by a Deputy Chief Officer - Training.

VFBV welcomes Acting DCO Gregg Paterson AFSM to the new position. Gregg brings energy and enthusiasm to the role and the Committee looks forward to working with him.

PUMPING PIT RECOMMISSIONING    

VFBV has been strongly advocating for CFA to commit to a remediation and recommissioning program for pumping pits, whose use was temporarily suspended back in February 2015. There are approximately 91 pumping pits in use across the state. Of vital importance is the need for pumping pits to be safe, and for there to be an efficient and timely program to clean, monitor water quality and ultimately recommission them for use.

For many brigades, pumping pits form the only safe, controlled and viable option for brigades to train in drafting and other related pump operations and skills maintenance.

CFA have now issued a Work Instruction on the Management of Pumping Pits, and have implemented an approved recommissioning process. CFA have advised that the ultimate decision to recommission and fund the cost of these works rests with the Region. Water testing costs between $300/$400, with the cost of cleaning and refilling to be approximately $1,000.

Delegates have raised concern that due to Regional budget limitations, these costs will be pushed back to Brigades. CFA’s advice to these concerns is that Brigades should go through the Chain of Command and ultimately to Assistant Chief Officers who hold oversight of the Regions.

AVAILABILITY OF CHAINSAW TRAINING

The Committee continues to advocate for much greater access and support for members to attain chainsaw qualification and training. Despite two Mobile Chainsaw Training trailers developed through the Mobile Prop Project back in 2015 to add additional capability for members to access chainsaw training, a UFU grievance over the training package, equipment and trailer use and design has resulted in a yearlong ban on paid instructors using these trailers to deliver any chainsaw training, resulting in the widespread cancellation of CFA planned courses for volunteers. 

CFA advises that the IR issues are now close to being resolved, and has confirmed that there are no IR restrictions that relate to volunteer trainer and assessors accessing, towing and using the trailers.

Whilst disappointed that brigades are currently unable to access paid support and delivery of chainsaw courses through CFA’s training pool, the Committee has requested that CFA increase the number of endorsed volunteer trainer and assessors to deliver this training, so that brigades can access this vital training for the upcoming fire season. CFA has agreed to streamline and prioritize volunteer access to the new trailers, equipment and training package, as well as investigate an EOI process for subject matter experts to be identified and endorsed for volunteer training and delivery.

ELECTRICAL SAFETY MOBILE PROPS

Despite significant work and progress on the design of an electrical safety mobile trailer prop back in 2014/15 CFA funding for the prop lapsed and is no longer available, leaving the project completely un-funded.   VFBV is advocating for these mobile props to be fully funded and reprioritized. Electrical Safety and specifically skills maintenance for Low Voltage Fuse Removal has been identified as a state-wide gap for quite some time, and the Committee believes the electrical safety mobile props would significantly improve capability and member access to this vital training and knowledge.

FIRST AID TRAINING

Early results from CFA’s new First Aid Training arrangements with St John appears to be positive, with great acceptance of the out-of-session course work that cuts down the course duration and allows students to do some of the course work at home and in their own time. Adjustments for postal delays is now being factored into future courses.

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 26/11/2016)

DIGITAL SCANNER/LISTENING SETS TIER 3 STILL OPEN

The Digital Scanner subsidisation program advocated by VFBV and run in partnership with CFA has been an overwhelming success, since it began in October 2015. So far, 10,478 digital scanners have been ordered and shipped to Brigades and Groups across the state.  The subsidy budget, and the savings to members, represents over $3 million dollars.

More than 970 Brigades and 80 Groups have placed and received their Tier 1 & 2 orders, and Tier 3 is still under way. Under the Tier 1 program, every Brigade was entitled to a minimum of eight units at the subsidised price.  On average, Brigades ordered 3.5 units under Tier 1, and Groups took up one of their guaranteed minimum of two units.  Under Tiers 1 and 2 members paid $150 for a scanner, with the subsidy budget paying the other $296.75

Scanners are still available: CFA is still accepting Tier 3 orders, from Brigades, Groups and individual members. Tier 3 units are available at cost price, which was significantly reduced due to the bulk orders placed during the subsidisation program.  Members can order units for $446.75 plus postage and handling, while stocks last.  Order forms are still available from the VFBV website.

EAS PAGER OBSERVATION REPORTS MONITORING

Each quarter, the committee receives detailed reporting on the number of EAS Page observation reports submitted, including the type of issues reported, the length of time to investigate, and the results of each investigation. Encouragingly, since implementing this reporting cycle, the committee has observed a significant reduction in the time taken to resolve issues and the quality of reporting. Over the year, the 3 most common reported faults have been; not receiving messages (~38%), physical damage to the pager (~18%), and lost or stolen pagers (~10%).

Members are reminded of the importance of lodging EAS fault reports when they experience problems with their pagers. This information is critically important in identifying network performance issues as well as monitoring the health and status of the current pagers. The committee has requested that CFA investigate and prioritize the introduction of Electronic Observation Reports in addition to the current reporting option, which would provide more timely feedback to the member raising the concern. CFA has agreed to investigate, scope and report back.

PROPOSED REGIONAL RADIO DISPATCH SERVICE EXPANSION TO OUTER METRO DISTRICTS

For many years now VFBV and the Committee have been advocating for the Regional Mobile Radio Network to be expanded to cover the outer metropolitan districts. This network provides high quality digital P25 network capabilities and much improved radio audio quality. Under the Regional Radio Dispatch Service project announced back in 2013, the CFA network has been upgraded to the new digital network in all CFA districts excluding Districts 7, 8, 13 and 14 and has been a resounding success.

Unfortunately, these four Districts were not funded through RRDS and are still operating on the analogue dispatch network. Given these are amongst the busiest Districts in the state, the inability to access the digital dispatch network has far reaching consequences, one of them being these Districts will have no means to access improved functionality, such as the short status button functionality when it finally rolls out. Given the impact short status messaging will have on reducing radio congestion, this would provide a significant improvement to the busy outer metropolitan dispatch systems. In principle approval for expansion has now been announced, and CFA is now working with EMV, VicPol and SES in scoping a new project to potentially deliver on this commitment. VFBV welcomes this long awaited progress and will continue our advocacy to ensure the project receives adequate funding and government priority.   

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 20/11/2016)

CFA HQ DIRECTORATE RESTRUCTURE – VOLUNTEERS & STRATEGY

The CFA Volunteerism department has again been restructured, with the Committee informed that the old Learning & Volunteerism directorate has been split, with training now being transferred to the F&EM (Fire & Emergency Management) directorate, and Volunteerism now merging with Strategy to form the new directorate of Volunteers & Strategy.

The Brigade Support Team has now been amalgamated with the Volunteerism team, with this team looking to focus on more field based staff connecting with brigades at the local level.  They will explore recruitment and re-engagement, brigade sustainability, decline and growth patterns across the state, hub and cooperative models, and community connectedness. 

The overall vision of the Volunteers and Strategy Team is to facilitate the growth of volunteerism and strengthen brigade sustainability. VFBV welcomes Executive Director John Haynes to the new position. John brings energy and enthusiasm to the role and the Committee looks forward to working with him. John’s vision is to look at more outcome based measurements, such as what we measure before, during and after fires – not just measuring performance based on time out the door.

CFA ANNUAL PLAN 2016-17 RELEASED

CFA has released its Annual Plan for 2016-17 that outlines its priorities for this period. This year’s plan outlines the five priority plan themes for CFA during the 2016/17 year. The five themes are; Capability; Culture; Stakeholder Engagement; Strategy, Plan and Direction; and Systems and Processes.
 You can download a copy at; http://news.cfa.vic.gov.au/news/cfa-plan-a-must-read-for-all.html

VOLUNTEER TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT & ARRANGEMENTS

Following reports of variances between CFA Regions and Districts in how volunteer travel reimbursements are paid and authorised, the committee has requested CFA develop a State-wide Business Rule that will standardise and clarify arrangements. VFBV’s long held policy is that no volunteer should be out of pocket due to their volunteering. The Committee continues to advocate for improved access to CFA vehicles – including corporate pool vehicles when required to travel for training or other CFA related activities that would otherwise create an impost or cost upon volunteers. Should an appropriate vehicle not be available, then volunteers should have access to travel reimbursement, which is currently set at $0.72 per km. CFA has agreed to progress a policy review.

AWARD WINNING PROGRAM FOR KIDS

A VFBV-supported project for secondary students has won the Education Award at this year’s Fire Awareness Awards, thanks to local CFA volunteers and the Maryborough Education Centre. The Emergency Services Journey takes Year 9 students to their local brigade, Police and ambulance station to see how each service operates and learn practical skills. What began as a Brigades in Schools program run by volunteers from the Maryborough Fire Brigade in 2004, has been developed into an innovative course at the Maryborough Education Centre by teacher, VFBV Board member and CFA volunteer Samantha Rothman.

The course also includes a camp in the Mallee and sessions at a surf life saving club, and the students achieve certificates in Life Saving skills and First Aid. The program includes team and confidence building, with activities like open water swimming and fire brigade competition events. The Emergency Services Journey program is funded by VFBV and the Maryborough Education Centre Principal David Sutton says the school is proud of the students for doing so well, and Samantha Rothman for her work in developing the program. Well done David, Samantha and the Maryborough Brigade!

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 19/11/2016)

TANKER REAR DECK POD PROTOTYPE BECOMES A REALITY

For a number of years now, VFBV has been advocating for CFA to explore rear deck pods to trial as a possible replacement for rear deck ROPS, similar to those used in the mining industry. Ever since CFA’s decision to no longer manufacture rear deck ROPS and move exclusively to twin cab cab-chassis’, and the loss of DAH’s (Deck access hatches) volunteers have been raising concerns about the difficulty in accessing the rear deck area during jobs requiring crews to frequently move between the cab and the rear deck. The committee has been advocating for CFA to investigate the European body builders, where it has become common practice to purchase a single cab chassis and then build a crew area connected to the cabin as part of the body. This has a number of advantages including; that in a burn over situation all crew on the deck can quickly and safely return to the cabin; a reduction in crew fatigue across long fire-ground shifts; and greater safety when travelling to and from the fire ground and protection from smoke and embers.


The Committee was provided a tour and inspection of a Bell Engineering Heavy Tanker Pod Prototype, by Managing Director Robert Bell. The prototype is a ‘pod’ type construction which can be modified to slip onto any cab chassis. The ROP or rear cabin is fully self contained, very ‘roomy’ and has a large window with viewing access to the cabin and full size door access to the rear deck. A front mounted monitor, crew protection sprays, digital water level indicators on the sides as well as the back, ample storage lockers and an optional hydraulic BA lifter for easy operation are some of the great features. The Committee has requested that Bell Engineering consider loaning the prototype to CFA early next year so that a roadshow can be planned for members to view and inspect the prototype. Mr Bell has generously agreed, and VFBV extends its gratitude and appreciation to Mr Bell and the Bell Engineering Team, and congratulates them on their continued innovation, collaboration and support of Victorian fire services.

BURNOVER VEHICLE ENTRAPMENT RESEARCH - VIDEO

Following a presentation to the Committee earlier in the year from CFA’s Research & Development team, the Committee requested that CFA use this research to create a new burn-over training video that uses historical vision and vision from field testing filmed in February this year. The research team closely duplicated conditions similar to those experienced during the tragic Linton Fires in 1998 to test the response of CFA’s crew protection systems.


Three vehicles were tested, a tanker with ROP and crew protection, an Ultra-light with Gel coating and an Ultra light with foam coating. All vehicles were relatively unscathed with the temperature in the cabin of the tanker sitting at around 40 degrees whilst the outside temperature rose well above 600 degrees. The Committee has provided feedback on the new video, and has requested that a fact sheet be attached and be released along with SOP 9.32 ‘Entrapment Procedure’ for Brigades to use for their pre-summer training. CFA has released an online version on their facebook page.

This type of research is critical to ensuring firefighter safety and educating members on how the crew protection safety systems work, build confidence in those systems and the importance of situational awareness & entrapment procedures.

ROP CUSHION PROTOTYPE

Arcadia Brigade members briefed the committee on a prototype cushion for use in vehicles with rear deck roll over protection. As many would have experienced, the solid fibreglass ROP seat can be hard on your back and very slippery when cornering. The cushions have multiple functions in regards to firefighter safety, back injury reduction and firefighter comfort on long duration shifts amongst them. The Committee has requested they be field tested by 3 brigades in district 22 and will also be offered for testing by brigades in other Districts over the summer whilst analysis is completed.

The Committee had previously authorised a VESEP grant to support the trial, and VFBV thanks the Arcadia Fire Brigade for this pro-active initiative. A proban, a nomex and a marine canvas version are being field and burn tested over the summer.

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 26/11/2016)

PLANNED BURNING AND BUILDING BRIGADE CAPABILITIES

For many years now VFBV has been advocating for a more holistic approach to planned burning, and for CFA to promote the training advantages of participating in planned burns.

The committee has been very pleased to observe that recent planned burns have developed into exercises, not just in fire behaviour and fuel load interactions but also extend to learnings in weather behaviour, impact on flora and fauna, bush heritage and Indigenous fire management practices.

The camps are very practical ‘hands on’ for all involved, each participant is specifically tasked with both coaching and mentoring roles, allowing involvement by volunteers across all aspects of the planned burning. Recent burn camps also saw attendances from Traditional Owners, Trust for Nature (landowners) bird scientists, along with DWELP, plantation owners and CFA paid staff.

The attendees worked well together and contributed experience and expertise, building valuable relationships and creating an atmosphere of co-operation in complex burn scenarios. These camps offer a great opportunity for volunteers to train in realistic settings and gain extensive fire firefighting experience.

The committee has requested CFA produce a brochure which clearly explains and illustrates upcoming Burn Camps to Brigades.

CFA-SES COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND HAZARD AWARENESS FORUM

The joint CFA-SES community engagement forum was held at The Mantra in Lorne on 6th & 7th August, 2016.

The Forum is Victoria’s leading community safety conference for emergency service personnel and an opportunity for members to hear from both front line community safety educators but also leading community engagement specialists.

As well as the usual guest speakers, sessions and presentations, there were also outdoor displays by Coast Guard, CFA and SES, which were a resounding success. This year there were 481 attendees, 70% of those were CFA, 20% SES, this is a dramatic rise from 140 at the first forum in 2011. Volunteers from the North East and South East were very well represented with 65% of attendees coming from these two regions. The forum is growing in popularity and size.

The Committee will be reviewing the feedback provided by this year’s attendee’s and supports the continuation of this important forum. VFBV would like to recognize and congratulate the hard working members of the Volunteer Reference Group whose tireless energy and work helped to make this year’s event another resounding success.

THE FIRE SAFETY PLEDGE

Building on the success of last year’s campaign, CFA launched The Fire Safety Pledge to run between 3 November and 22 December.

Brigades are offered the chance to win one of three $1,000 cash prizes by encouraging members of their community to take the online “Fire Safety Pledge” at www.thefiresafetypledge.com.au

When members of the public make their pledge, they are asked to enter a local CFA brigade they wish to support. At the end of the competition, the brigade with the most number of pledges across the three different categories, will receive a cash prize of $1,000.

The categories are

1. Overall winner (brigade with the most votes)

2. Per-Capita – CFA brigade with the most votes relative to their population, and

3. Tiny Town – for brigades serving a population of less than 100 people.

As at 23 November (just three weeks into the initiative) 6,793 people have taken the pledge.

Any member of the public that takes the pledge will go into a draw to win one of four Samsung Galaxy Tablets or one of four $100 Bunning Gift Vouchers.

The friendly competition within Districts has begun with steep competition amongst seven of the top ten positions. Good Luck…..

BUSHFIRE HOTLINE NUMBER CHANGED

Delegates reported to CFA they have received complaints and concerns from the community surrounding the change of the VicEmergency Hotline number from 1800 240 667 to 1800 226 226. The committee has requested that both numbers continue to work until people get used to the change. CFA advice is both numbers will continue for some time.

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting. (Meeting held 27/11/2016). Unfortunately, delegates were advised a few days before the meeting that the Chief Officer was not available to meet, so the Committee decided instead of cancelling the meeting, they would simply meet without CFA.

ROLE OF GROUP

Having waited since 2012 for the most recent CFA review to strengthen the role of group, the Committee notes with disappointment the lack of progress or CFA leadership in the intervening time. Having lost confidence with CFA’s lack of response or support to this review, the Committee has endorsed a proposal for a volunteer led review of the Role of Group, with the intent to meet and gather feedback from all Groups across the State in order to arrive at a formal position that volunteers can then lead and advocate for across the Sector. This work will commence after the FDP and we will be seeking representatives from all Districts to help lead and coordinate a ground up discussion and review during 2017, with a view of driving this important reform. We will be using all the feedback received from CFA’s previous review as well as discussing the countless ideas and suggestions that arose from discussion during the last review but may have been rejected by CFA at the time for one reason or another.

In the previous review, VFBV advocated for;

  • Greater support and recognition from CFA to Groups and the Group structures in local command and control
  • Greater flexibility in how Groups can structure themselves to accommodate and respect local and regional differences and flexibility to match operating models to local risks. A ‘one size fits all’ model is not supported.
  • Strengthening the chain of command to empower and enhance the capability and capacity for local command and control being exercised by CFA members at the local level ensuring that local participation continues as incidents grow in size and complexity
  • Systems of work that recognize and enhance how Brigades, Groups, OO’s and RDO’s interact and support each other in Operational Readiness & Response, Training & Mentoring and Community Education
  • Strengthening the role of Groups in assisting Brigades building local capability for Incident Management and volunteer upskilling and mentoring for Level 2 and 3 incident management roles
  • Greater support and recognition of the important role of Group Comms including role, systems and processes in supporting local incidents and deployments and recognition in CAD processes and procedures of this vital role
  • Greater support and recognition of the important role Groups play in readiness, pre-incident planning & coordination, strike team resourcing & deployment, maintaining situational awareness and training delivery

All members will be provided an opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts, and VFBV will provide leadership, logistical and administrative support to allow local groups and districts to participate in structured discussions and share the information coming from neighbouring groups and districts across the State. If you would like to be involved in the early stages of the project, please contact VFBV at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (03) 9886 1141 and we will record your details.

40km SPEED LIMITS

VFBV continues to support and advocate for a 40km speed limit for vehicles passing a stationary emergency service vehicle displaying their red and blue flashing lights.

VFBV’s long stated position has been that firefighters working alongside roads and highways when attending to incidents, are put at a significant health & safety risk by passing motorists, and 40km speed limits similar to those for road side workers should be pursued, along with strong public education campaigns to educate motorists of the dangers. The Committee continues to advocate for the establishment of new road rules that will protect all emergency service personnel when working on the side of roads and highways.

 

Update: 29th January 2018

CFA is still accepting Tier 3 orders from Brigades, Groups and individual members, for digital scanners at cost price.

We have recently updated the Order Forms for Tier 3 orders to assist Brigades who wish to place orders;

Download the Brigade order form here

Download the Group order form here

 


 

 

Original Article: 20 December 2016

VFBV ADVOCATED PROGRAM - 10,000 SCANNERS DELIVERED – $3 MILLION IN SAVINGS TO BRIGADES –

CFA is still accepting Tier 3 orders from Brigades, Groups and individual members, for digital scanners at cost price.

The cost to volunteers has been significantly reduced due to the bulk orders placed during the Tier 1 and 2 subsidisation program. 

Members can order units for $446.75 plus postage and handling, while stocks last.  

 

The Digital Scanner subsidisation program advocated by VFBV and run in partnership with CFA has been an overwhelming success since it began in October 2015.

So far, 10,478 digital scanners have been ordered and shipped to Brigades and Groups across the state.  The subsidy budget, and the savings to members, represents over $3 million.

More than 970 Brigades and 80 Groups have placed and received their Tier 1 & 2 orders, and Tier 3 is still under way.

Under the Tier 1 program, every Brigade was entitled to a minimum of eight units at the subsidised price.  On average, Brigades ordered 3.5 units under Tier 1, and Groups took up one of their guaranteed minimum of two units.  Under Tiers 1 and 2 members paid $150 for a scanner, with the subsidy budget paying the other $296.75

A bulletin from the United Firefighters’ Union (UFU) this week wrongly portrays recent changes to the Federal Fair Work Act as enabling an attack on career firefighters’ entitlements and conditions.

The changes to the law only ban proposed clauses in any Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) that would interfere in an emergency organisation’s legitimate work with, and support of, its volunteers, or its compliance with State laws such as the CFA Act.

Given that the UFU has previously stated that its proposed Enterprise Agreement had no effect on volunteers in any way, any claim that the new legislation will somehow interfere with staff’s conditions of employment is bewildering.

In fact, the amendments to the Fair Work Act specifically rule out having any effect on clauses that do not involve either protecting volunteers or complying with State laws. The amendments only enable VFBV to make a submission to the Fair Work Commission (FWC), on matters that affect, or could affect, CFA volunteers. So clearly, if any part of an EBA has no impact on volunteers, VFBV would have no ability to make a submission to Fair Work.

VFBV has always pointed out that it is only interested in aspects of the proposed CFA/UFU EBA that affect volunteers.  We have never asked for any role in the normal negotiation of pay and conditions, and the changes to the Fair Work Act do not give us that role.

HOW THE LEGISLATION WORKS

The recent Federal legislation made a simple change to the Fair Work Act, including amending section 195A of the Fair Work Act to make it objectionable for workplace agreements to restrict or limit the emergency service organisation’s ability to:

  • engage or deploy its volunteers;
  • provide support or equipment to those volunteers;
  • manage its relationship with, or work with, any recognised emergency management body in relation to those volunteers;
  • otherwise manage its operations in relation to those volunteers;

In addition, the legislation makes objectionable any term requiring CFA to reach agreement with any other person or body before taking any actions described in the above 4 bullet points, as well as anything that restricts or limits CFA’s ability to recognise, value, respect or promote the contribution of its volunteers to the wellbeing and safety of the community.

Clearly, these changes were designed to have no impact on the legitimate negotiation of pay and conditions; the improvements to the Fair Work Act simply represent what we have been asking for all along, a fair go for volunteers.

Platitudes and sweet sounding words about how wonderful volunteers are and the important roles they perform are of no consequence, when at its heart, a Commonwealth industrial law was being misused to disrespect, demoralize and subjugate tens of thousands of hard working emergency management volunteers, simply because they choose to receive no payment.

Volunteers ask for very little in return for their contribution to the community. However, what they do ask, is for their ability to perform their duties and protect their communities to remain unhindered. This includes protecting them from Commonwealth legislation being misused to their detriment, and the new legislation now provides that protection.

From the outset, VFBV has affirmed that it will only appear in Fair Work should CFA and the UFU submit an EBA that again tries to interfere with the roles and arrangements impacting upon volunteers. Should the parties agree to genuinely only submit an EBA that restricts itself to the legitimate pay and conditions of its workforce, then VFBV will have no quarrel with it, and will not seek leave to appear in the Commission.

Our aim during this dispute begins and ends with ensuring that industrial arrangements do not try to dismantle the fully integrated nature of CFA, that they don’t discriminate against CFA members simply because they choose not to be paid, and that volunteers can continue to deliver CFA services without interference from agreements in which they have no say.

It has been VFBV’s express position that we have neither the desire nor the right to be involved in legitimate CFA/union negotiations on pay and conditions for paid staff. Our interests are solely limited to those matters that affect volunteers.

We maintain that leadership is about moving forward, and the new legislation now provides CFA and Government the best opportunity to move forward and treat all fire-fighters (paid and not paid) as professionals and treat them with respect; backed by the full force of the law.

Constant misinformation campaigns only serve to extend the disruption and demoralizing impacts of this dispute for everyone involved. If CFA and the UFU put up a fair and lawful enterprise agreement that rewards our paid colleagues with better pay and conditions, while protecting and supporting the CFA volunteers that work alongside them in a fully integrated way, we can all move forward.

*               *               *

You can download a full copy of the legislation here

The new VicEmergency App is available for download now.

The app provides warnings and details of incidents, for fires, floods, storms, earthquake, tsunamis and water safety.i

Go to the EMV website to learn more and download the app.

New features of the VicEmergency app include:

  • Incident and warning notifications for all emergencies
  • User profile that enables simultaneous access to watch zones and emergency notifications across multiple devices
  • Creation of up to 20 watch zones tailored to individual locations and needs
  • Ability to edit watch zones and turn notifications on and off.
  • Screen view rotation to view the incident map horizontally
  • Responsive design for iPads and tablet devices
  • The VicEmergency website www.emergency.vic.gov.au upgraded to create and edit watch zones and send email notifications

The new VicEmergency hotline introduced for this summer - 1800 226 226 - brings together all emergency numbers including the Victorian Bushfire Information Line, the Victorian Emergency Relief Information Line and the VICSES Flood and Storm Information Line.

VFBV's November 2016 column in FireWise is now available.

In this edition:

- Editorial: A Win for Volunteers but Still More To Do

- Fundraising is Still Important

- Cancer Law: Time for Government to Deliver Presumptive Legislation

- Strong Support: 2016/17 Brigade Affiliations approach another record

- VFBV Brigade Delegates' Course

- Youth Network Running Hot

- Promote Your Brigade's Good Work: Fire Safety Media Tips

- How to Apply: VFBV Helps with VESEP Grants

- VEOHRC Review Closing on November 18

- Urban and Rural Championship Dates for 2017

Download this month's column as a PDF file

Download earlier editions

Subscribe to receive the complete FireWise newspaper at the FireWise website.

 

A WIN FOR VOLUNTEERS, BUT THERE’S MORE TO DO

By Andrew Ford, Chief Executive Officer

VFBV has achieved a major breakthrough in the long running dispute flowing from the CFA/UFU enterprise bargaining deal (EBA) that undermines the volunteer based nature of CFA, impacts on the way volunteers are supported and work, and overrides CFA decision making including on matters impacting on volunteers.   

VFBV has successfully campaigned for and achieved a change to the Federal Fair Work Act that protects volunteers and ensures the volunteer nature of CFA cannot be undermined by an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement between CFA and the UFU.  The Federal Fair Work Act changes were approved by the Senate on 10 October with support from all Coalition and cross bench independent Senators other than Senator Lambie from Tasmania, and have been given Royal Assent which confirms them as law as of now.

The changes to the Fair Work Act apply to the current EBA negotiations and also all future CFA EBAs. 

This means that VFBV has also achieved the outcome being pursued in the Victorian Supreme Court. 

Our core claim in the Supreme Court was to achieve a declaration that it would be unlawful for CFA to enter into the proposed 2016 CFA/UFU EBA because of clauses that contradict and override the CFA Act - the changes to the Federal Fair Work Act now disallow this in federal law.   

The change to the Fair Work Act makes it unlawful for the EBA to include arrangements that restrict or limit CFA’s ability to:

  •          Engage or deploy volunteers
  •          Provide support or equipment to volunteers
  •          Manage its relationship with or work with any other emergency management body in relation to its volunteers
  •          Manage it operations in relation to volunteers
  •          Consult with volunteers

or require or permit CFA to act other than in accordance with the powers, functions and duties conferred or imposed on CFA by the CFA Act in relation to volunteers.

The changes to the Fair Work Act prohibit the CFA from having EBA arrangements that require CFA to consult or reach agreement with any other person or body before taking any action regarding the things listed above.  The changes to the Fair Work Act also disallow the CFA from having EBA arrangements that restrict or limit CFA’s ability to recognise, value, respect or promote the contribution of CFA volunteers to the wellbeing and safety of the community.  And the changes prohibit the CFA from having EBA arrangements that require or permit CFA to act other than in accordance with the powers, functions and duties conferred or imposed on CFA (ie by the CFA Act) in relation to volunteers.

The changes also enable VFBV to make a submission to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) when matters before the FWC affect, or could affect, CFA volunteers.  To date VFBV has been locked out of any ability to raise concerns in the FWC even when matters contained in the CFA/UFU EBA directly impacted on volunteers.

This doesn’t mean our legal action is over completely but it does make the path ahead clearer. 

The Supreme Court action has been fundamental in our efforts to prevent the CFA and UFU using the loophole that previously existed in the Fair Work Act to enable the CFA Board to enter into an EBA that we say is beyond the lawful intent and powers of the CFA Act.  The CFA will no longer be able to use this loophole.   Our action in the Supreme Court has been costly and resource intensive, but also vitally important and fundamental to shaping the ground for a fairer process for volunteers at the new Federal level. 

The change to the Federal laws (Fair Work Act) now achieves what VFBV has been seeking from the Victorian Supreme Court.  Our efforts from here on are better devoted to ensuring the Federal arrangements for protecting the future of CFA hold firm, working to ensure CFA and others are focussed on supporting and strengthening volunteerism for the benefit of future generations and getting on with protecting our communities. 

The focus of our advocacy and legal action will now shift to the Federal sphere and play out in the Fair Work Commission and from there the Federal court system if required.  We will also be freed up to focus on potential challenge to the Fair Work Amendment in the High Court of Australia as threatened by the UFU.  At the Federal level we will not be alone – the Fair Work Commission now has clear rules to follow which protect emergency service volunteers; the Federal Employment Minister has also committed to challenge the EBA at the full bench of the Fair Work Commission if required, and if the matter goes to the High Court then the Federal Government will have a keen interest in defending the robustness of their legislation.

We think VFBV and volunteers can now set the scene by proactive leadership to ensure CFA remains a strong and successful volunteer based organisation where paid staff and volunteers work side by side for the benefit of the communities we serve. 

VFBV greatly appreciates the support and monetary donations that have made our campaign action to date possible.  A big thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign to date.  There is still an enormous amount of work to do and we are still seeking donations and support, so please keep spreading the word.

 

FUNDRAISING IS STILL IMPORTANT

While VFBV has discontinued its action in the Victorian Supreme Court in the wake of changes to the Federal Fair Work Act that has enabled the legal protections we set out to achieve, our campaign to defend the volunteer based CFA continues, and fundraising is still important.

The new Federal Legislation has changed the legal ground rules to defend fire and emergency service volunteers from industrial interference, but it must be supported in the Fair Work Commission and possibly Federal courts.

We still need volunteers to actively seek donations from the public and other supporters, to fund our campaign to maintain and strengthen volunteer capacity for future generations, and stop industrial interference in CFA volunteers’ service to Victoria.

Members of the public, corporate donors, community organisations and volunteers can make a direct deposit via the Bendigo Bank to the VFBV Valuing Volunteers Fund, BSB 633 000, Account number 157 728 221, send a cheque to the Valuing Volunteers Fund, PO Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149, or make a donation by visiting www.mycause.com.au/cfa

Note that VFBV is a non-party political organisation: it does not accept donations from political parties.

 

TIME FOR GOVERNMENT TO DELIVER PRESUMPTIVE LEGISLATION

Recent media reports have suggested presumptive legislation for Victorian firefighters may be announced soon, so it is time to remind your local Members of Parliament this is important to volunteers, and also remind them of the commitment the Government made to Victorian volunteers and paid firefighters two years ago.

Before the 2014 State Election, Labor announced that “Victorian legislation for career and volunteer firefighters will reflect the cancers covered and timeframes for duty of service as in the Tasmanian legislation”.Importantly, this promise explicitly contained no reference to unequal treatment or extra eligibility requirements for volunteers.  The Government has since hinted at imposing a discriminatory extra requirement for volunteers to prove an arbitrary number of turnouts before they become eligible for compensation and VFBV will be extremely disappointed if this eventuates.

There are still unanswered questions about the legislation:

  •          will it treat career and volunteer firefighters equally?
  •          will it cover firefighters who have already been diagnosed?

VFBV has long campaigned for presumptive legislation to provide simpler and fairer cancer compensation for all Victorian firefighters, both volunteer and career.

Victorian presumptive legislation should list the same 12 cancers and the same years of service requirements that appear in the legislation already passed by the Commonwealth and most other States.

Presumptive legislation works by reversing the onus of proof.  The cancer is presumed to be work related provided it is one of 12 listed cancers and the firefighter has sufficient years of service.  

Western Australia has now passed presumptive legislation, and South Australia and Queensland led the way with equal treatment for career and volunteer firefighters.  Presumptive legislation is now in place in all States and Territories except NSW and Victoria.

Your local MPs need to know that volunteers will not accept being given second best just because they are not paid.  For more information, go to the Cancer Law page

 

VEOHRC REVIEW CLOSING SOON

Past and present CFA members have until 18 November to contribute to the Independent Review into Equity and Diversity being conducted by the Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC).

VEOHRC is talking to CFA members about workplace culture, discrimination (including bullying) and sexual harassment. You can tell VEOHRC about the amazing work CFA does as well as any difficult experiences you’ve had. The Review will report in mid-2017.

The online survey is independently hosted by VEOHRC. A paper-based version is also available upon request, or you can arrange a confidential interview on the phone or in person.

You can participate confidentially and anonymously.  Call the confidential phone line (03) 9032 3464, send a confidential email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or for more information, visit www.victorianhumanrightscommission.com/EDR/

 

2016/17 AFFILIATIONS

The number of Brigades affiliating with VFBV for 2016/17 is on track to match and probably exceed last year’s record number, a sign of continued strong support for the association’s work on behalf of volunteers.

A record 93% of Brigades affiliated with VFBV in 2015/16, and this year a number of Brigades have affiliated with VFBV for the first time in many years.

If you are not sure whether your Brigade or Group’s VFBV Affiliation and Brigade’s VFBV Volunteer Welfare Fund subscription have been paid, contact your Secretary as soon as possible.

The modest cost of $77.50 for VFBV affiliation is the same for all Brigades and Groups.

We also strongly encourage Brigades to subscribe to the VFBV Welfare Fund in the interests of supporting your members in times of personal hardship.  For more information visit the VFBV Welfare Fund page and see the Welfare Fund Frequently Asked Questions page. 

For any enquiries, contact your VFBV State Councillors or call us on (03) 9886 1141.

 

VFBV BRIGADE DELEGATES’ COURSE

VFBV is launching a newly developed short course for Brigade Delegates to District Councils.

Participants completing the course will be awarded two modules from Cert II in Public Safety (Firefighting Operations): PUACOM001C Communicate in the Workplace, and PUACOM002B Provide Services to Clients.

The course will be taken to all Districts over the coming two years, and will give Delegates the chance to gain new skills, network among their peers, improve teamwork and communication, and assist with succession planning for their District Council.

The course consists of two sessions of one day each, with a small amount of work to be done from home, and covers useful skills including: Facilitation, Leadership, Effective Communication, Reporting, Networking, Working in a group, Note Taking, Decision Making, Managing Issues, and Problem Solving.

The course is a very important investment in volunteer leadership skills; talk to your District Council or keep an eye on www.vfbv.com.au for more details.

 

YOUTH NETWORK UPDATE

The VFBV Multi-Agency Youth Network is running hot, with Life Saving Victoria now officially involved, along with VFBV, VICSES, the Red Cross and the Victorian Council of Churches.

Youth Engagement Officer Christine Fryer and our VFBV Support Officers are working with District Councils to organise informal get togethers for young Network members, their District Champions and VFBV District Council executive members, as well as encouraging young volunteers’ attendance at District Council meetings.

District 12 will have an informal event on 13 November, and Districts 9, 10 and 27 will have theirs on 20 November.

Districts 22 and 24 are planning their first gatherings of young members, and District 15 has had its first get together, where they discussed rotating the role of Youth Panel Chair so everyone can lead meetings and initiatives, and appointed a member to design a logo for the Youth Network.

Read FireWise or visit www.vfbv.com.au for updates, or to get involved contact Chris on (03) 9886 1141 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

VFBV HELPS WITH VESEP GRANTS

If your Brigade is considering applying for a VESEP grant in the future, for a vehicle, new equipment or facilities improvements, start your planning and preparation now.

Click here or go to the VFBV website and type VESEP Resources into the search box in the top right corner of the page, to find a copy or our most recent Application Help Pack and case studies that demonstrate how successful past applications worked.

For additional practical advice, contact your VFBV Support Officer via the VFBV office on (03) 9886 1141.

 

FIRE SAFETY MEDIA TIPS

VFBV encourages Brigades and Groups to make the most of media opportunities to publicise fire safety and the professionalism and contribution of CFA volunteers.

When you have an exercise, training session, summer safety warning or other activity to publicise, make the most of it, with:

  •          a list of what you’d like local media to tell the public
  •          facts and figures about your Brigade or Group
  •          examples of your Brigade’s good work in recent seasons, and
  •          a call to action

The call to action can be about fire safety preparation, volunteering, making a donation or supporting CFA volunteers in another way; prompt the public contribute to their own safety or help your Brigade to provide its essential emergency service to the community.

For VFBV’s sheets helpful publicity tips, facts and figures on CFA volunteers, and this summer’s key messages from CFA and Emergency Management Victoria, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or for advice, call Peter Beaton on (03) 9886 1141.

 

CHAMPIONSHIP DATES FOR 2017

The VFBV State Urban Junior Championships will be held at Tatura, on 25/26 February 2017.

The VFBV State Urban Senior Championships will take place at Bendigo, on 11 to 13 March 2017.

Visit the Urban and Rural Championships sections of the VFBV website www.vfbv.com.au for the latest rule book, entry forms, and judges/officials nomination forms.

The VFBV State Rural Championships will be at Wodonga on 1 and 2 April 2017.

More details and entry forms will be posted on the Rural Championships page at the VFBV website in the near future.

NOTE TO MEMBERS – 25 October 2016 - Download Media Release Here                                       

IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR ALL VOLUNTEERS

In the last few weeks VFBV has achieved major breakthrough in the long running dispute flowing from the CFA/UFU enterprise bargaining deal (EBA) that undermines the volunteer based nature of CFA, impacts on the way volunteers are supported and work, and overrides CFA decision making including on matters impacting on volunteers.   

VFBV has successfully campaigned for and achieved a change to the Federal Fair Work Act that protects volunteers and ensures the volunteer nature of CFA cannot be undermined by an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement between CFA and the UFU.  The Federal Fair Work Act changes were approved by the Senate on 10 October with support from all Coalition and cross bench independent Senators other than Senator Lambie from Tasmania, and have been given Royal Assent which confirms them as law as of now.

The changes to the Fair Work Act apply to the current EBA negotiations and also all future CFA EBAs.  This means that VFBV has also achieved the outcome being pursued in the Victorian Supreme Court.  Our core claim in the Supreme Court was to achieve a declaration that it would be unlawful for CFA to enter into the proposed 2016 CFA/UFU EBA because of clauses that contradict and override the CFA Act - the changes to the Federal Fair Work Act now disallow this in federal law.   

As a result, yesterday we reached an agreement with the CFA to draw a conclusion to the Victorian Supreme Court Action.  VFBV is of the view that CFA should revisit the EBA given the changes to the Fair Work Act but instead of testing this in the State Supreme Court it will now be a matter to be tested in the Fair Work Commission under the new arrangements which make it unlawful for the EBA to include arrangements that restrict or limit CFA's ability to:

  • Engage or deploy volunteers
  • Provide support or equipment to volunteers
  • Manage its relationship with or work with any other emergency management body in relation to its volunteers
  • Manage it operations in relation to volunteers
  • Consult with volunteers
  • Or require or permit CFA to act other than in accordance with the powers, functions and duties conferred or imposed on CFA by the CFA Act in relation to volunteers.

This doesn’t mean our legal action is over completely but it does make the path ahead clearer.  Instead of continuing our costly legal action in the Victorian Supreme Court, the focus of our advocacy and legal action will now shift to the Federal sphere and play out in the Fair Work Commission and from there the Federal court system if required.  We will also be freed up to focus on potential challenge to the Fair Work Amendment in the High Court of Australia as threatened by the UFU.  At the Federal level we will not be alone – the Fair Work Commission now has clear rules to follow which protect emergency service volunteers; the Federal Employment Minister has also committed to challenge the EBA at the full bench of the Fair Work Commission if required, and if the matter goes to the High Court then the Federal Government will have a keen interest in defending the robustness of their legislation.

The change to the Federal laws (Fair Work Act) now achieves what VFBV have been seeking from the Victorian Supreme Court.  Our efforts from here on are better devoted to ensuring the federal arrangements for protecting the future of CFA hold firm, working to ensure CFA and others are focussed on supporting and strengthening volunteerism for the benefit of future generations and getting on with protecting our communities. 

It was never our wish to be held up in a protracted court case.  We think VFBV and volunteers can now set the scene by proactive leadership to ensure CFA remains a strong and successful volunteer based organisation where paid staff and volunteer work side by side for the benefit of the communities we serve. 

The Supreme Court action has been fundamental in our efforts to prevent the CFA and UFU using the loophole that previously existed in the Fair Work Act to enable the CFA Board to enter into an EBA that we say is beyond the lawful intent and powers of the CFA Act.  The CFA will no longer be able to use this loophole.   Our action in the Supreme Court has been costly and resource intensive.  VFBV greatly appreciates the support and monetary donations that have made the Supreme Court action possible.  A big thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign to date.

There is still a possibility that further legal action might be required given that the UFU have claimed they will challenge the Fair Work Act amendment in the High Court and there is also real possibility that VFBV will need to defend the rights of volunteers in the Federal sphere so we will continue fund raising to support our legal action and further campaign efforts.

VFBV will also be arranging detailed briefings for every VFBV District Council to explain the success achieved by the change to the Fair Work Act, the outcomes achieved by our Victorian Supreme Court Action and the work remaining in the Federal sphere.  VFBV will be working hard with CFA and Government to provide the leadership required to ensure CFA remains a great place to volunteer and an organisation ready to serve communities.  There is a lot of work to do, and with summer on our door step we want to get on with it as quickly as possible.

SUMMARY OF CHANGES TO THE FAIR WORK ACT

The changes to the Fair Work Act make it unlawful for organisations such as CFA to have EBA arrangements that restrict or limit CFA’s ability to:

  • Engage or deploy volunteers
  • Provide support or equipment to volunteers
  • Manage its relationship with or work with any other emergency management body in relation to its volunteers
  • Manage it operations in relation to volunteers

The changes to the Fair Work Act prohibit the CFA from having EBA arrangements that require CFA to consult or reach agreement with any other person or body before taking any action regarding the things listed above.  The changes to the Fair Work Act also disallow the CFA from having EBA arrangements that restrict or limit CFA’s ability to recognise, value, respect or promote the contribution of CFA volunteers to the wellbeing and safety of the community.  And the changes prohibit the CFA from having EBA arrangements that require or permit CFA to act other than in accordance with the powers, functions and duties conferred or imposed on CFA (ie by the CFA Act) in relation to volunteers.

The changes also enable VFBV to make a submission to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) when matters before the FWC affect, or could affect, CFA volunteers.  To date VFBV has been locked out of any ability to raise concerns in the FWC even when matters contained in the CFA/UFU EBA directly impacted on volunteers.

UPDATE OCTOBER 2016 – WA Parliament passes firefighters’ cancer law for volunteers

WA Passes Firefighters' Cancer Law

The Western Australian Parliament has just passed its Firefighters’ Cancer Law for volunteers, adding to the momentum of presumptive legislation around the country and the pressure for legislation in Victoria.

Tell your MPs it is time for presumptive legislation in Victoria that lists the same 12 cancers named in other States, treats career and volunteer firefighters equally, and includes retrospective coverage for firefighters who have already been diagnosed.

Presumptive legislation works by reversing the onus of proof.  The cancer is presumed to be work related provided it is one of 12 listed cancers and the firefighter has sufficient years of service.  

The WA legislation was supported by the Liberal National Government, the Labor Opposition, Upper House Greens and independent MPs, however it does not match the standard set by Queensland and South Australia, which treat career and volunteer firefighters equally.

Unlike their career colleagues, WA volunteers are expected to show they have attended at least five hazardous fires – structure and vehicle fires - each year for five years.

Victorian firefighters are still waiting for the legislation they were promised, and there are still unanswered questions. 

Before the 2014 State Election, Labor announced that “Victorian legislation for career and volunteer firefighters will reflect the cancers covered and timeframes for duty of service as in the Tasmanian legislation” and explicitly contained no reference to unequal treatment or extra eligibility requirements for volunteers.  However, the Government’s letters to volunteers since the election have hinted that it is considering imposing a requirement for an arbitrary number of turnouts before a volunteer becomes eligible for compensation.

Your local MPs need to know that volunteers are tired of waiting and will not accept being treated differently just because they are not paid.

Find your Member of Parliament's contact details here.

Find your Upper House Members of Parliament here.

 

Notes for Volunteers – 12 October 2015

Firefighters’ Cancer Law – it’s time for action in Victoria

Victorian Government promises legislation, but with a disturbing lack of detail

It is time for action; Queensland has passed legislation for fairer and simpler cancer compensation that treats volunteers and staff equally, while Victorian volunteers have been given promises, but no details and no action.

CFA volunteers have been told the Victorian Government will bring in legislation in 2016, but there are few details and significant unanswered questions;

  •          Will the legislation be retrospective – if a volunteer is diagnosed with cancer today, will they be protected?
  •          Will the legislation treat career and volunteer firefighters equally?  Queensland and South Australian legislation does, but the older, out of date legislation in Tasmania does not.

Volunteers across Victoria need to show the Government that like Queensland and South Australian volunteers, they won’t accept extra eligibility requirements such as arbitrary turnout thresholds that apply to volunteers but not their career colleagues.

Victoria’s now Deputy Premier and Minister for Emergency Services, James Merlino, said at a volunteer rally on 15 June 2014, ‘there shouldn’t be any reason why we have to wait for presumptive rights legislation here in Victoria’, which leaves volunteers wondering why we are still waiting.

QUEENSLAND AND SOUTH AUSTRALIA HAVE SHOWN HOW IT IS DONE

Queensland passed its presumptive legislation for fairer and simpler cancer compensation for firefighters on 17 September 2015.

The Queensland legislation treats career and volunteer firefighters equally, and names the same 12 cancers and years of service requirements as are listed in the legislation already introduced by the Commonwealth and most States.  It is the law that the incoming Victorian Government promised CFA volunteers before the 2014 State Election.

Queensland has followed the other Parliaments in recognising that firefighters are more prone to certain types of cancer, and removing a long standing barrier that blocks sick firefighters from receiving the cancer compensation to which they are entitled.

Queensland’s legislation reverses the onus of proof.  The cancer is presumed to be work related, provided it is one of 12 listed cancers and the firefighter has sufficient years of service.   

This legislation is not a free ride; the firefighter’s claim can still be rejected if it can be proved that the cancer was not related to firefighting duties.

QLD VOLUNTEERS TREATED FAIRLY DESPITE UFU CAMPAIGN AGAINST THEM

Queensland’s law was passed after a Parliamentary Committee compared the issues, including the Labor Government’s proposal for a discriminatory extra requirement that volunteers show 150 exposure incidents before they qualify for compensation; a relic from the out of date Tasmanian law.

VFBV provided a submission, calling for legislation treating career and volunteer firefighters equally while listing the same 12 cancers and years-of-service requirements used in the Commonwealth and other States’ legislation.

Disappointingly, the United Firefighters’ Union of Australia’s submission to the Queensland Parliamentary Committee called for volunteers to show “a specified minimum of exposure incidents (150)”, but no such requirement for the staff working alongside them.

The UFU submission was surprising given that VFBV and UFU have been pursuing a joint campaign in Victoria since 2012 to ensure all Victorian career and volunteer firefighters are provided with access to their rightful entitlements in the event that they contract cancer.

Queensland’s Parliamentary Committee dropped the discriminatory extra requirement that volunteers show 150 exposure incidents, before the legislation went to a vote.

The Queensland legislation as passed on 17 September 2015.  The Chair of the Parliamentary Committee, Labor MP Di Farmer, told the Queensland Parliament, “We were unable to identify any scientific basis for the inclusion of the 150 exposure incidents as being the appropriate measure for exposure by volunteer rural firefighters.”

THE SITUATION IN VICTORIA

Victoria and NSW are the only States left with no legislation to help firefighters with cancer.

Victorian firefighters still face the near impossible barrier that all of the burden of proof is on them.  The sick firefighter is expected to come up with the evidence, often more than exists in CFA’s own files, when the cause of their cancer could be a fire or chemical spill 10 or 15 years ago.

Before the 2014 State Election, Victorian Labor announced that “Victorian legislation for career and volunteer firefighters will reflect the cancers covered and timeframes for duty of service as in the Tasmanian legislation” and explicitly contained no reference to unequal treatment or extra eligibility requirements for volunteers.

Since the election, the new Government has promised to introduce legislation in 2016, but has not come up with any details, leaving significant unanswered questions.  The Government has told the media it is talking to stakeholders, although VFBV’s most recent letter to the Minister on presumptive legislation remains unanswered.

The State Government is well aware of our concerns over any possible discrimination in the form of extra eligibility requirements that only apply to volunteers, however, the Government’s letters to a number of volunteers since the election have hinted that it is considering imposing a requirement for an arbitrary number of turnouts before a volunteer becomes eligible for compensation.

WHAT VOLUNTEERS CAN DO NOW   

Speak up now.  Don’t wait until you know a volunteer who has cancer, and don’t wait until the State Government introduces discriminatory or inadequate legislation for Victoria.

  •          Ask your local Member of Parliament for their support – go and see them, write them a letter or send an email
  •          Raise the issue with your local media
  •          Post a comment or a meme on Facebook
  •          Talk to other volunteers and encourage them to speak up now

Call (03) 9886 1141 or talk to your VFBV State Councillor if you need advice, assistance or your local MP or newspaper’s contact details.

Questions to ask your State MP:

  •          Do they support presumptive legislation that treats career and volunteer firefighters equally?
  •          Do they support presumptive legislation that is retrospective, so volunteers are covered if they have cancer now, or are diagnosed before the legislation is passed?
  •          Will the MP raise the issue in Parliament now and call for an end to the delay?

For CFA volunteers suffering from work related cancer, the promised Victorian legislation can’t come fast enough, and it important that all CFA volunteers send a simple message to Members on both sides of Parliament; we are sick of waiting.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The cancers and years-of-service eligibility requirements that appear in the Commonwealth and other States’ legislation are;

Primary site brain cancer (5 years)

Primary site testicular cancer (10 years)

Primary site bladder cancer (15 years)

Multiple myeloma (15 years)

Primary site kidney cancer (15 years)

Primary site prostate cancer (15 years)

Primary non-Hodgkins lymphoma (15 years)

Primary site ureter cancer (15 years)

Primary leukaemia (5 years)

Primary site colorectal cancer (15 years)

Primary site breast cancer (10 years)

Primary site oesophageal cancer (25 years)

 Return to VFBV website front page

The Western Australian Parliament has just passed its Firefighters’ Cancer Law for volunteers, adding to the momentum of presumptive legislation around the country and the pressure for legislation in Victoria.

Tell your MPs it is time for presumptive legislation in Victoria that lists the same 12 cancers named in other States, treats career and volunteer firefighters equally, and includes retrospective coverage for firefighters who have already been diagnosed.

Presumptive legislation works by reversing the onus of proof.  The cancer is presumed to be work related provided it is one of 12 listed cancers and the firefighter has sufficient years of service.  

The WA legislation was supported by the Liberal National Government, the Labor Opposition, Upper House Greens and independent MPs, however it does not match the standard set by Queensland and South Australia, which treat career and volunteer firefighters equally.

Unlike their career colleagues, WA volunteers are expected to show they have attended at least five hazardous fires – structure and vehicle fires - each year for five years.

Victorian firefighters are still waiting for the legislation they were promised, and there are still unanswered questions. 

Before the 2014 State Election, Labor announced that “Victorian legislation for career and volunteer firefighters will reflect the cancers covered and timeframes for duty of service as in the Tasmanian legislation” and explicitly contained no reference to unequal treatment or extra eligibility requirements for volunteers.  However, the Government’s letters to volunteers since the election have hinted that it is considering imposing a requirement for an arbitrary number of turnouts before a volunteer becomes eligible for compensation.

Your local MPs need to know that volunteers are tired of waiting and will not accept being treated differently just because they are not paid.

Find your Member of Parliament's contact details here.

Find your Upper House Members of Parliament here.

Learn more at the VFBV Firefighters' Cancer Law page.

The VFBV Multi-Agency Youth Network is really taking off; young members are already organising their first activities in four Districts, and 17 VFBV Districts have identified experienced volunteer Champions to support the young volunteers in their work.

In the meantime, VICSES and the Red Cross have begun targeted campaigning to their young members through the months of September and October.  

With support from VFBV, District 11 is working on a pilot to launch a multi-agency youth program in schools, District 13 is preparing a forum for young volunteers in the new year, District 14 is instigating social events where young volunteers can discuss and present ideas for ongoing projects, and in Districts 8, 12, 15 and 16, young volunteers are already getting involved in their VFBV District Councils.

Volunteer champions and more young volunteers are still needed in Districts 4, 5, 6, 7 and 22.  Contact Chris Fryer on (03) 9886 1141 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FROM THE FIREMAN - NOVEMBER 2010

The VFBV Welfare Fund has had some undeserved bad press in recent weeks – bad press that potentially could have interfered with its important, long term job of helping volunteers in need.

The VFBV Welfare Fund is volunteer-run, reports to the VFBV Board, has its governance and finance reviewed each year by an independent external auditor, and operates according to Australian Taxation Office rules. It provides small cash grants at short notice, to assist CFA volunteers who face significant financial hardship.

The bad press came in the form of a newspaper article that seemed to be based on the incorrect assumption that the Fund had been given a State Government grant of $2 million to be distributed immediately. The article accused VFBV of “sitting on” the money. 

The article missed the fact that a different fund, the VFBV Black Saturday Volunteer Recovery Fund, had the role of quickly accumulating donations and distributing assistance to volunteers who had lost their homes, businesses or other significant assets to the Black Saturday Fires. That VFBV-run fund did its job in a matter of months, raising and distributing more than $850,000 to hundreds of volunteers.

The article also missed the fact that the VFBV Welfare Fund is a different type of fund, designed to last indefinitely, and needs to be backed by invested funds to do its job.

VFBV did the groundwork of setting up the Fund, including making representations to the State Government that resulted in a one-off grant of $2 million to be invested so the Fund would have a regular income.

The interest from that investment keeps the Fund’s resources ahead of inflation and provides income that can be paid out as grants to volunteers in need. That healthy investment income has also allowed the Committee of Management to reduce the cost of subscription to just $85 per year for each member brigade.

In its first two calendar years of operation (from October 2008), the VFBV Welfare Fund maintained its capital base, while distributing over $200,000 to assist more than 70 CFA volunteers in need.

The Fund is now in its third financial year, and well on its way to having two thirds of all CFA volunteer brigades subscribe as members.

HOW THE FUND WORKS

The VFBV Welfare Fund enables member brigades to access small welfare grants for CFA volunteers, former volunteer members and their families, who are experiencing significant financial hardship.

Subscribing brigades can apply for a grant by obtaining an application pack, then forwarding the necessary information to the VFBV Welfare Fund’s Committee of Management, which is made up of long-serving CFA volunteers. Decisions are usually made within a few days and any approved grant is forwarded to the brigade.

The process is confidential, and the Committee of Management stays in touch with the brigade in case additional help is needed. The Fund can also organise financial counselling, where required.

Typical recipients include volunteers and their families, or long-serving former volunteers, who face significant financial hardship because of prolonged illness, bereavement, loss of earnings or the travel and accommodation costs associated with supporting a relative in hospital.

The VFBV Welfare Fund offers brigades a quick way to get financial help to a volunteer, which is a benefit to the brigade as well as the volunteer and their family.

It can save a close-knit local brigade the heartache of wanting to help a mate in significant financial hardship, but facing the difficult task of raising two or three thousand dollars in a hurry.

Not one cent of the VFBV Welfare Fund or its income is spent on administration or other VFBV costs. Every cent is dedicated to helping members in need, and thanks to its invested capital base, the Fund will be providing that help to volunteers for generations to come.

HOW TO BE INVOLVED

Donations to the Fund from individuals or organisations are both welcome and tax deductible, and the VFBV Welfare Fund does not pay administration costs – those are met by VFBV.

Any VFBV-affiliated brigade can subscribe to the fund, and the number of member brigades has risen with each year - VFBV expects two thirds of CFA brigades will take up the option to subscribe this year. Affiliation with VFBV costs an average of about $80, depending on the classification of the brigade.

Brigades wishing to subscribe to the Fund or apply for assistance for one of their volunteers can contact the Fund on (03) 9886 1141.

To return to the VFBV website, click here

Ends…

RMIT University and the Bushfire and Natural Hazard CRC are holding a series of workshops with key stakeholders to analyse alternative strategies for engaging with non-traditional emergency volunteers (e.g. unaffiliated with formal emergency management organisations and plans).

The workshops are a part of the ‘Out of Uniform’ project that examines opportunities for emergency management organisations to contribute to community resilience by supporting non-traditional emergency volunteers - to learn more about the project, click here.

The workshops build on reviews conducted of knowledge and practice in this area, and case studies of non-traditional volunteering in action in Australia.

The workshop series has three aims:

1. To test and refine a proposed framework to assess alternative engagement strategies in relation to desired outcomes

2. To conduct a SWOT analysis to identify and compare the full range of potential Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats associated with four broad engagement strategies (currently labelled as Ignore, Resist, Tolerate, Embrace)

3. To identify what is needed for emergency management organisations to develop and implement volunteer strategies for non-traditional forms of volunteering.

The workshop series is currently in planning, with the first two workshops scheduled for October 2016.

It will have three overall outputs:

1. A tested and documented framework to underpin a strategic decision support tool for emergency management organisations

2. Identification of knowledge gaps for addressing specific organisational needs in volunteering for possible research funding by the BNHCRC

3. A report on key workshop outcomes

For further information or to register your interest in hosting or attending a workshop please contact Blythe McLennan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (03) 9925-5227.

The Volunteer Emergency Services Equipment Program (VESEP) offers grants up to a maximum of $100,000 excluding GST.  VESEP contributes $2 for every $1 of funding contributed by the Brigade or Group.

BE READY FOR POSSIBLE FUTURE FUNDING ROUNDS: See below for VFBV's 2016 VESEP APPLICATION HELP PACK and case studies to show you how

About the Program

The million program offers State Government grants of up to $100,000 each, for trucks, equipment and building works. The grants are on a two-for-one basis, giving three dollars in spending power for every one dollar raised by the Brigade and local community.

Eligible volunteer groups include CFA, VICSES, Life Saving Victoria and Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association (see www.emv.vic.gov.au for other eligible organisations).

VFBV was directly involved in the design of the VESEP program and its later expansion to include small equipment for training and operational use, and the program is now in its 16th year, supporting emergency service volunteers who play a crucial role in responding and assisting their fellow Victorians in times of emergency 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The financial support provided by the Government recognises the invaluable support Victorian communities continue to provide to their local agencies.

VFBV support for your Brigade's application

Each year, VFBV provides support to Brigade and Groups in preparing their applications.

At the bottom of this page you will find copies of VFBV’s 2016 Application Help Pack and case studies from past years that include useful tips and advice from Brigades whose applications were successful. We also offer personalised advice for Brigade/Groups that might have questions or are after guidance with their application. Members can contact a VFBV Support Officer or State Councillor to discuss, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll put in you in touch with someone who can help.

Additional support is available from CFA’s Project Coordinator Diane Frost (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 03 9262 8630) or your operations manager. Program details are also available on Brigades Online (Brigade > Property & Equipment > Brigade Owned Vehicles > VESEP).

One important tip is to start early: look at what your Brigade and community will need and start planning for fundraising and the VESEP application.  This takes a lot of the pressure off you if a future funding round is announced with just a short window to make applications.

Wednesday 28 September 2016 - This Emergency Management and Disaster Resilience day is part of the Australasian Simulation Congress (ASC) at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

This is an opportunity for those who use and develop simulation activities for emergency management to get together and exchange ideas. 

Subjects for discussion will include high tech simulation, live exercising, map exercises, community planning workshops etc.

Download the information flyer here

Discount registration for volunteers has been organised through AFAC, and is $310 per person instead of the regular price of $530 – contact Benjamin Smith This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Todd Mason This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This covers attendance at the panels and paper sessions, lunch and tea, and access to the exhibition space.

Separately, the conference also offers a master class on Monday, 26 September, covering fire safety and evacuation.  See www.simulationcongress.com for more details on the master class.

SUPPORT LEGISLATION TO PROTECT OUR VOLUNTEER BASED CFA

- DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS/COMMENTS: 12 SEPTEMBER

The proposed Federal legislation to protect the volunteer based CFA and other volunteer based emergency services from industrial interference is now being examined by a Senate Committee.

The Senate Committee is encouraging volunteers to send in submissions/comments by 12 September 2016send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (see the message from the Senate Committee below)

Submissions can be a simple email to show your support, or a detailed submission on what’s at stake and why the legislation is so important.

The Senate Committee will recommend whether Parliament should support the legislation or not.

There is more information below, or see the VFBV website item on the Federal Government’s Volunteer Protection Amendments to the Fair Work Act

See below for the Senate Committee’s invitation to volunteers.

 

MORE INFORMATION

Click here for our 22 August Update to Members, which explains the volunteers’ concerns and the need for the Federal legislation. (if the Click Here link doesn’t work, see below)

The proposed Federal legislation would make a simple change to the Fair Work Act, making it objectionable for workplace agreements to restrict or limit the emergency service organisation’s (in our case CFA) ability to:

•             engage or deploy its volunteers;

•             provide support or equipment to those volunteers;

•             manage its relationship with, or work with, any recognised emergency management body in relation to those volunteers;

•             otherwise manage its operations in relation to those volunteers;

The legislation will also provide an ability for volunteers, through bodies such as VFBV, to make submissions to Fair Work Australia in respect of these issues if we have any concerns.

 

The Enterprise Bargaining Agreement – Key matters of concern

Current Commonwealth industrial law means that if the CFA/United Firefighters Union Enterprise Bargaining Agreement is registered:

•             The powers of the Chief Officer will be overridden;

•             The union will be given power of veto on issues affecting volunteer based and fully integrated organisation, operations and support;

•             Volunteer consultation rights under the CFA Volunteer Charter will be restricted; 

•             Other clauses in the EBA that are contrary to the CFA Act will apply; and

•             Volunteers will be treated as second class just because they are not paid.

 

 

MESSAGE FROM SENATE COMMITTEE CHAIR, SENATOR BRIDGET MCKENZIE

Dear CFA Volunteers,

Just last week, the Federal Government introduced legislation to protect CFA volunteers from a proposal put forward by the Victorian Government together with the United Firefighters Union.

It is apparent that many CFA members think this proposal discriminates against their rights and role as a volunteer.  The former Board of the CFA agreed and we

re subsequently sacked by the Victorian Government for raising their concerns. The Minister responsible for the CFA, Jane Garrett, was also forced to resign because she could not support the proposal.

Given the seriousness of this issue, the Federal Government has acted quickly to introduce legislation that seeks to protect volunteers and bring this dispute to an end.  This legislation - the Fair Work Amendment (Respect for Emergency Services Volunteers) Bill 2016 has been referred to the Senate Employment Committee for an inquiry.  This inquiry will take submissions from people who have been impacted by the proposal.

After considering the submissions, the Committee will then make a recommendation on whether the Parliament should support the legislation.

As Chair of this Senate Committee I am inviting you, and other CFA volunteers, to make a submission.

Submissions can be as short or as long as you like and can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The deadline for submission is 12 September 2016.  This is your chance to have your say, in your own words. The committee and I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards

Bridget McKenzie

Senator for Victoria

Chair, Education and Employment Legislation Committee

 

 

 

SEEKING PUBLIC DONATIONS - DONATE VIA MYCAUSE cheque or bank deposit

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria has launched a crowdfunding campaign to give the public the chance to support the work we are doing to protect, advocate and represent CFA volunteers, including our Supreme Court action.

The campaign ‘Supporting and Valuing our CFA Volunteers’ is now live on Australian crowdfunding platform, mycause at www.mycause.com.au/cfa

  

To donate by cheque:

Cheques should be made out to:

VFBV – Valuing Volunteers Fund

And posted to:

VFBV

PO Box 453

Mt Waverley Vic. 3151

You can also donate via Direct Deposit to this account:

Account Name: Valuing Volunteers Fund
BSB: 633000 (Bendigo Bank)
Account Number: 157 728 221

As you know, VFBV is fighting to maintain CFA as a volunteer based and fully integrated fire and emergency service with employees fully integrated with volunteers to provide seamless public safety services to Victorians. This is what CFA is under our CFA Act.

The community volunteer nature of CFA is under attack from the industrial deal done by the Andrews Victorian Government and Peter Marshall of the United Firefighters Union. The deal negatively impacts on CFA as a volunteer based and fully integrated organisation, its operations and support for volunteers including consultation.

It is an attempt to change the nature of CFA by using an anomaly in the Commonwealth Workplace Relations Act which enables an EBA to override state legislation once the EBA is registered by the Commonwealth Fair Work Commission.

The Supreme Court trial on the lawfulness of the new CFA Board adopting the proposed CFA/UFU Enterprise Bargaining Agreement will begin on 22 September 2016 and should run for up to five days.

The CFA/United Firefighters Union Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, approved by the new government-appointed CFA Board, would see:

• The powers of the Chief Officer overridden;
• The union given power of veto on issues affecting volunteer based and fully integrated organisation, operations and support;
• Restrictions in the EBA on effective volunteer consultation rights under the CFA Volunteer Charter;
• Other clauses that are contrary to the CFA Act, and
• Volunteers treated as second class just because they are not paid.

Only Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria is left to defend CFA from the deal and its detrimental effect for CFA services to the Victorian public.

The Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett shared our volunteer concerns, refused to support the deal and resigned in June. The CFA Board that was opposing the deal was sacked by the Andrews Government. The CEO, Lucinda Nolan and Chief Officer, Joe Buffone subsequently resigned in protest over the deal. The current CFA Board and administration are failing to stand up for CFA volunteers and kow-towing to unlawful UFU demands.

The campaign, particularly through the courts, costs money. Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria does not intend to use government grant funds or individual brigade affiliation fees to pay for the campaign, so we are asking the community that we serve to support us. This funding will be used to pay for Supreme Court and other action to preserve and protect the powers of the CFA Act.

VFBV and volunteers have made it very clear that we are not against our paid colleagues and have no interest in interfering in their legitimate pay and conditions.

Our vision is for CFA to be a modern and contemporary emergency service where volunteers and paid staff work side by side as equals and respect one another.

Encouraging, maintaining and strengthening the capacity of volunteers is vitally important for Victoria, and we are calling on those who value the capacity, determination and service of the volunteers to please support our campaign in the Supreme Court on September 22 by donating to our campaign on mycause.

Members of the public can learn more and make a donation online here.

See the media release here.

VFBV Support Officer – West/South West Regional Victoria (Districts 4, 5, 6, 7, 15, 16, 17)

VFBV is seeking to appoint a VFBV Support Officer to work in regional Victoria with VFBV District Councils, Brigades and volunteers to facilitate consultation, issues resolution and volunteer engagementThis is an existing position, with the incumbent leaving the role.

In addition to relevant skills, candidates will need to understand CFA and volunteerism, be good listeners and be able to navigate through complex issues resolution, be self-starters and have a passion to improve arrangements that benefit the welfare and efficiency of CFA volunteers.

Extensive regional Victorian work travel is envisaged and flexible work base locations will be considered for the position, with the priority focus to assign a support officer in the CFA West/South West Region covering Districts 4,5,6,7 15,16,17)

Flexible working arrangements, to cater for extensive evening and weekend work, will be tailored to match the needs of our volunteer membership base.

This is a full time position giving the right candidate an opportunity to really put his/her stamp on the VFBV of the future.

All applications must include both a current resume and a cover letter addressing the key selection criteria outlined in the attached position description.

Send applications to the CEO, VFBV, PO Box 453, Mt. Waverley, Vic. 3149 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Applications close 26th September, 2016.

For further information contact Cathie Smith on 03 9886 1141

Download the Position Description here

Return to the VFBV website

UPDATE FOR MEMBERS - 23 AUGUST 2016

Yesterday, Monday 22 August, the Federal Government released its draft legislation, the Fair Work Amendment (Respect for Emergency Services Volunteers) Bill 2016 in accordance with its commitment made during the Federal Election (you can download a copy of the Bill below).

VFBV was able to provide valuable input to the development of the legislation, and we are very pleased that it has shaped up in a way that we believe meets our concerns and deals with the practical issues affecting volunteers.

The legislation will be a simple change to the Fair Work Act, making it objectionable for workplace agreements to restrict or limit the emergency service organisation’s ability to:

  •          engage or deploy its volunteers;
  •          provide support or equipment to those volunteers;
  •          manage its relationship with, or work with, any recognised emergency management body in relation to those volunteers;
  •          otherwise manage its operations in relation to those volunteers;

The legislation will also provide an ability for volunteers, through bodies such as VFBV, to make submissions to Fair Work Australia in respect of these issues if we have any concerns.

The amendments aim to fix an anomaly in Commonwealth law that affects CFA volunteers and the volunteers of other emergency service organisations covered by the Fair Work Act. The anomaly, which has been of concern over recent months, allows enterprise agreements for paid emergency service workers to override State emergency management laws such as the CFA Act.

For CFA volunteers, the anomaly means that if the proposed UFU agreement was adopted under current Commonwealth industrial law, it would effectively allow industrial interference into the organisation, operation and support of CFA volunteers, and CFA decision making affecting volunteers.

The Federal Government proposes to table the legislation next week, the first sitting week of the new Parliament.  We are hopeful that it will get support from all sides of politics in both Houses of Parliament, and volunteers from Victoria and other States will be working with MPs and Senators to explain the need for, and benefits of, the legislation and the importance of it to volunteers.

The legislation has no impact on pay negotiations, but does provide a mechanism to address the concerns that have been broadly discussed about the current EBA.

The votes of independents and smaller parties may be crucial in getting the legislation through the Senate, and there are some early signs of support.  Newly elected Senator Derryn Hinch has been on radio this morning, expressing his support, and South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has written to the Council of Australian Volunteer Fire Associations (CAVFA), expressing his support for moves to rectify the anomaly, so we are hopeful that this is a sign of support to come.

In the meantime, VFBV’s preparation for the Supreme Court action beginning on 22 September is under way, and one of the most important things Brigades can be doing is helping us promote the fundraising for this initiative, and encouraging people to support volunteers by visiting our website www.vfbv.com.au to make a donation, or fundraising through work with community groups, sausage sizzles and other local efforts.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews, the new Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino, the CFA Board and management, and the UFU Secretary Peter Marshall, have all made claims that they have no intention of the EBA negatively impacting on the role of volunteers, the provision of support to volunteers or CFA decision making.  As such, we would expect that they have no problem with the proposed Fair Work legislation, and therefore we expect their support also.

We disagree with their assessment as to whether the proposed EBA does or does not impact on volunteers, and as such we see the Fair Work Act legislative amendment as very sensible and very necessary protection for volunteers and the work we do.

IN THIS UPDATE:

-          Supreme Court Action Tomorrow

-          VFBV Challenges Misleading Public Comments

-          What We Requested from CFA

-          What Little We Got In Return

 

VFBV INJUNCTION APPLICATION TO SUSPEND EBA PROCESSING

Our injunction to suspend the processing of the UFU EBA because it contains clauses contrary to the CFA Act affecting volunteers will be considered by the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning.

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MISLEADING PUBLIC COMMENTS BY CFA CEO FRANCES DIVER

In repeated statements to the media, CFA CEO Frances Diver has said that as part of the VFBV-CFA consultation arrangements CFA had provided VFBV with “extensive documentation”.  This is simply untrue and we are disappointed that Ms Diver would try to rewrite the truth.

Ms Diver’s failure to present the facts with accuracy also extends to claims that the arrangements negotiated with UFU, principally through a Statement of Intent document by CFA and UFU, provide protection to volunteers and the role they play and somehow protects the powers of the Chief Officer under the CFA Act. This is simply wrong. 

There are two critical problems with the ‘Statement of Intent’ document, its supposed protections for volunteers are very limited at best and at any rate the document has no legal standing and is unenforceable.  If the EBA is registered it is not impacted by the statement of intent documents and where its terms and requirements differ from the CFA Act, it prevails over the Act as a matter of law.

That is why we are left with no option other than to take legal action to try and stop the EBA while it still contains clauses which negatively impact on volunteers and the operations of CFA as a volunteer based fully integrated service.

WHAT WE GOT FROM CFA

In respect to Ms Diver’s public claims that “CFA has provided VFBV with extensive documentation” during the supposed consultation period, here are the facts.

The only information we received from CFA was:

  1. At the start of the period for consultation, CFA gave VFBV a single copy of version 17.4 of the proposed EBA on 24 June.  The following week the document was made generally available to CFA members on the CFA website.
  2. On 12 August 2016 (at 10:57 am) – A letter from CFA lawyers advising VFBV that CFA had considered the matters raised by VFBV and in light of the bargaining position of the UFU and in the context of the policy position of the Victorian Government, no further changes had been able to be agreed.  CFA attached a draft 2½ page joint statement of intent by CFA and UFU, and a draft one page letter from the CFA Chair to the CFA Chief Officer instructing that the draft EBA has been approved by the CFA Board.
  3. On 12 August 2016 – A letter from CFA Lawyers notifying VFBV of CFA’s intention to request that employees approve the EBA by voting for it etc.  Although not sent directly to VFBV, CFA also posted to the CFA intranet at 6:44 pm on 12 August 2016 advising of the CFA Board decision re the proposed EBA, and attaching the letter to the CFA Chief Officer; the CFA/UFU intent statement; the CFA Board resolution; and copy of the final version of the EBA

This information can hardly be described as “extensive documentation”.

WHAT WE REQUESTED FROM CFA

Now compare this to the questions we raised that CFA refused to answer and information we requested that CFA wouldn’t provide to address the concerns identified by VFBV and its members:

  •          Is clause 7A as presented to us (in EBA version 17.4) the full extent of proposed protection for volunteers from alteration of their rights, roles and operations by the proposed EBA?
  •          What is the model of a Greater Alarm Response System (GARS) being proposed to be implemented within CFA?  How will a CFA GARS approach operate in practice?  Has CFA completed an analysis of the volunteer workload created by such an approach, and if so can you please provide this analysis for volunteer consideration?
  •          What is the model that CFA is proposing, to meet its obligation under clause 43.2.7: “seven professional firefighters to fireground incidents are dispatched before commencement of safe firefighting operations…” (District 2, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15 and 27), including:

o   Flow on workload operational and fire ground safety implications for volunteers and volunteer brigades;

o   Step up implications and additional workload implications for volunteer brigades and volunteers at integrated brigades.

o   Impact on support availability to volunteer brigades currently supported by integrated brigades.

o   Impact on integrated brigade paid firefighter crews being more frequently dispatched out of primary brigade service areas on volunteer workload and primary service area risk exposure etc.

  •          What are the “agreed impact of” BASO and Volunteer Support program by persons covered by the proposed EBA? (referenced in clauses 15 & 16).  VFBV continues to contest that the BASO and Volunteer Support Programs are not appropriate inclusions in the Operational EBA and are fundamental non-operational volunteer support programs.  As such any changes to these programs impact on volunteer brigades across Victoria.  Inclusion of the BASO and VSO clauses in this EBA is a direct contradiction of the Premier’s and Minister’s assurances that the proposed EBA has no effect on volunteer brigades.
  •          What process will CFA be using to ensure VFBV and volunteers are genuinely consulted on matters arising from the EBA’s Consultation and Dispute Resolution processes? (Clauses 21, 26, 27 and 58)
  •          What process will CFA be using to ensure VFBV and volunteers are genuinely consulted on matters arising from discussions initiated by Clause 41?  What process will CFA use to ensure the results of that consultation and volunteer inputs specifically - can be genuinely considered in decision making?  How will dispute resolution provide guaranteed fair and equitable outcomes for volunteers?

Because none of this information was provided during the consultation period, VFBV:

  •          wrote to CFA on 29 July further requesting this information;
  •          following CFA’s failure to again provide the requested information, we reiterated the request for it at the meeting with CFA Board on 1 August 2016;
  •          arising from CFA’s continued failure to provide the request information, we again requested the information on 7 August 2016 as part of our submission to the CFA Board in response to their request for VFBV’s suggested amendments to problematic EBA clauses (per the request made by CFA Board at the meeting of 1 August 2016); and,
  •          yet again on 12 August 2016 we requested the information we had sought over the preceding weeks.

Further, on 7 August 2016, following statements made by the CFA Chief Officer to the Legislative Council Committee on Environment and Planning’s Inquiry into fire season preparedness that he had received further information on matters relating to ‘CFA’s 14 threshold issues’, we requested such information, including details on how the threshold issues would be dealt with in a legally enforceable manner in association with the application to register the EBA with the Fair Work Commission.

We are yet to receive this information from CFA.

As members can see from the details above, the information provided to VFBV was negligible and can hardly be said to meet anybody’s definition of ‘extensive documentation’. CFA’s failure to provide important and relevant information to us during the consultation process and in the period thereafter when we were still daring to hope that we could come to a settlement with the new CFA Board that met the obligations and intent of the CFA Act is a bitter disappointment.

Andrew Ford

CEO

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria

MEDIA RELEASE - Friday, 12 August 2016

STATEMENT BY VFBV CEO ANDREW FORD ON THE ACTIONS OF THE CFA BOARD TO ADOPT THE UFU’S EBA ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON, 12 AUGUST 2016

Today is a day of infamy that will burn into the memory of every CFA volunteer.

It is the day that that a CFA Board decision, and those Board members who voted for it, betrayed volunteers and ignored their responsibility and obligations to the public of Victoria under the CFA Act and Victoria’s most successful emergency management arrangements.

This evening the CFA Board, made up of a majority Andrews Government-UFU ‘yes’ people accepted the UFU’s Enterprise Bargaining Agreement which will see the powers of the Chief Officer overridden, union interference with volunteer organisation, operations and support, and see volunteers treated as second class just because they are not paid.

The EBA fundamentally alters the nature of CFA organisation, operations and support for volunteers as required by the CFA Act and hands control of key activities within the organisation to the Fitzroy based UFU as part of the grab for power by union secretary Peter Marshall.

The UFU have made no secret of their objective to replace urban volunteers with paid staff, members of the UFU – just look at their various inquiry submissions including the Black Saturday Bushfire Royal Commission for confirmation. They would relegate remaining volunteers to second class status.

Every inquiry and commission has dismissed these submissions and recognised the fundamental importance of the current CFA volunteer arrangements and the need to continually grow our volunteer capacity to keep pace with urbanisation and the growth of bushfire risk because of climate change.

But consideration of these issues was ignored by the majority of the current CFA Board and the Premier and Minister who pushed them to accept the infamous Andrews-Marshall industrial deal.

The fact that the majority succumbed to political lies, manoeuvring and pressure reflects badly on them in the manner they have exercised their duty as CFA Board members.

We say the Board members who supported this deal have ignored their statutory and fiduciary obligations under the CFA Act and Commonwealth corporate law. They must be held accountable for this failure.

After the sacking of the previous CFA Board for acting in a lawful and responsible way, a way that did not suit Premier Andrews and his dirty deal with Peter Marshall, together with the forced resignation of Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett who acted with enormous integrity in support of CFA and its vital role, outstanding CFA CEO Lucinda Nolan and our Chief Officer Joe Buffone who concluded that the UFU agreement is destructive of CFA efficiency and effectiveness, who is left to defend the real CFA?

After recent sackings and resignations there is only the state’s 60,000 volunteers through their association – VFBV – to stand up for the real CFA and effective public safety services for Victorians.

We have instructed our legal team to take further action immediately to defend the CFA as an effective volunteer based fully integrated fire and emergency service.

Our legal action is unprecedented for volunteers, or in the emergency services – but the consultation process with the CFA has been a sham and our careful analysis ignored.

We now have no other choice if the real CFA is to be defended.

But our campaign to defend CFA will not end there.

Volunteers across the state are mobilising in their local communities and regions. They will make sure Victoria is ready for the summer fire season and at the same time develop local campaigns to mobilise their communities in support of our campaign to defend the real CFA.

Like in countless battles against fires which threaten life and property, CFA volunteers will not give up – it’s just not in our DNA

Included in this update:

  • VFBV/CFA Consultation on Operational Staff EBA
  • Parliamentary Inquiry into Fire Season Preparedness
  • The Premier’s Troubling Comments
  • Information we have requested from CFA
  • VFBV’S Next Steps
  • Actions You Can Take at the Local Level
  • A Summary of the Key Matters VFBV Raised with the Parliamentary Committee
  • See below to download a copy of this update

VFBV – CFA Consultation on Operational Staff EBA

VFBV concluded its formal court ordered consultation period with CFA on 20 July 2016. Subsequently, we requested to extend the consultations once the new CFA Board was in place in order to bring new CFA Board members up to speed with our concerns and suggestions.

Whilst CFA did not agree to further formal consultations we were invited to make a presentation to the full CFA Board on Monday 1 August. The UFU were also invited to make a presentation to the Board at an earlier time the same day.

I am pleased to report that this meeting was constructive and I am hopeful that progress on our issues can be made – we’ll wait and see.

In the lead up to this meeting we wrote to CFA on Friday 29th July with further questions on the effect of the proposed CFA-UFU Operational Staff EBA, arising from our consultations so far and the feedback we are receiving from members. We also sent CFA an updated comprehensive assessment of the proposed EBA, clause by clause, with comments on issues and the actions that we believe are required.

We expressed the strong view that the completion of a genuine and meaningful consultation process under the Supreme Court undertakings, as well as the CFA Volunteer Charter, is dependent on the provision of all the information pertinent to the matter. We also expressed concern as to the lack of response and clarification from CFA, relating to the issues we have raised so far.

Parliamentary Inquiry into Fire Season Preparedness

On Tuesday, 2 August, VFBV made a presentation and submission to the ‘Inquiry into Fire Season Preparedness’ by the Victorian Parliament’s Legislative Council Environment and Planning Standing Committee. The UFU was also scheduled to make a presentation but Peter Marshall advised he was not able to attend due to illness. The effects of the proposed EBA on the preparedness and operations for the forthcoming fire season have already been raised as an issue in the Inquiry. Attached to this News Note is a summary of the evidence Andrew Ford and Adam Barnett presented to the Committee.

The Premier’s Troubling Comments

Over the past couple of weeks Premier Daniel Andrews has told the media that the proposed EBA will not affect volunteers. He has accused those who say it will affect volunteers and public safety to be liars, spreading grubby mischief and following a political agenda. For example, on regional ABC radio he said:

“One would hope that the misinformation, the lies the pretty grubby mischief that’s been going on in recent months will come to an end.  Again we’ll continue to be out there with the truth, the actual facts of these matters.” 

In the past week he has even implied that if the dispute went on, lives may be lost because CFA members were not focussed on the job if the industrial dispute continued and was not resolved:

“… the price is me having to sit in this studio and say to you that lives were lost, property was lost, because the CFA was not focused on keeping Victorians safe, I’m not prepared to do that.”

These comments are an insult to all CFA members, volunteers and paid. For all of us, our public service to the people of Victoria, our commitment to public safety comes first and we will never be distracted from that. The very reason we are taking the stand we have on the EBA is because of a profound commitment to a volunteer based, fully integrated CFA as the best way to provide public safety for Victorians.

Information we have requested from CFA

VFBV has requested further information from CFA in regard to the EBA arising from our consultations so far and feedback from members. The matters raised included:

  • Whether the catchall clause 7A is the only proposed protection for volunteers
  • How the proposed CFA Greater Alarm Response System (GARS) would work
  • The effects on volunteers of clause 43.2.7; “seven professional firefighters to fireground incidents are dispatched before commencement of safe firefighting operations…”
  • The impacts of restricting BASO and Volunteer Support program roles to paid firefighters
  • How CFA will ensure VFBV and volunteers are genuinely consulted on issues handled by the EBA’s dispute resolution processes
  • The content of the proposed Infrastructure Agreement between CFA and UFU, to be placed on file at the same time as the EBA is lodged with FWA, and how VFBV and volunteer members of those Brigades will have genuine opportunity to have input before any decision is made
  • The listing of four additional locations for new integrated brigades - a direct contradiction of the Premier’s and Minster’s assurances that the proposed EBA will not affect volunteer brigades
  • How the Emergency Management Commissioner will ensure genuine consultation, ensure the CFA Act is not overridden, take any necessary action in the Fair Work Commission, and protect the roles of volunteers in accordance with the CFA Volunteer Charter?
  • When VFBV will receive an updated proposed EBA, showing amendments that are proposed to accommodate the volunteers’ concerns
  • Whether there is a proposed interpretation document that will guide the application of clauses in the EBA, and when it will be provided to VFBV for discussion and consultation

In our view, the responses to these matters are fundamental to “genuine and meaningful” consultation with volunteers so that we may help shape the final decisions that affect us and CFA as a volunteer based fire and emergency service.

VFBV’s Next Steps

VFBV is continuing to work to ensure the now-complete CFA Board fully understands volunteers’ concerns, the ramifications of approving the EBA and ways in which those concerns can be resolved.  It is important to repeat that none of our concerns are about the pay and conditions of paid firefighters.

We are working with Federal Government to ensure its intended legislation to change the Fair Work Act is effective in protecting volunteers from the effects of enterprise bargaining agreements.

VFBV will keep raising the issues with Members of Parliament, business and community leaders and the general public.

We are actively advocating through public forums, events and the media, and it is important that volunteers across the state continue local activities to support our push for a fair outcome.

Andrew Ford

CEO

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE AT THE LOCAL LEVEL

Volunteers should still be:

  • Emailing and talking to local Members of Parliament at every opportunity
  • Seeking meetings with MPs to tell them about volunteers’ concerns
  • Raising the issue with local media and the community
  • Keeping your signs, leaflets and other campaign materials ready, we may need to hit the streets at short notice
  • And at all times, maintaining your normal professional standards of behaviour and emergency response to your community

Stay in touch with the issue via your State Councillors, FireWise, www.vfbv.com.au and VFBV updates to volunteers.

                                                          *               *               *

SUMMARY OF KEY MATTERS RAISED BY ANDREW FORD AND ADAM BARNETT TO THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING STANDING COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO FIRE SEASON PREPAREDNESS – 2 AUGUST 2016

Noted significant and compounding effect on fire seasons into the future

Stressed the vital importance of CFA volunteers to fire season preparedness, particularly:

  • Volunteer surge capacity
  • Interrelationship between fire service delivery in outer metropolitan Melbourne and Victoria’s fire season preparedness
  • The importance of CFA’s integrated model for managing this interrelationship
  • Proposed EBA’s impact on powers of the Chief Officer, the volunteer based and integrated nature of CFA and direct impact on Victoria’s fire season preparedness and operations
  • Long term and potentially disastrous impacts of the proposed EBA requiring a cure

Urged Committee to rapidly do all they can to transparently investigate the EBA problems we have raised, ensure appropriate awareness of the problems and seek out necessary remedies to them.

The issue is not volunteers versus paid staff but rather the issue of inappropriate union control and influence in CFA and an EBA that effectively dismantles the current statutory nature and operations of CFA and erodes the CFA’s capacity to manage its operations.

CFA’s single chain of command is vital for effective response – CFA is founded on the principle of roles being performed based on the best person for the job (training, experience, proficiency, availability) – not based on pay status. Volunteers are trained, experienced and endorsed to perform CFA’s range of roles from firefighter to incident controller and incident management roles at the highest level in the state.

A significant proportion of response and surge capacity to deal with fires and major incidents is from outer metro volunteers. An erosion of the numbers and capacity of outer metro volunteers will cut Victoria’s response and surge capacity to deal with major fires and incidents and more community loss will occur.

The network of 1200 volunteer brigades across Victoria is the first line of community planning, preparedness and resilience and the basis of community education capacity all year round including the lead-up to every fire season.

Often 40% and sometimes more than half of the resources used to fight major fires and respond to major incidents are provided by volunteers from outer metro Melbourne. Sustaining and growing volunteer capacity in outer metro Melbourne and supplementing it based on genuine need, and based on the CFA integrated model, is essential to a state-wide response and surge capacity. The operation of fully integrated brigades with their core of paid staff working with volunteers to meet local service delivery requirements is an important part of the CFA’s model of operation. Full integration of staff and volunteers is recognised in the CFA Act.

The CFA Act also requires that CFA policy and organisational arrangements (for example, policies, procedures, work force design, volunteer brigade support arrangements and training) encourage, maintain and strengthen the capacity of volunteers. Further, the CFA Act also requires consultation with volunteers on all matters that may affect them prior to decisions being made – this is a vital mechanism for engaging and rendering a sense of co-operative involvement to volunteers in determining CFA’s future as it affects volunteers. This is an important part of sustaining and building CFA’s volunteer workforce – currently about 97% of the total CFA workforce – to meet current and future challenges, be it urban growth or the fire and flood effects of climate change.

The matters raised with the Committee regarding the proposed EBA:

  • Erodes the role of volunteers;
  • Restricts support to volunteers;
  • Blocks proper consultation on matters which may affect volunteers;
  • Dismantles the CFA integrated model; and,
  • Restricts and overrides CFA (including Chief Officer) decision making.

These factors inherent in the current version of the proposed EBA will lead to reductions in volunteer capacity. If volunteers are not respected and utilised in a meaningful way there is a high risk of disengagement and loss of members – ‘use them or lose them’; respect them or lose them.

Implementation of the proposed EBA creates a significant and growing cost burden which will inevitably lead to the monopolising of resources to one small aspect of CFA business primarily in urban Melbourne rather than allowing CFA to determine priorities based on service need and risk. Consequently, regional Victoria and other operational priorities will see a progressive draining of available resources.

Once volunteers are gone and the traditions of service lost it will be very difficult to rebuild.

Pointed to various comments and assurances from Government regarding the EBA including:

  • There is no impact on volunteers;
  • Volunteer concerns have been fixed;
  • The EBA only affects a handful (34) of CFA brigades;
  • Volunteers are protected from the affects of the EBA;
  • Support to volunteers is not impacted by the EBA;
  • There is no veto power for the UFU in the EBA

Pointed out how these comments and assurances were not true!

Finally, appealed to the Committee to do everything in its power to ensure urgent, expert and transparent analysis of:

  • The concerns raised by the immediate previous CFA Board, CEO and Chief Officer;
  • Advice received from senior legal experts, including a numbers of QCs;
  • The impact on CFA volunteer capacity and volunteer workload;
  • The full additional costs and funding required to ensure limited funds are directed to best community safety outcomes as determined by the CFA, not an industrial agreement; and,

The wildly varying cost estimates of the EBA, noting CFA cost estimates suggesting an additional $1.2 billion required over three to four years, where some Treasury estimates place the cost at around $160m – There is a need to generate figures of which we can all be confident.

 

State Incident Management Training (operating under the umbrella of Emergency Management Victoria) is promoting a number of training courses scheduled on, or through weekends to suit volunteers.

For enquiries, contact Rebecca Pethybridge, IMT Training & Development Coordinator, State Incident Management Training - call 03 5430 4338 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.    

The courses include:

  • Planning Officer, over two weekends, Weekend 1 – Friday 14th to Sunday 16th of October, Weekend 2 -  Friday 4th to Sunday 6th of November, Location Shepparton
  • Public Information Officer, Friday 11th to Sunday 13th of November, Location Dandenong
  • Sector Commander, 4 courses

Course 1 -  Friday 23rd – Sunday 25th of September, Location Digby

Course 2 – Friday 21st – Sunday 23rd of October, Location Wangaratta

Course 3 – Friday 11th - Sunday 13th of November, Location Warragul

Course 4 – Friday 18th – Sunday 20th of November, Location Ballarat

  • Supervise Machinery and Coordinate Aircraft Operations, 3 courses

Course 1 – Saturday 15th – Sunday 16th of October, Location Huntly

Course 2 – Saturday 22nd – Sunday 23rd of October, Location Briagolong

Course 3 – Saturday 22nd to Sunday 23rd of October, Location Ballarat

  • Intermediate Bushfire Behaviour, Saturday 15th – Sunday 16th of October, Location Melton
  • Introduction to Logistics, Saturday 5th of November, Location Warrnambool
  • Linton Staff Rides, Friday 21st – Sunday 22nd of October, Location Ballarat.

You can download the training calendar and nomination form below.

Further detail on the courses can be found through Brigades On-line, under the training section. 

The 2016 Fire Awareness Awards are now open to anyone who has implemented a project or program over the last two years that helps reduce the effect of fire in Victoria. 

Projects can focus on any fire type, including structure (housing, commercial, industrial) fires, bushfires or grass fires. 

Community categories: Access and Inclusion, Community-led Prevention, Community-led Preparedness, Education, Innovation and Design, Recovery

Long-standing supporter of the awards, RACV Insurance provides a $10,000 Award for Excellence to the most outstanding project. 

Entries close 15 September 2016

For more information about the 2016 Fire Awareness Awards visit www.fireawarenessawards.com.au, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or follow via Facebook and Twitter

New Closing Date 18 December

The Independent Equity and Diversity Review into CFA and MFB has been extended. Members now have the opportunity to take part in this review until 18 December 2016, and VFBV encourages all members to consider contributing to the review. Links to the electronic survey is below.

Over the past five months, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) have been conducting surveys, focus groups and interviews that look at our workplace culture and the experience of discrimination (including bullying) and sexual harassment among CFA and MFB members.

The review team has seen high levels of engagement and have extended their site visits and survey deadline to ensure they speak to as many members as possible about their experiences.

VFBV has been working closely with and actively assisting VEOHRC in their work, by supporting our members to participate and also by facilitating VEOHRC’s attendance at a number District Council meetings and most recently, at State Council on 4.12.16. VFBV will continue to work with Districts and VEOHRC to ensure as many of our members across the State have the opportunity to participate and have their say in this important Review

CFA and MFB provide a crucial service to the community, and all members deserve a workplace that is safe, fair and respectful.

If you wish to participate, you can still do so confidentially and anonymously.

Complete the online survey, or request a paper copy by calling VEOHRC on (03) 9032 3464. 

You can also use the details below to write to VEOHRC or arrange a confidential interview or face-to-face meeting:

  • Confidential phone line: (03) 9032 3464
  • Confidential email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Website: www.victorianhumanrightscommission.com/EDR/

The VEOHRC review team will make recommendations to CFA and MFB based on their findings. Your participation will not be reported back to the either organisation, and VEORHC will not name individual people or work locations in the final report.

The final report is still due to be published in mid-2017.

Bendigo, Sunday 16 October 2016

The Greater Midlands Fire Brigades Competition Association [GMFBCA], the Bendigo & District Combined Brigades [BDFBCC], Central & Hume & Western District are hosting a Come & Try Day for all firefighters [Male, Female & Juniors over the age of 16 years registered as Seniors] with the introduction of 3 new events for older Juniors or a resurgent senior team that has not competed for a few years.

The new events will be the Hose & Reel event for 4 competitors using the reel with 38mm hose flaked on to a holding tray, also a Disabled Hose for 6 competitors with Reel & Tray.  Another event to be trialled on the day will lbe a 3 Hose & Y event for 6 competitors [an event with all 3 hoses and fittings laid out on the track to be coupled together and striking discs).

The Come & Try Day will take place on Sunday 16 October from 10.30am, and will conclude with a sausage sizzle around 2.00pm.

It is open to all from across Victoria to muster a car load of people and come see the social side of fire brigade in a healthy friendly environment of like-minded firefighters.

During the day there will be demonstrations all of the other events in an Urban Championship, from the Marshalls to the Ladder, Hydrant & Pumper events for prospective competitors to see, try and/or take away and master. 

Please note that all Hoses, Hydrants Reels/Trays will be provided on the day so just turn up and enjoy.

So please consider this offer if you or your Brigade would like to be part of this fun and healthy side of the fire service and enjoy the social side of the CFA.

If you would like any more information please contact:

Barry Doye    Bendigo   0439 109 451 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Peter Hannon     Ararat     0407 008 282    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Greg Murphy     Kerang    0429 955 122    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Please let the organisers above know if you're planning to attend.

Items covered by this update include:

•             Court ordered consultation

•             CFA Board appointments

•             Proposed changes to the Federal Fair Work Act

•             VFBV’s next Steps

•             The Premier

•             Fundraising to support our campaign on behalf of volunteers

•             Actions you can take at the local level

SUPREME COURT ORDERED CONSULTATION BETWEEN CFA AND VFBV

The Supreme Court-ordered formal consultation came to an end on Wednesday, 20 July. 

There is now no legal requirement preventing the EBA from being pushed through, but there is also nothing preventing continuing consultation on the remaining matters.

VFBV has raised a number of key issues with CFA through the consultative process, but the result of our submissions is as yet unknown. Further, the consultation has been limited by the fact that there has only been about half, 5 of the 9 CFA board members in place.

Now that the remaining CFA Board members have been appointed, VFBV has written to CFA pointing out that it would be wrong if there wasn’t due time for that full complement of the Board with its full skills set to be able to work through the issues, understand the issues we have raised and make a properly informed decision.

The now-complete CFA Board must receive briefings on the full implications of proceeding with the EBA including all volunteer impacts and concerns, as well as studying all of the previous Chief Officer’s and CEO’s briefings, the relevant legal advice and full cost implications.

In the meantime, CFA is still required under the Supreme Court order to give VFBV written notice at least three business days before proceeding with the EBA in any form, and we have not received any written notice.

CFA BOARD APPOINTMENT OF VOLUNTEER NOMINEES

As set out in the CFA Act, VFBV provided a panel of nominees to be considered by the Minister for the four volunteer-nominated positions on the CFA Board.

The Act requires four volunteer nominees to ensure the CFA Board has strong volunteer expertise, knowledge and an understanding of CFA volunteerism, as well as knowledge of, or experience in, commercial, technical, operational, legal or financial matters; as well as expertise in fire services, emergency management, land management or any other field relevant to the performance of the functions of the Authority. 

VFBV received a large number of expressions of interest in the CFA Board positions, conducted detailed interviews and provided a panel of eight nominees.

The four CFA Board Members appointed from the panel are;

Timothy Young - a member of CFA since 1980, Timothy is is Brigade Secretary and Treasurer at Little River Fire Brigade and brings with him an extensive background in law.

Lynda Hamilton – Lynda has been a CFA member since 2011, has held brigade management roles, and has a strong background in management consulting and change management.

Peter Shaw -  a Deputy Group Officer at Knox Fire Brigades Group and a volunteer firefighter since 1974, Peter has a long history in police and emergency services.

Hazel Clothier – Hazel has been a CFA member since 2008, is currently captain at Warburton Fire Brigade and has a background in biomedical science and epidemiology.

PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE FEDERAL FAIR WORK ACT

The Turnbull Federal Government has reconfirmed its commitment to changing the Fair Work Act to prevent enterprise bargaining agreements from disadvantaging volunteers, or undermining the capacity of the CFA or other emergency services volunteer bodies to properly manage their volunteer operations.

Federal Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, has also offered to use her powers under the Fair Work Act to prevent the proposed UFU EBA from coming into effect, saying she will seek leave to intervene in the Fair Work Commission to oppose the approval of the EBA on the grounds that it contains discriminatory terms. 

Should the EBA be approved by the Fair Work Commission, the Federal Minister has offered to request a review by the Full Bench of the Commission and possibly mount a challenge in the Federal Court.

The Government has advised VFBV that it will take legislation to the first sitting of the new Parliament, which will be at the end of August, and the legislation will affect all new and current EBAs including any UFU EBA.

VFBV’S NEXT STEPS

VFBV is now continuing to work to ensure the now-compete CFA Board fully understands volunteers’ concerns, the ramifications of approving the EBA and ways in which those concerns can be resolved.  It is important to repeat that none of our concerns are about the pay and conditions of paid firefighters.

We are working with Federal Government to ensure its intended legislation to change the Fair Work Act is effective in protecting volunteers from the effects of enterprise bargaining agreements.

VFBV will keep raising the issues with Members of Parliament, business and community leaders and the general public.

We are actively advocating through public forums, events and the media.

THE PREMIER

The Premier has been in the media talking about the issues we are raising as though they are bush lawyering and lies, which is a discouraging sign.

However, we have talked to the new Chairman of the CFA Board, the Interim CEO and CFA senior management.  Many of the senior CFA management still share many of the concerns that we have raised.  For the new Chairman and Interim CEO there is much new information to consider.

In the meantime, his often repeated remark that the dispute has been going for more than a thousand days is a red herring; for all but about 70 of those days, it was the Premier and the Minister holding up the EBA because of the same issues VFBV is raising now.

FUNDRAISING - VALUING VOLUNTEERS FUND DONATIONS

VFBV has established a Valuing Volunteers Support Fund to receive donations to support the work we are doing to protect, advocate and represent CFA volunteers.  Donations will be accepted from members of the public. Donations are not tax deductible, but donors can request a receipt.  There are more details on the VFBV website www.vfbv.com.au and Victorian Farmers Federation members can donate through the VFF.

Key areas of expenditure for funds donated are:

•             To liaise and consult on the operation of the CFA Volunteer Charter in the interests of CFA volunteers about all matters which might reasonably be expected to affect them.

•             To defend and strengthen public support for the CFA as a volunteer and community based fire and emergency service

•             To develop awareness, respect and support for CFA volunteers and their fundamental and pivotal role in the CFA as a volunteer and community based fire and emergency service for the people of Victoria

•             To preserve and strengthen CFA’s community and volunteer based foundations by enabling members of CFA brigades to consider and bring to the notice of CFA all matters affecting their welfare and efficiency

•             To assist in maintaining high morale, ongoing health and welfare of CFA volunteer members and their families

•             To assist with legal costs incurred in achieving all or any of the above purposes

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE AT THE LOCAL LEVEL

Volunteers should still be:

•             Emailing or writing to local MPs and talking to them at every opportunity

•             Arranging meetings with MPs and telling them about volunteers’ concerns

•             Raising the issue in local media and with your community

•             Keeping your signs, leaflets and other campaign materials ready, we may need to hit the streets at short notice

•             Promoting our fund raising efforts

•             And at all times, maintaining normal emergency response to the community and professional standards of behaviour, including respect and conduct towards our paid staff colleagues

Stay in touch with the issue via your State Councillors, our column in FireWise, www.vfbv.com.au and VFBV updates to volunteers.

CFA Challenge Program is an annual, 12-day leadership development program open to all CFA members aged 16 and above.  Since 1994 more than 800 members have taken part in the Chairman’s Scholarship/Challenge Program.  Challenge 2017 will run from Saturday 14 January to Wednesday 25 January 2017 at Creswick and in Gippsland. The program aims to identify potential future leaders, and present challenges and experiences that will uncover and enhance their leadership abilities.

The first three days of the program are conducted at Melbourne University’s Creswick Campus, Creswick where participants explore their values and goals, and gain a greater understanding of their own motivators and personal interactions. The program enables participants to bond as a team and operate in a safe environment to maximise their learning potential and make the most of their time on the Challenge program.

These concepts are then put into practice as participants spend seven days in the bush, led by Outward Bound Australia, working to break down their own boundaries, overcome fears and test their team work and leadership abilities by completing a demanding, adventure based leadership and team development program, consisting of team building and adventure based activities including:

  • Bushwalking
  • White Water Rafting
  • Abseiling
  • Caving
  • Orienteering
  • Rock Climbing
  • Canoeing

The Challenge 2017 program will provide participants with the opportunities to:

  • Clarify personal values, and discover more about their potential;
  • Develop leadership skills and attributes;
  • Confront and overcome self-imposed limits;
  • Learn how to better relate to others;
  • Enhance self-motivation and personal performance; and
  • Be a supportive and creative team member.

Andrea Bastow, from Kilmore Fire Brigade was a participant of Challenge 2016 and strongly recommends this opportunity to other members. “Whether you want to take the next step as a leader or if you want to learn more about what you are capable of, Challenge is the ideal experience for you” said Andrea.

“I not only picked up new skills and learned things about myself, but I’ve also build a bond and found lifelong friendships” she added.

“The CFA Challenge Program taught me that I can rise to any challenge – I can even climb a mountain apparently.” 

Katelyn Stares, now a senior member at Sebastopol, says if it wasn't for experiences such as the CFA Challenge Program, which she attended in 2014, she wouldn't be the person she is today. 

Past participants consistently describe Challenge as a ‘life changing experience’. It has become a highly regarded and sought-after development opportunity for which participants are selected on merit, enthusiasm and leadership potential.  Challenge runs 2 courses simultaneously - Group 1 - CFA members 16 & 17 years of age and Group 2 - CFA members over the age of 18 years.

Challenge 2017 applications will be open online from Monday 25 July and must be completed by the applicant, endorsed by the Brigade Captain/Line Manager and submitted to the local District Learning and Development Team by Wednesday 14 September 2016.

To apply, download the Application & Selection Guidelines and relevant Application Form from: 

Brigades Online/Intranet (https://cfaonline.cfa.vic.gov.au>Training>Course Information>Challenge). 

Enquiries This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In This Edition

 

Farewell to Chief Officer Joe Buffone

By Andrew Ford, Chief Executive Officer

On behalf of the VFBV Board and volunteer leaders across CFA, it was with sadness and regret that we heard that Chief Officer Joe Buffone tendered his resignation.

The CFA Chief Officer holds a special place in volunteer’s hearts. He has been our operational leader and our symbolic head of authority in our shared mission to protect lives and property. Joe has exercised his responsibilities and authority with honesty, integrity and compassion.

Joe has been very clear in his recent messages and letter of resignation, that as Chief Officer he would have been unable to discharge his legislative responsibilities under the proposed industrial agreement, confirming that the latest changes do not address his fundamental concerns. Joe, just as Minister Jane Garrett and CEO Lucinda Nolan before him, had to choose between following his conscience and his job. As CFA’s most senior operational officer, he has acted with respect and integrity and done everything in his power to protect the safety of Victorian’s and remain impartial. He has, like those before him, been clear and unequivocal about the impacts the proposed agreement would have not just on volunteers but on CFA and its ability to discharge its responsibilities, in particular the powers of the Chief Officer.

Joe was appointed by the Andrews Government on 15 October 2015, and came to CFA from Emergency Management Victoria where he was the Deputy Commissioner of Risk & Resilience. the Andrews Government also appointed the now Ex-CFA CEO Lucinda Nolan in November 2015, a distinguished Deputy Commissioner with Victoria Police with over 30 years’ experience, including acting as Police Commissioner.

Attempts by some to discredit a man that has spent over 25 years in the emergency services encompassing senior roles with the Victoria State Emergency Service, Marine Safety Victoria, Port of Melbourne Corporation and Department of Infrastructure and served with the Australian Defence Force in Special Forces are quite disturbing. Both Joe and Lucinda have spent their entire lives serving the public in senior emergency response roles. Both have withstood the test of time and responsibility over their careers, that such important roles demand.

Just like the Government’s spin about our court injunction “being lifted” and forgetting to tell the Victorian public that it was replaced with an even more onerous Court Order, they have again only told half the story.

Joe resigned on the Tuesday.

Joe has stated publically that Minister Merlino’s statements to the media about the factors underpinning his resignation are “absolutely incorrect”.

VFBV understands that it was after his resignation that Government and/or EMV officials resisted his resignation, prompting discussions about what terms might be required to convince Joe to stay. It is entirely understandable that those terms might have included ensuring Joe had the organisational standing and powers to perform his role without the threat of being administratively overridden; it is also understandable that he might have sought confirmation about the security of his job tenure in order not to be threatened with being sacked if he didn’t toe the Government line against his assessment of the CFA statutory obligations that create and direct his role.

Despite the half stories being quoted by people in the media, VFBV understands that Joe, after carefully considering his options, and concluding that he was simply unable to reconcile what he was being asked to do with what he knows are his statutory and legal obligations, advised Government he would not reconsider his resignation. As Joe reminded volunteers, when things go wrong, it will be the Chief Officer who will be in the stand, as occurred during the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. It is therefore incumbent on the person who holds that office, to ensure they have the powers necessary to fulfil their role, and his assessment was frank and fearless. The proposed agreement is not good for CFA, it is not good for volunteers and it is not good for Victoria.

Joe has prosecuted his case in a respectful, professional and poignant way. He has gone to extremes to remain balanced and impartial, and operated as a loyal and honest broker. He will be remembered as the Chief who stood up for what he believes is right, and leaves with our utmost respect and thanks. Joe, your stance to attempt to save CFA has been exemplary.

Thank you for your service and dedication, we won’t forget you.

 

FEDERAL ELECTION IMPACTS ON CFA

As this edition of Firewise goes to print, volunteers across Victoria are working within communities to express their concern about the current CFA/UFU industrial agreement negotiations. The issue has been made a federal election issue by the timing of Victorian Premier Andrews push to ram the deal through and because the deal is using federal industrial relations legislation to override CFA State legislation to give control of CFA to the UFU.

Although some people are saying this is a state issue, it is both a federal and state issue because the UFU deal is using federal industrial legislation to take control of and override CFA state legislation. The links will become clearer as the federal debate proceeds in the new parliament. As this edition goes to print, there is a solution on the table from Malcolm Turnbull, we are still hoping for help with a solution from Bill Shorten and we will continue to pursue support for the necessary changes from all members of parliament.

VFBV and volunteers have remained non-party political throughout this dispute and will remain so. There is no doubt that we have enormous community support across Victoria. Many people have said to volunteers across the State that they share our disgust and anger with Premier Andrews about the sell-out of CFA. In recent days newly appointed Minister Merlino has attacked the integrity of our CFA Chief Officer Joe Buffone who resigned because he said the UFU EBA proposed deal would make it impossible for him to fulfil his statutory role, and this is just another demonstration of how low people pushing this deal are prepared to go. UFU Secretary Peter Marshall, Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister James Merlino have politicised the Fire Services. Public safety should be above party politics, and VFBV deplores the approach this government has taken on this issue, wedging volunteers, their paid colleagues and the community against each other. They have criticised and acted to gag VFBV, CFA Board, CFA CEO, CFA Chief Officer and their own Minister, Jane Garrett for speaking up, but we will not step back or apologise for defending volunteers and the communities they protect. We will not be gagged.

Whatever happens at this 2016 federal election, volunteers need to continue to hold our heads high as we continue to seek a fair hearing on this issue and to sustain Victoria’s proud history of CFA volunteering.

 

CFA/EBA Volunteer Feedback

You can now download the current version of the proposed CFA-UFU Operational Staff Enterprise Agreement 2016 (version 17.4), that has been provided to VFBV for consultation purposes arising from our recent court action to enforce the consultation provisions of the Volunteer Charter.
We now urge you to examine the EBA and use the feedback form available on this website  covering such things as:

  • questions

  • concerns

  • practical Implications

  • local volunteer capacity implications

  • impacts on CFA operating as a fully integrated organisation

  • potential to discourage volunteers or impact on their welfare and efficiency

  • potential impacts on CFA’s volunteer based culture

  • anything that might limit or erode support for volunteers

  • anything that impacts on CFA’s ability to genuinely consult with volunteers


The document should serve to dispel any criticisms of VFBV’s broad concerns and comments made to date as “unfounded and misleading” by Premier Andrews’, new Minister Merlino and UFU leadership.


Clearly this latest version speaks for itself as did earlier versions when they were made public. The matters of concern that we have raised are either written in the document itself or would be the necessary outworkings of the implementation and operation of various clauses on volunteers and the organisation and operation of the CFA as a volunteer based and fully integrated fire and emergency service.


Recent independent legal commentary by Mr Jack Rush QC sums it up well, by stating that the UFU EBA proposal is contrary to the CFA Act because it works against the idea that CFA is first and foremost a volunteer based organisation in which volunteers and paid staff are to work in a fully integrated manner; it undermines the role of volunteers; and it provides unprecedented powers to the UFU.

VFBV’S CONCERNS


At a fundamental level our concerns with previous drafts of the UFU EBA proposal are not addressed. There has been some change in the detail but the EBA still includes clauses that interfere with the Chief Officer’s operational resource decision making autonomy; directly impact on the provision of support to volunteer brigades; affect the way the CFA integrated system works; affect the role of volunteers and impact on CFA brigades across Victoria, not just the 34 Integrated brigades as stated by Premier Andrews and recently appointed Minister Merlino.


Recent claims made by Premier Andrews and Minister Merlino that the UFU EBA proposal only impacts on the work of paid staff or on the way CFA’s 34 Integrated brigades operate is not only fundamentally wrong in terms of the way CFA’s volunteer and integrated brigades network together to respond to incidents but it is also categorically wrong given the fact that:

  • provision of Brigade Administrative Support (BASO) to all CFA volunteer brigades will be altered by clause 15;

  • the support provided by CFA Volunteer Support Officers to CFA volunteer brigades across Victoria will be altered by clause 16;

  • the UFU EBA (17.4) proposal perpetuates the UFU’s long running ban on any volunteer brigade being supported by Community Safety Facilitators despite volunteer brigades repeatedly pointing out that this brigade support initiative is still regarded as one of the most successful volunteer support initiatives ever;

  • at any fire ground where volunteers and paid staff come together at an incident the reporting relationships and line of control becomes unclear given clause 35.4 which at a minimum creates confusion and at worst is likely to unpack the current CFA integrated system (not to mention it appears to specifically exclude DELWP staff being recognized as incident controllers);

  • the UFU EBA (17.4) proposal perpetuates deficiencies in the CFA’s paid training staff workforce management arrangements, an issue highlighted repeatedly by volunteers, CFA and recent independent inquiries;

  • the UFU EBA (17.4) proposal specifically dictates the future operational and resource arrangements for a number of fully volunteer brigades, despite Premier Andrew’s and Minister Merlino’s claims that there is no impact beyond the existing 34 integrated brigades

  • the UFU EBA (17.4) proposal introduces changes to Road Accident Rescue, a function currently performed by many CFA and SES volunteer brigades and units

  • the UFU EBA (17.4) proposal introduces a process to change the way CFA responds to incidents affecting many more brigades than the existing 34 integrated brigades and it is unclear how volunteers would be consulted about this process and form to date would suggest that if it ends in Fair Work Australia, volunteers would have no say

  • various clauses requiring agreement between CFA and the UFU mean that obligations to consult with volunteers are likely to be sidelined or potentially ignored

  • various clauses about dispatch of paid firefighters to incidents ignore the role and capacity of trained volunteer firefighters, impact on many more than the 34 integrated brigades and enable an EBA instrument to override the Chief Officer’s powers and decision making

  • and the list goes on…

Sadly, most of the crucial concerns we have had with previous versions have still not been properly addressed. In spite of the Government’s claims, a new clause (7A.1) which states “The role of volunteers in fighting bushfires and maintaining community safety and delivering high quality services to the public in remote and regional areas and in integrated stations is not altered by this agreement” fails to recognise that CFA brigades do more than fight bushfires in remote and regional areas and either cleverly or by accidental omission ignores the fact that CFA volunteer brigades service a huge part of metropolitan Melbourne and provincial centres & townships across Victoria.


We will be asking for clarification during this consultation stage as to what this clause means and how it works when other clauses contained in the EBA specifically contradict this clause. We know that CFA’s own assessment is that the EBA clauses affect many more than the 34 integrated brigades and fundamentally alters the way CFA works today as a volunteer based and integrated system. By what it omits to say, if this clause is aiming to suggest that the role of volunteers in outer metropolitan Melbourne and urban communities will be altered, then this would be a matter of serious concern. The failure of this clause to specifically recognize the role of volunteers in the urban risk environment is consistent with our assessment of the impact of many of the clauses that this EBA would have on the CFA volunteer capability that we have today, and at a fundamental level reinforces our concern.


Premier Andrews and Minister Merlino continue to make public comment that all volunteer issues have been addressed despite the fact that they still have not bothered to seek to understand VFBV’s concerns. Instead the Minister has advised us that Cabinet have made their decision.


Until the consultative process we are working through with CFA is completed, and despite the Government ignoring Ex Minister Garrett’s, the now sacked CFA Board’s, and the Ex CFA CEO Lucinda Nolan’s advice, we remain hopeful that the Government will not continue to ignore volunteer and VFBV concerns.
Because of the Court arrangements, timelines for both member/brigade consultation and direct consultation with CFA are very tight and your expedited assistance is required.


Our next formal discussion with CFA is currently scheduled for Friday, 8 July and it is anticipated that a schedule of formal consultation meetings with then continue until 19 July.


We are looking to volunteers to respond as early as possible. All responses will be kept confidential, and will all be consolidated to anonymize any responses. You can send your feedback back to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

HAVE YOUR SAY

The 2016 VFBV Volunteer Welfare & Efficiency Survey opens from 15 July to 29 August, and volunteers will no doubt have plenty to say this year.

Register now at www.vfbv.com.au/cfa or call (03) 9886 1141 for a printed copy.

This volunteer run survey is in its 5th year, and a record 2,500 volunteers took part last year. Your answers are confidential and the final results go to the VFBV and CFA Boards, the Emergency Management Commissioner and the Minister for Emergency Services.

 

 

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CFA Volunteers are the unpaid professionals of our Emergency Services. VFBV is their united voice, and speaks on behalf of Victoria's 60,000 CFA Volunteers.

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