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CHALLENGES FACING CFA
by Chair Greg Smith, CFA Board
This is my first Fire Wise column as the Chair of CFA. It’s an enormous privilege to join an organisation with a long history of volunteerism and I’m looking forward to playing my part in furthering CFA’s proud legacy.
By way of introduction, I have spent the bulk of my career at the Fair Work Commission and its predecessors, including almost three decades as a Commissioner and Deputy President of that Tribunal. During my time in the Commission I was also an advisor to the International Labour Organisation in developing dispute resolution machinery and training conciliators and arbitrators mostly in Southern Africa together with being asked to conciliate a dispute at the UN with its staff associations. I retired from the Commission in July 2015 and was very pleased later that year to be appointed to the Board of Ambulance Victoria and now to the CFA Board.
Clearly I have come to the position of Chair at a difficult and turbulent time. Indeed, I wish I could have taken on the role in more settled times. There is a lot to play out but I recognise that it has been a very bruising time in a highly charged atmosphere. The Board is going to work very hard to give all CFA members the support they deserve.
The Board understands that CFA is a community-based organisation.The history of CFA – and its future – is integral to the Victorian community and I am keenly aware of the high expectations communities have of CFA. It’s the role of the Board and CFA’s management team to ensure we keep pace with our communities and continue to meet their expectations.
Currently there are many challenges facing CFA, of which finalising the EBA is but one.There is the ongoing work needed to secure and develop a world-class training facility in the Central Highlands. There is the important strategy work that began under former CEO Lucinda Nolan that will help chart CFA’s future direction.
Indeed, I’d like to pay tribute to Lucinda Nolan, who has had a long period of service to the Victorian community and is highly respected.
I am very pleased that we have Frances Diver as our CEO on an interim basis. The Board will be moving quickly to advertise the role and appoint a permanent CEO.
I look forward to working with the four volunteer-appointed Board members who will provide important and valuable input into the decision making of CFA.
Most of all, I look forward to travelling throughout Victoria and meeting CFA’s highly respected volunteers in the communities they serve so proudly. The contribution of volunteers in communities around Victoria cannot be underestimated. Indeed it is hard to think of any other activity which binds local communities and makes such a positive contribution to their safety and welfare.
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within Victoria’s country fire service.
A monthly publication, ‘The Fireman’ is fully supported by Country Fire Authority and is the official publication of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria and CFA State Rescue Association and supported by CFA.
A review of the Victorian Road Crash Rescue State Arrangements is currently underway.
EMV is leading the review, working closely with all road rescue providers in Victoria. Road Accident Rescue is provided at more than 130 locations by SES, CFA, MFB and independent rescue units in Shepparton and Echuca.
The review is being conducted as part of a regular review of the arrangements and will ensure the arrangements meet the needs of the community today and into the future. Arrangements were updated in 2002, refined in 2012 and are being reviewed in 2016.
Any amendments to the current operations will be done in consultation with agency chiefs and organisational consultative mechanisms. VICSES CEO Stephen Griffin and Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley met with a large number of volunteer unit controllers on the weekend of June 25 and 26 and engagement with volunteers and officers will continue throughout the review.
The review is to better understand the state’s capabilities in road crash rescue and ensure we have good community safety outcomes.
A clause in the draft CFA EBA references CFA heavy pumpers being recognised as rescue appliances at motor vehicle accidents the requite extraction of victims.
This will be handled separately.
LARGE-SCALE LEADERSHIP CHANGES
THERE HAVE BEEN A NUMBER OF CHANGES IN LEADERSHIP OF CFA following the resignations of Minister for Emergency Services Jane Garrett, CEO Lucinda Nolan, Chief Officer Joe Buffone and the dismissal of the CFA Board. The portfolio of Emergency Services is now headed by Deputy Premier James Merlino who was appointed to this Ministerial position on 9 June.
In a media release by Minister Merlino outlining his reasons for the dismissal of CFA Board he said: “I do not have confidence in the ability of the board to end a dispute (EBA) that has gone on for far too long and to deliver the reform that the CFA needs to keep our community safe. “The CFA Board has been unable to negotiate a new EBA for their career firefighters for nearly three years. This includes the process before the Fair Work Commission since November 2015.” In a statement issued by former CFA Board Chair John Peberdy several days earlier he stated: “Based on this (expert) advice, the Board is not able to approve the EBA in its current form.” Following the dismissal of the CFA Board a new Board was appointed on 17 June. The Board will now be chaired by Greg Smith, with Michelle McLean to serve as Deputy Chair. Other board members are Pam White, Dr Gillian Sparkes and Simon Weir. The board brings together vast experience in governance, industrial law, public policy and financial management. In accordance with the Country Fire Authority Act, the Minister has asked Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria to nominate a further four members to join the board.
“A priority of the new Board will be to resolve the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. It will also drive cultural change in CFA, with a focus on lifting morale and ending the deep divide between senior management and firefighters that was identified in the Fire Services Review. It will also look to improve governance practices within CFA.” A Supreme Court injunction applied for by VFBV and issued on 10 June prevented the EBA by being voted on by CFA Board and required CFA to enter consultation with VFBV before 22 June. On the day it was lifted CFA Chair Greg Smith issued the following statement:
“Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) has agreed to a CFA proposal to continue consultation about the proposed Agreement. “This consultation will continue over coming weeks ahead of the proposed Agreement being able to be put to a vote no earlier than 20 July. “CFA fully respects and values its volunteers and career firefighters and will engage with them in the lead up to the vote.” Lucinda Nolan, who was CEO since November 2015, resigned on 17 June. She was widely praised by CFA members and staff for her leadership during this time. Soon after her resignation the Board appointed leading Victorian health sector executive Frances Diver as the Chief Executive Officer of CFA. Ms Diver has worked for more than a decade as a senior executive in the now Department of Health and Human Services. For the past five years Ms Diver has had policy and performance oversight of Victoria’s hospital and ambulance systems and has extensive experience in the emergency services environment. She commenced in this role on 27 June. CFA was further rocked by the resignation of Chief Officer Joe Buffone on 30 June. Joe had provided strong leadership to the organisation since his appointment to this position in October 2015. Steve Warrington will be the Acting Chief Officer until a permanent appointment is made.
fighters up to date on developments within the organisation. It has also given brigades and
firefighters an opportunity to contribute items and make comments on a wide range of