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My first annual report as the Fire Services Implementation Monitor assesses the initial eight months of fire services reforms in Victoria. These first eight months have been spent understanding the structure of the reforms and the significant and varied work agencies have undertaken. This report provides a snapshot of key progress, issues and opportunities across the Fire Services Reform Year One Implementation Plan activities in the period 15 October 2020 to 30 June 2021 and identifies further areas for action or review.

Impacts of 2020-21

Implementing the Fire Services reform in 2020 was always going to be a challenge. COVID-19 restrictions, the demands of back-to-back and concurrent emergencies, and various
inquiries and Royal Commissions have placed substantial demands on Country Fire Authority (CFA), and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV). It is a testament to Victoria’s career and volunteer firefighters and support staff that effective fire services were maintained across Victoria while implementing the new model.

Progress

It is clear that the transition to the new model is well underway, and I commend CFA, FRV and Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) for the work to date. Many Year One Plan actions have taken longer to deliver than expected due to their breadth and complexity, resourcing challenges and competing CFA and FRV priorities. Despite this, CFA and FRV continue to work together to deliver their important reform work.

There is more work to do

Over the coming year I hope to see CFA and FRV finalise their outstanding foundational agreements, complete their planned reviews and transition from interim arrangements to firmly established business processes. This will allow staff and volunteers to feel more confident in their roles and functions and set the foundations for successful, modernised fire services across Victoria.

My three focus areas

Capacity and capability

To reduce the risk of systemic operational issues, CFA, FRV and EMV need to embed effective project planning, agreed consultation processes and finalise outstanding agreements. They need to fill vacancies that impact service delivery, clarify roles and duties, and resolve delegation issues. Developing and communicating a robust governance framework with a clear issues resolution process will aid progress on these issues.

Collaboration

CFA and FRV need to agree on and communicate the complementary fire services operational approach to service delivery. I am pleased to see the leadership of both organisations collaborating well and, over the next year, I will look at how this commitment to collaboration has extended to different levels of both organisations.

Culture and workplace safety

Workplace culture and a lack of diversity are critical challenges faced by CFA and FRV and a safe workplace is crucial to reform success. Both organisations are committed to culture change, gender, and diversity and have updated how they manage complaints. CFA and FRV are actively working to improve their data on organisational workforce diversity and inclusion as part of their progress in this area.

And finally…

My thanks to CFA, FRV and EMV for their commitment to working through the complex issues and collaboration in driving reform. Thanks also to key stakeholders whose communications, responsiveness and workshops have helped me and my team better understand the achievements and challenges of our first year. I particularly want to acknowledge the skills and dedication of the career and volunteer firefighters whose outstanding level of service delivery continues to save lives and communities.

Hon. Niall Blair
Fire Services Implementation Monitor

Reviewed 18 November 2021

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