This annual report of the Fire Services Implementation Monitor (FSIM) assesses the second year of the implementation of Victoria’s fire services reforms. The report covers reform implementation from 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022.
The report delivers on FSIM’s obligations under section 131(1) of the Fire Rescue Victoria Act 1958 (FRV Act) to monitor and review the progress of the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) in carrying out the Year Two to Five Fire Services Reform Implementation Plan (Year Two to Five Implementation Plan).
The Minister for Emergency Services (the Minister) tabled the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan in Parliament in November 2021. The Year Two to Five Implementation Plan outlined 41 actions, recommended by the agencies and approved by the Minister, across five priority areas over four years of reform.
For this year two report, FSIM adopted a risk-based approach, assessing progress of 29 of the 41 Year Two to Five Implementation Plan actions that, if not implemented effectively, FSIM considers could cause the greatest risk to achieving reform outcomes and objectives as outlined in the 2017 Fire Services Statement (the Fire Services Statement) and the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan.
FSIM identified the 29 actions based on key findings made in Fire Services Implementation Monitor Annual Report 2020–21: Setting the foundations (FSIM’s Financial Year (FY) 2020–21 Annual Report), reform risks identified by the agencies through various governance oversight groups,1 and FSIM’s assessment of Year Two to Five Implementation Plan actions that best support embedding reform.
FSIM grouped the 29 actions into five key focus areas. The key focus areas summarise the context, scope, objectives, and broad issues impacting progress of the grouped actions and comprise:
- Complementary fire services
- Culture and diversity
- Fire services sustainability
- Service provision. 2
Each key focus area contains specific lines of inquiry. A line of inquiry comprises a group of Year Two to Five Implementation Plan actions that have a shared overarching objective or purpose. The line of inquiry assesses both the progress of the actions and outlines opportunities and challenges, as identified by FSIM, for agencies in meeting the relevant objective.
This report includes:
- an overview of FSIM’s year two methodology and stakeholder engagement activities
- a progress summary for each of the 29 actions based on an information request to the agencies within the relevant lines of inquiry
- key findings in the relevant key focus areas and lines of inquiry and opportunities and challenges for the agencies to consider as they progress delivering on Year Two to Five Implementation Plan objectives
- an assessment of effectiveness on the two Year Two to Five Implementation Plan actions (actions 5.5 and 5.6) completed by the responsible agency during the reporting period.
For the two actions completed during the assessment period (actions 5.5 and 5.6 under the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan’s Priority Five: “Ensure the future sustainability of the fire services” workstream), FSIM requested information from CFA, Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS) and FRV to determine whether the output delivered on the action’s objective. FSIM defines effectiveness as an action having met its objective as set out in the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan with supporting evidence.
FSIM collected information throughout the year via multiple channels and stakeholders to inform the year two assessment. FSIM reviewed and analysed documents, attended events and meetings, and engaged staff and volunteers to collect information for this report.
FSIM also conducted a year two engagement program primarily focused on discussions with CFA members and FRV staff at selected co-located stations and peri-urban areas as FSIM considers this cohort particularly impacted by the reforms.
As such, the majority of staff who engaged with FSIM in FY 2021–22 were FRV Division B staff and CFA volunteers in co-located stations in peri-urban Melbourne and regional Victoria. FSIM acknowledges that, in electing to focus its year two consultation on co-located brigades, it has heard perspectives and issues that may not reflect the diversity of views across the fire services in Victoria. However, these targeted discussions informed a focused summary of the key issues in those areas most impacted by reform and FSIM considers reflecting those voices is a critical step to support staff and volunteers to continue to move forward constructively.
Structural elements influencing reform implementation
In undertaking its year two assessment, FSIM has observed two fundamental factors that impact both how agencies operate as organisations and how the agencies operate effectively within the reformed fire services model. These factors are the implementation of the secondment model and industrial consultation requirements.
The secondment model is a fundamental component of reform and must work effectively for the government to realise its vision for a modern, integrated and sustainable system that keeps Victorians safe. FSIM notes that, of the five Year Two to Five Implementation Plan actions that relate to secondment, two are reported as significantly delayed, two have reported minor delays and one is yet to commence. FSIM will continue to consider the impacts of the secondment model in year three through assessment of related Year Two to Five Implementation Plan actions.
CFA and FRV each have formal consultation obligations and both agencies engage with their respective stakeholders. However, the nature and impact of these obligations are very different in the two agencies. There is a further requirement for FRV to consult with the United Firefighters Union of Australia – Victoria Branch (UFU) and secure consensus via the Consultative Committee process prior to implementing any matter or change relating to the employment relationship of FRV employees.
In practice, this means that where both CFA and FRV settle on a position which impacts FRV employees, FRV must subsequently consult with and secure the agreement of its industrial partner via the Consultative Committee established under the Fire Rescue Victoria Operational Employees Interim Enterprise Agreement 2020 (FRV Operational Employees EBA). This consultation process contributed to delays in finalising some arrangements and presented a considerable challenge for agencies in committing to positions agreed in principle at executive level where there is a subsequent requirement to consult and seek agreement on those positions.
FSIM will continue to monitor consultation processes into year three, noting that effective consultation is a fundamental component to progress and finalise service delivery arrangements.
Year Two to Five Implementation Plan action status and assessment
Status of Year Two to Five Implementation Plan actions
The Year Two to Five Implementation Plan set out 41 actions to be delivered during the period November 2021 to 30 June 2025.3 ;The status of the 41 actions 4 ;reported to the Minister, via the DJCS-coordinated reporting process as of 30 June, 2022 is:
- two actions are complete
- nine actions are progressing and on track
- 20 actions are progressing and experiencing minor delays
- six actions are progressing and experiencing significant delays
- four actions have not yet commenced.
Many actions (13) did not meet their set completion dates outlined in the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan. Agencies must apply formally to the Minister for approval to adjust Year Two to Five Implementation Plan actions. At the end of the reporting period, FSIM had not received ministerially approved change requests with updated completion timelines for those actions. As such, the action completion timelines reported are reflective of the timelines in the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan.
FSIM Key focus area assessment
Complementary fire services
The complementary fire services key focus area outlines progress and challenges for agencies towards achieving the government’s vision for complementary fire services that are modern, integrated and keep Victorians safe.
FSIM finds that CFA and FRV are making strong progress towards providing more modern fire services; however, they face significant challenges in implementing a complementary approach to fire services delivery. FSIM identified three systemic issues that currently constrain delivery against key Year Two to Five Implementation Plan actions that need to be addressed to successfully progress reform. These systemic issues comprise:
- no agreed, shared definition of complementary fire services that is supported by documented and consistent principles
- ineffective collaboration between CFA and FRV at times
- absence of an overarching, empowered, strategic governance body with the authority and resources to address key challenges to reform progress.
FSIM notes that agencies have each progressed work to define how services are delivered and to establish principles to underpin many operational service delivery arrangements. However, there is a need for agencies to define and agree on what constitutes complementary fire services.
There is a role for an independent, strategically focused, empowered and resourced body to drive discussions and make strategic decisions where agencies cannot agree or are at an impasse. Without this, FSIM considers there to be a real risk that some Service Level Deed of Agreement (SLDA) schedules will remain outstanding at the end of the third year of reform and that other key pieces of work, including service delivery approaches, will be impeded where there is no clear and agreed definition of complementary fire services.
Improving culture and diversity
The culture and diversity key focus area outlines progress and challenges for agencies towards achieving the government’s vision to implement a cultural shift in the fire services, with a strong focus on valuing people and building a safe and respectful sector.
FSIM finds that FRV has made significant progress to develop and communicate its values and CFA is taking decisive action to transparently address cultural issues.
Valuing the work of volunteers and staff is underpinned by each agency’s values and culture – and more importantly, how those values and cultures are reflected in service delivery. Since the reform’s initiation, volunteers and staff continue to ‘get on with the job’, services continue to be delivered and FSIM notes that the agencies’ values are relatively aligned. However, the operating context and culture of how values are demonstrated in each agency differs and are further influenced by structural elements such as the secondment model and the co-located station arrangements. Operating in these different cultural contexts can bring challenges, particularly for those seconded staff operating across both agencies.
Sustainability of the fire services
This key focus area outlines progress and challenges for agencies towards achieving the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan’s Priority Five objective to ensure the future sustainability of the fire services.
FSIM finds that the majority of work to deliver the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan actions underpinning sustainable fire services into the future is either underway or completed as at 30 June 2022. This work is positive and FSIM recognises the significant effort of agencies in achieving this progress. However, there is still much to do to comprehensively define workforce costs, workforce and volunteer capability and capacity costs, cost pressures arising from secondment arrangements, and to calculate the cost of the full range of fire agencies’ service delivery demands.
Priority Five in the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan includes several complex strategic actions that are informed by or influence other Year Two to Five Implementation Plan actions. Future actions that inform the long-term sustainability of the fire services model (actions 5.7 and 5.8) are reliant on data, information, or progress from numerous activities outlined in the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan. FSIM considers that mapping these interdependent actions and milestones will support effective delivery of actions 5.7 and 5.8. This will ensure that the evidence base to deliver these actions (for example, understanding of costs of service delivery, asset management planning and costs, and costs associated with workforce and volunteer capabilities and development) is comprehensive and as accurate as possible.
The Governance key focus area outlines progress and challenges for agencies towards achieving the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan objective of an “effective and productive working relationship across the fire services and other emergency service agencies, building on the principle of interoperability”.
FSIM finds that CFA and FRV have made progress towards this objective; however, FSIM observes there is no overarching governance body with the membership, authority, and strategic direction to discuss and resolve fundamental barriers to completing actions.
 Joint governance arrangements for the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan comprise Heads of Agency Steering Committee (HoA), Fire Services Operations Committee (FSOC) and six sub-committees comprising: operational communications, community safety, training, infrastructure and protective equipment, specialist response, and doctrine.
 The service provision key focus area was a mechanism to assess progress and effectiveness of agencies in delivering against related actions and is captured in the various lines of inquiry.
 Some activities from the Victorian Government’s Year One Plan have been reframed in the Victorian Government’s Year Two to Five Implementation Plan. Appendix A of the Year Two to Five Implementation Plan provides an overview of the status of actions from the Year One Plan and how they align to the government’s reform priorities over a four-year period. The Year Two to Five Implementation Plan also includes new actions to reflect the government’s emerging reform priorities.
 Refer to Table 6 for individual Year Two to Five Implementation Plan actions’ status.