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I am pleased to table my second annual report as the Fire Services Implementation Monitor (FSIM).

In this second year, my assessment of fire services reform implementation in Victoria focused on delivering the foundational actions and activities needed for reform to succeed. Reform implementation activity should be built on a clear and agreed understanding of interoperable, complementary fire services to guide delivery in line with the intentions of the reform.

However, agencies are yet to define complementary services, making it difficult to make consistent and principle-based decisions to complete key fire services reform actions.

Year Two to Five Implementation Plan progress

Agencies are continuing to progress work against individual actions, and I provide a status update of all 41 actions in this report. I have also outlined the steps agencies have taken in this second year of reform implementation in my progress summaries of 29 actions that fall within my key focus areas.

Two actions were completed in my reporting period — actions 5.5. and 5.6 — both relating to fire services sustainability. In assessing the effectiveness of these two actions against their objectives, I found there are improvements to be made to data availability and data quality to improve agencies’ evidence base. I understand agencies are undertaking work to address these gaps, which, in addition to improving their respective evidence bases, should also inform upcoming, interrelated actions and help create a clearer picture of what sustainable fire services require.

I had consistent feedback via various channels on the impacts of secondment arrangements and industrial consultation requirements on delivering activities. For long-term reform success, both need to work effectively.

The reform is behind schedule. Issues such as pandemic restrictions, retrospective planning, and lengthy consultative processes have contributed to delays. However, as this is only the second year of a 10-year reform, there is time to address the issues identified in this report and maximise opportunities for future success.

Listening to those impacted by reforms

This year I talked to people working in the reformed systems about how reform has impacted their experience. I thank them for their valuable perspectives.

My year two report focuses on the locations and fire services cohorts I consider most affected. Recognition of these voices is crucial to formative assessment. I hope those who chose to engage with me and my office see themselves and their experiences reflected in the following report.

I committed to speaking to people within the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) from across the state. I met people emotionally connected to their work and sense of place, who have a genuine connection to their brigade or station and want the best outcome for Victoria’s fire services and the Victorian community.

From volunteers, I heard their brigade is their second family. It provides a place to gather and connect to their community. Many have done this for decades and often alongside multiple family generations, passionately supporting their community.

For career firefighters, serving at a station is a vocation providing a sense of purpose and belonging. It’s where they sleep, eat, and take pride in their efforts to protect the community.

These personal connections to a station or brigade have meant a sense of loss for some of those faced with changes brought about by reform, and I appreciate their participation, honesty, passion, and detailed reflections.

While it wasn’t possible to speak to every volunteer or career firefighter in Victoria, I heard many similar themes – particularly at co-located stations in Melbourne’s peri-urban fringe and major regional centres. Hearing like themes from those who engaged with me gives me confidence the issues in this report represent broader opportunities for improvement.

Strengthening reform implementation

I make four recommendations to strengthen Victoria’s fire services reform. All focus on identifying the underlying principles and additional governance arrangements needed to improve reform efficiency and understand effectiveness. They should also help support agencies to plan for and deliver sustainable, complementary fire services effectively.

In closing

I note that the timing of the Victorian Government election prevented Parliament from sitting in late 2022. Consequently, agencies may have already addressed some issues highlighted in this report or progressed activity significantly.

I want to thank CFA, Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS) and FRV for providing helpful and insightful evidence to drive this assessment and for their time and effort to support it. I particularly acknowledge career and volunteer firefighters’ ongoing dedication to serving the Victorian community.

Finally, I commend the efforts to date, but we still have plenty of work ahead.


Hon. Niall Blair

Fire Services Implementation Monitor