Progress of Action 4.1

Action 4.1: Appoint the Firefighters Registration Board (FRB).

Action objective: The secondment model is collaboratively supported and regulated by an independent entity.

Lead agency: DJCS with CFA and FRV

Year Two to Five Plan (November 2021) completion dateYear Two to Five Plan (updated May 2023) completion dateAgency reported status as at 30 June 2023
June 2022August 2023In progress – minor delays

Context

This action requires DJCS, in consultation with CFA and FRV, in accordance with the relevant sections of the FRV Act 1958, establish an independent entity that supports and regulates the fire services secondment model.

Progress summary

Evidence received demonstrates that formalising the Regulations has taken longer than initially anticipated. In FY 2022-23, the Minister approved DJCS’s change request to extend the due date for this action to August 2023 to enable finalisation of the Regulations and subsequent election and appointment processes that conform to the requirements specified in the Regulations.

DJCS developed a project plan to guide the development of the Regulations, and the Firefighters Registration Board Working Group provided governance oversight until the Regulations were settled. The Fire Rescue Victoria (Firefighters Registration Board) Regulations 2022 came into effect on 1 December 2022 and are publicly available.[39] As at 30 June 2023, the election and appointment process for members of the independent FRB had commenced in line with the processes outlined in the Regulations. At the end of the reporting period, the appointment process was ongoing, with DJCS continuing to provide administrative support to establish the FRB.

FSIM notes the Regulations support the FRB provisions in the FRV Act[40] and the secondment model by providing additional structure and guidance with respect to:

  • requirements for the appointment of members of the FRB under the Fire Rescue Victoria Act 1958
  • the process for the election of nominees of “former senior firefighter and academic” for appointment to the FRB
  • other matters necessary to allow the FRB to discharge its duties under the FRV Act.

In November 2021, due to the imminent and ongoing need to fill vacancies to provide operational and management support to CFA in the CAoV and given the Regulations to support the establishment of the FRB were not yet completed, FRV established, with the agreement of the UFU, a committee titled the Victorian Professional Career Firefighters Registration Board (VPCFRB) pursuant to the Operational Employees EA. FRV advised that role of this committee was to assess and register any lateral entry candidates for employment by FRV for the purpose of being offered as secondees, pursuant to section 25B of the FRV Act, while the FRB was being established.

In addition, and as FSIM noted in its Annual Report 2021/22, in March 2022 during the development of the draft Regulations, UFU created a body corporate called the Victorian Professional Career Firefighters Registration Board Ltd. (VPCFRB Ltd). FSIM understands that this UFU-led VPCFRB Ltd is intended to register career firefighters from ranks covered by the operational staff agreement, employed by FRV. FSIM further understands that the VPCFRB’s intended scope and functions are broader than those of the FRB and FRV’s internal Board.

The VPCFRB Ltd is currently the subject of FWC proceedings that commenced in March 2022 relating to a dispute between the UFU and FRV in which the Minister subsequently intervened.[41] Due to this dispute and pursuant to FRV’s consultation obligations under the Operational Employees EA, FRV was not able to make a final formal submission in respect of the proposed Regulations in July 2022 upon the request of the CEO of EMV. However, FSIM notes there was constructive FRV officer-level engagement in the Regulations development process over the months preceding the FWC proceedings.

Findings

FSIM finds action 4.1 is progressing.

FSIM observes that the Year Two to Five Plan actions to develop and maintain a secondment strategy that details CFA’s capability and capacity needs from FRV (action 5.1) and FRV’s Workforce Plan (action 5.4) may provide further insights for the FRB. The output from these actions will be important matters for consideration for the FRB (once established), given that CFA has no formal mechanism to require that secondees have certain competencies or skillsets beyond relying on s7(1)(bb) of the FRV Act.[42]

As noted in FSIM’s Annual Report 2021/22, the establishment of a separate registration body for career firefighters may risk duplicative, overlapping, or inconsistent registration functions and requirements.[43]

As per the intent of action 4.1, once the FRB is established, FSIM encourages the FRB, in consultation with CFA, DJCS and FRV, to consider and discuss the implications of possible dual registration approaches to ensure the best outcomes for staff seconded to CFA and to ensure that CFA’s needs are being met through the registration approach.



Footnotes

[39] Fire Rescue Victoria (Firefighters Registration Board) Regulations 2022

[40] The FRB is established under s149 of the FRV Act 1958

[41] Victorian Government Printer, 2023, Victorian Government Gazette, G41, 13 October 2022, viewed 15 August 2023, <https://www.gazette.vic.gov.au/gazette/Gazettes2022/GG2022G041.pdf#page=23>, pg. 4103

Section 7(1)(bb) of the FRV Act requires FRV to provide operational and management support to CFA in consultation with and as agreed by CFA to meet CFA’s objective under section 6B of the Country Fire Authority Act 1958, including support to maintain, strengthen and encourage the capability of volunteers.

[43] Fire Services Implementation Monitor, 2023, Fire Services Implementation Monitor Annual Report 2021/22, Victorian Government, viewed 8 August 2023, <https://www.vic.gov.au/fire-services-implementation-monitor-annual-report-2021-22>, pg. 78.

Updated