Progress of Action 4.5

Action 4.5: Continue delivering the following cultural and diversity change programs: (a) CFA behavioural standards program; (b) CFA child safety compliance plan; (c) Inclusion and diversity strategy and supporting action plans; and (d) Fire Services Statement funded Initiatives.

Action objective: CFA promotes cultural inclusiveness and diversity through fit for purpose plans and programs.

Lead agency: CFA

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 2024June 2024In progress – on track

Context

This action requires CFA to deliver the following work programs:

  • Roll out of Behavioural Standards (5 streams)
  • Implement Child Safety Compliance Plan
  • Implement Inclusion and Diversity Strategy
  • Deliver Supporting Diversity in our Fire Services Project
  • Deliver Investing in Leadership Development Project
  • Deliver Investing in Volunteer Leadership Development Project
  • Deliver the Mental Health for Leaders Project.

Progress summary

FSIM notes that CFA has expanded its focus from the year two ‘Right Environment Program’ (focused on reducing the number of open complaints) to a broader, more strategic approach to culture and diversity change programs. This broader program is informed by the findings of the External Review of Culture and Issues Management (2022 Szoke Review). CFA anticipates this broader approach will help it to meet its diversity, culture, leadership development and health, safety and wellbeing goals. This comprehensive and strategic approach that looks beyond complaints management is encouraging.

The program is overseen by separate project governance groups, all of which report through the People, Culture and Remuneration Board Sub-Committee and CFA Executive.

A summary of progress against each deliverable is provided below, noting that the status provided is CFA’s assessment of progress reported through their internal governance processes.

1. Roll out of Behavioural Standards (5 streams)

The Behavioural Standards program builds on the ‘Right Environment Program’ highlighted in FSIM’s Annual Report 2021/22.[50]

CFA has delivered over 100 workshops with over 3,500 members now trained. The behavioural standards are embedded into the onboarding process for new volunteers. CFA coordinated sessions for groups of Brigades in local catchments to further optimise delivery and maximise attendance.

2. Implement Child Safety Compliance Plan

FSIM’s Annual Report 2021/22 noted an opportunity to improve collaboration through established groups like HoA to understand and resolve reform issues. FSIM noted there is an opportunity to enhance the clarity and transparency of communication to support effective collaboration between the two agencies on significant issues like the child safety requirements for secondees.[51]

CFA and FRV have different requirements relating to the application of child safety requirements (e.g., requirements for WWCC). CFA’s policy is that all staff and volunteers must have a valid WWCC while the FRV Operational EA does not require FRV staff to have child safety checks. As highlighted in FSIM’s Annual Report 2021/2022, this is a serious matter which requires a timely resolution.[52]

To address this gap, a CFA/FRV Child Safety Working Group was established in February 2023 to develop a program of work to review seconded roles and determine relevant WWCC and child safety training requirements. FRV identified 22 operational leadership seconded positions that require a WWCC and child safety training requirements, with additional specialist training for those involved in the management of child safety complaints. The proposed requirements were presented to the Working Group in June 2023, following a review by senior CFA personnel. Throughout this process, CFA consistently highlighted that its policy position for all staff and volunteers to have a valid WWCC remains unchanged.

At the end of the reporting period, all FRV secondees had not yet met CFA’s child safety requirements.

3. Implement Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

CFA’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2023 – 2025 (D&I Strategy) was approved by CFA Board and launched in March 2023, supported by communications and implementation plans for ongoing oversight of implementation progress.[53] Additional detail relating to the development and implementation of CFA’s D&I Strategy is at action 4.10.

4. Deliver the Mental Health for Leaders Project

A new item delivered under this action is the Mental Health for Leaders program to contribute to the CFA Health and Wellbeing Strategic Plan. The content reflects the requirements of incoming Psychological Health regulations and the recommendations of the 2022 Szoke Review. The suite of learning materials were due to be completed by the end of June 2023.

5. Fire Services Statement funded initiatives

The Victorian government announced a $60 million investment in the Victorian Fire Services, as part of the Fire Services Statement. This investment includes the three programs below, all of which are completed:

  • Deliver Supporting Diversity in our Fire Services Project
  • Deliver Investing in Leadership Development Project
  • Deliver Investing in Volunteer Leadership Development Project

CFA are preparing closure reports on the Fire Services Statement funded initiatives alongside broader analysis (where relevant) to support the transition to BAU.

Findings

FSIM finds action 4.5 is progressing. FSIM encourages the agencies to continue working together to ensure the safety of children and young people is a priority and mitigate risk of harm towards children and young people as far as possible. FSIM observed that CFA’s progress against the new Child Safe Standards has been positive, with evidence received in June 2023 that the Commission’s requirement for quarterly reporting will be removed. However, as highlighted in FSIM’s Annual Report 2021/22, issues working with children are a serious matter, and some FRV secondees did not have a valid WWCC at the end of the reporting period. While FSIM has observed progress, the project plan guiding the finalisation of the Child Safety Program (as presented to HoA in June 2023) indicates the transition to BAU in December 2024. As a result, aspects of CFA’s child-safe requirements, particularly the requirement for all currently identified secondees to have a valid WWCC, will remain unmet.

FSIM notes that many FRV secondees have self-elected to obtain a WWCC, and CFA continues to encourage this initiative.



Footnotes

[50] 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. 100.

[51] 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. 48.

[52] 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. 49.

[53] Country Fire Authority, 2023, CFA Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, Country Fire Authority, viewed 15 August 2023, https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/about-us/what-we-value/diversity-and-inclusion

Updated