Progress of Action 5.1

Action 5.1: CFA in consultation with FRV develops and maintain a secondment strategy that details CFA’s capability and capacity needs for those resources sourced from FRV.

Action objective: The capability and capacity needs of CFA are clearly understood by FRV and the FRB. FRV’s strategic workforce planning enables the provision of secondees that meet the operational needs and capability requirements of CFA.

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 2022June 2023In progress – significant delays

Context

This action requires CFA to develop a capability statement (CFA Capability Statement) that clearly defines CFA’s operational capability and capacity requirements that meet its legislative obligations and the standards established for staff seconded to CFA from FRV under the Secondment Agreement.

The CFA Capability Statement applies to roles resourced through the secondment model, including ACFOs (Regional Commanders), ACFOs (Manager Community Safety), Commanders, Instructors, PAD Supervisors and PAD Operators. The CFA Capability Statement comprises the required technical, professional skills, CFA competencies and skills (including skills to support volunteers), leadership, management and personal attributes for staff seconded from FRV, including:

  • capacity required including specifications relating to seconded position type, number of positions and locations for each classification and relief requirements
  • required technical skills statements relating to seconded roles and associated functions
  • professional skills statements outlining role requirements
  • specifications on what success looks like, particularly with relation to senior leadership roles and responsibilities, key working relationships, and experience and qualifications required (e.g., CFA child safety standards and behavioural standards).

CFA advised they intend to conduct an annual review of the CFA Capability Statement to ensure its capability and capacity requirements are fit for purpose.

CFA’s capability and capacity needs for staff seconded from FRV are important inputs for consideration by the FRB. Once established, the FRB will set professional capabilities and standards to satisfy the requirements of a position under the secondment arrangements (action 4.2).

FSIM notes that there are several interdependencies with this action:

  • action 1.7: Review of CFA Operating Model
  • action 4.2: FRB capability standards to support the secondment arrangements
  • action 5.2: Review of fire services sector operational capability and capacity requirements
  • action 5.4: FRV Strategic Workforce Plan with a strong focus on regional and remote delivery of services
  • action 5.8: Long-term funding plan for CFA and FRV.

Progress summary

As at 30 June 2023, CFA reported significant delays in completing this action. CFA planned to submit a change request to the Minister to extend the due date for this action in FY 2023-24.

The CFA Capability Statement requirements are based on the current capabilities and capacity required to operate and deliver services under the new fire services model. FRV, under the Secondment Agreement, must meet CFA’s capability and capacity needs via seconded staff. FSIM notes that if CFA’s required capabilities are different from the current FRV Operational EA, it is the responsibility of FRV to advocate on behalf of CFA.

In July 2022, CFA completed the CFA Capability Statement and provided it to DJCS and FRV for feedback. In August 2022, CFA provided FRV with an additional annexure including CFA’s behavioural standards and child safety requirements. CFA considers it is imperative the behavioural standards and child safety requirements are part of the overarching CFA Capability Statement to ensure all FRV seconded staff have the requisite knowledge and skills to keep children and young people safe.

CFA had established success profiles for ACFOs and Commanders as at 30 June 2023 and planned to develop the success profiles for Instructors and ACFOs (Manager Community Safety) in FY 2023-24.

FRV reported that it had raised informal questions with CFA to further clarify CFA’s capability requirements since July 2022. FSIM notes numerous discussions between CFA and FRV on the CFA Capability Statement at HoA meetings over the reporting period. This includes a request from FRV in September 2022 seeking further clarification on CFA’s capability and capacity requirements. CFA responded to FRV in early February 2023, which was delayed because of the higher priority placed by CFA on operational response efforts during the flood crisis in October 2022.

In June 2023, FRV had yet to provide a formal response to CFA on the CFA Capability Statement and had yet to commence an evaluation of the provision of FRV secondees against the CFA Capability Statement. FRV’s evaluation of CFA’s capability and capacity requirements will be deferred until the CFA Capability Statement is finalised.

FSIM notes that the draft FRV Workforce Plan does not currently incorporate the capabilities and capacities required by CFA for staff seconded from FRV and notes that there is an initiative in this draft plan to deliver CFA’s capabilities and capacity requirements in 2024. This issue is raised in action 5.4.

Findings

FSIM recognises several intersections across the obligations under the FRV Operational EA, Secondment Agreement and the FRV and CFA Acts. These obligations are wider and broader than specific reform activities in the Year Two to Five Plan and many of these intersections are impacting progress and agencies’ ability to implement CFA’s capability and capacity requirements. These interactions of obligations are included in the risks outlined below.

FSIM finds action 5.1 is progressing. Given the risks associated with the successful implementation of the Secondment Agreement and the imperative of ensuring that FRV's seconded staff possess the necessary competencies and skillsets required by CFA, it remains crucial for both agencies to establish a shared understanding of CFA's requirements. This shared understanding enables FRV to consider these needs when assigning staff to seconded roles and its broader workforce planning.

1. CFA has limited ability to require and assess whether staff seconded from FRV meet its capability needs

CFA is unable to verify that seconded staff possess CFA-specific competencies as it has no access to FRV personnel data (e.g., skillset, detailed qualifications, performance, applied experience and training) and there is currently no agreed mechanism for sharing this information in an appropriate way that takes into account privacy and other considerations.

While FSIM notes that details relating to seconded staff competencies are not currently shared, FRV advised FSIM that FRV and CFA Commander candidate competencies and qualifications are identical with the exception of two specific CFA-required competencies (‘Wildfire level 3’ and ‘Plan a Prescribed Burn’). FSIM understands that all FRV seconded Commanders undertake these two extra modules prior to working for CFA and that CFA personnel deliver these two modules for FRV seconded staff. At the end of the reporting period, FSIM had yet to validate this information to confirm that the competencies and qualifications were identical, however this may be a focus of this action’s assessment in future reporting.

As noted in action 5.4, FSIM finds that FRV completing its gap analysis of secondees’ skillsets against the CFA Capability Statement requirements and sharing this information with CFA would support both FRV and CFA to target and tailor capability development programs. This would ensure that secondees possess the necessary capability to deliver services in the CAoV and support FRV to meet its secondment obligations to CFA. FSIM understands FRV plans to work with CFA to understand and forecast CFA’s capability and capacity needs to inform the secondment arrangements in FY 2023-24.

2. Child Safety requirements

CFA and FRV have different policies relating to the application of child safety requirements. CFA’s policy is that all staff and volunteers must have a valid WWCC, while the FRV Operational EA does not require staff to have child safety checks.

Progress on this issue is outlined in action 4.5, however in the context of this action, FRV had 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 for these identified roles are subject to consultation and formal endorsement by CFA.

FSIM notes this key aspect of CFA capability requirements and at the end of the reporting period, work was underway to progress to create a pathway for FRV secondees to meet CFA’s requirements.

3. Ability of FRV to meet CFA seconded workforce needs

FRV cannot currently provide the required number of seconded staff under the secondment arrangements which impacts CFA’s service delivery and support for volunteers. FSIM notes that this is a legacy issue. Prior to reform, CFA faced challenges filling certain regional positions but had the ability to utilise CFA’s personnel to address these challenges. Following reforms, CFA lost the ability to utilise their personnel to address vacancies and must rely on FRV under the secondment arrangements. Although FRV continues to face challenges in recruiting and retaining staff for various vacant seconded positions, it has actively collaborated with CFA to implement strategies aimed at increasing interest in these roles.

While this is a positive step, FSIM finds that changes to position descriptions, based on the requirements outlined in the CFA Capability Statement for positions seconded to CFA, will need agreement from the Consultative Committee if these changes are different to those outlined in the FRV Operational EA, and may cause further delays.

4. Responsibility for managing performance of FRV staff seconded to CFA

Clauses within the FRV Operational EA (Schedule 18(1.1.1))[71] and provisions in the Secondment Agreement (Clause 8 Ending a secondment)[72] indicate that the CO, CFA cannot directly manage the performance of staff seconded from FRV to CFA, even though the CO, CFA has the order and control of the work of all secondees under Clause 7(a) of the Secondment Agreement. Under s25C(6) of the FRV Act, the CO, CFA is empowered to terminate a secondment arrangement for a FRV seconded staff if an equitable, fair and transparent process has been undertaken to review the conduct of the staff and is satisfied that such termination is appropriate. CFA reported that complications in applying these provisions arise due to the question of which legal instrument takes precedence.

CFA and FRV both recognise that there is a need for a practical approach for CFA to manage staff seconded from FRV in meeting its operational needs and capability requirements, while ensuring that processes and obligations outlined in the FRV Operational EA are followed. FSIM notes that CFA and FRV continue to work through appropriate protocols for managing the performance and misconduct of staff seconded to CFA from FRV via a supplementary instrument to the Secondment Agreement. However, as with vacancy, relief, and leave management, there are delays in finalising this supplementary instrument due to fundamental tensions between the Secondment Agreement, the FRV Operational EA and the needs of CFA, outlined in detail at action 3.9. CFA and FRV were addressing how staff performance management can be strengthened but were yet to present details to HoA.

FSIM has observed that CFA has raised issues regarding the CFA Capability Statement on the weekly HoA agenda for the FY 2022-23 reporting period (12 months). FSIM has observed some progress in risk management (e.g., developing a supplementary instrument to guide the establishment of additional secondment positions for both permanent and temporary arrangements). However, FRV’s formal response to CFA’s capability requirements was still pending as at 30 June 2023. FSIM notes that the draft FRV Workforce Plan includes an initiative to deliver CFA’s capabilities and capacity requirements in 2024 (action 5.4).

5. Agencies need to work collaboratively to ensure this action meets its objectives

In June 2023, CFA raised concerns with FRV that the draft FRV Workforce Plan may not meet CFA’s capability requirements for wildfire response and working with volunteers. FSIM received evidence demonstrating that FRV worked closely with CFA to develop its Catchment Commander program, providing qualified personnel with the necessary skills to respond to and manage bushfires effectively.

A potential gap in the draft FRV Workforce Plan may pose a significant risk not only to the successful implementation of this action, but action 5.4 and, more generally, the broader success in planning for and delivering the future sustainability of the fire services (action 5.2).

FSIM emphasises the importance of collaborative efforts between CFA and FRV to establish and communicate a clear strategy for meeting CFA’s capability and capacity needs, now and in the future.

Finally, the CFA Capability Statement is a critical input for the FRB when establishing capability standards to support the secondment arrangements, the FRB’s Firefighters Register, application processes and transparent appeals processes. FRB’s use of the CFA Capability Statement will foster confidence within CFA that FRV seconded staff registered with FRB’s Firefighters Register will meet the specific competencies or skillsets for seconded staff outlined in the CFA Capability Statement.



Footnotes

[70] ‘Vacancy” refers to the situation where a substantive Commander or ACFO position (as define under the Secondment Agreement) does not have an FRV seconded staff member formally appointed to that role.

[71] Schedule 18 – Division B conduct resolution of the Division B Operational Staff Enterprise Agreement, Clause 1.1.1 states that FRV, the employer, will clearly express proper reason(s) for raising a concern(s) regarding an employee’s performance and/or conduct (including its effect on the safety and welfare of other employees or the community).

[72] The Secondment Agreement is silent on performance standards and only includes provisions pertaining to a fair and equitable process should the conduct of a seconded staff be in question, however, solely relates to the suspension and termination of a secondment.

Updated