8. Concluding remarks

FSIM provides the Victorian government and community with an independent assessment of the Fire Services Reform implementation progress.

Three years into a ten-year fire services reform program, CFA, DJCS and FRV have progressed Year Two to Five Plan action delivery. As of 30 June 2023, CFA, DJCS and FRV have completed 15 of 41 Year Two to Five Plan actions. FSIM will evaluate the effectiveness of these completed actions in future reports.

CFA and FRV have developed foundational strategies to shape their cultural and strategic directions and recognise the contributions of volunteers and staff. FRV completed its inaugural FRV Strategy and has undertaken initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion. CFA continues to improve its number of women in brigade leadership roles and developed its D&I Strategy, which actively promotes, supports, and enables diversity in the organisation to reflect its community.

The Fire Services Reform made significant foundational changes. These changes include reinstating CFA as a volunteer firefighting agency and establishing the Secondment Agreement for the secondment of FRV staff to provide operational and management support to CFA volunteers. The FRV Operational EA stipulates that FRV manages the performance and conduct of staff seconded to CFA. This provision affects the ability of the CO, CFA to oversee the performance and appointment of seconded staff under their command.

Furthermore, the reform also transferred legislative functions from CFA to FRV, but as of 30 June 2023, CFA cannot delegate some legislative powers to FRV for end-to-end service delivery of functions transferred in the CAoV for dangerous goods and caravan parks. As a result, CFA and FRV share service delivery roles. Shared delivery of land use planning services as a result of the transfer of resources on 1 July 2020 also continued to cause challenges for the agencies. Since the inception of the reform, there has been a declining trend in referral compliance with statutory timeframes where these services are shared.

FSIM notes that volunteers and career firefighters continue to respond to incidents regardless of workarounds or delays in implementing the reform.

FSIM recognises these barriers fundamentally impact whether the reform will achieve its outcomes for a modern, integrated, and sustainable fire service. Several pending reform-related harmonisation and operational activities (e.g., harmonisation, delegations, strategic workforce planning and capability planning) are yet to be completed. FSIM plans to conduct a more detailed evaluation in FY 2023-24 and will request evidence from agencies to assess the quantifiable impact of reform barriers.

At this point of reform, and to help Victoria's fire services agencies make the most of their progress so far, a comprehensive review of the Year Two to Five Plan and remaining implementation actions would be beneficial. This review should assess which remaining implementation plan activities most significantly contribute to the intended success at year five for each priority area and the plan updated with pragmatic and achievable timelines to focus on those activities. The review should be guided by the broader outcomes in the Fire Services Statement, leverage a shared definition of complementary fire services and consider the impacts of other enabling instruments (e.g., Secondment Agreement, legislative arrangements and limitations).

FSIM acknowledges CFA, DJCS and FRV for their ongoing cooperation and active contribution to this Year Three report's monitoring and reporting activities. FSIM acknowledges the volunteer and career firefighters across Victoria who continue to provide high-quality fire services to the community and work tirelessly to keep Victorians safe.