My third annual report summarises progress against each of the remaining 39 actions in the Year Two to Five Fire Services Reform Implementation Plan (Year Two to Five Plan), comments on the progress of the four recommendations I made in my Year Two annual report, and provides one additional recommendation to improve the focus of reform activities.

At this point in the reform, and with 15 of the 41 actions completed, I recommend a comprehensive review of the remaining Year Two to Five Plan actions. A review at this point would ensure the reform is on track and making the best use of what agencies and government have learned from the first three years of reform implementation. This review should leverage the positive and constructive progress to develop an agreed definition of complementary fire services and focus on delivering those actions and deliverables that best achieve the 2017 Fire Services Statement outcomes.

Continuous improvement in Victoria’s reformed fire services is an ongoing process that requires commitment, dedication, and a willingness to learn from past experiences. Both CFA and FRV have established the foundational strategies to promote a culture of continuous improvement, the objectives of the activities in the reform’s implementation plan are clear, and agencies have taken steps to establish performance indicators to demonstrate that the objectives have been met.

Much activity has been completed in the last three years. However, I continue to observe systemic difficulties with some aspects of reform. In Year Three of monitoring, the cause of these difficulties is becoming more apparent, and some data is available to demonstrate the impact these challenges have had on service delivery. This impact is most clearly seen in the shared delivery of land use planning, dangerous goods, and caravan parks services. While CFA and FRV have strengthened joint operational governance arrangements, I have found that progress is slow when action delivery is shared between agencies. I also note that where decisions are informed by intersections between the secondment arrangements established by the reform, Fire Rescue Victoria Operational Employees Interim Enterprise Agreement 2020, or restricted by legislation, progress is also impacted.

Pleasingly, agencies are making good progress when they are directly and solely responsible for action delivery. FRV’s efforts to establish their values and strategic direction, and CFA’s efforts to improve diversity and inclusion outcomes are highlights of this third year of reform implementation.

I thank CFA, DJCS and FRV for their support and efforts in providing evidence to inform my assessment. They have consistently and willingly assisted and are open to the opportunities I see to improve the reform implementation program. They continue to show what I believe to be a genuine commitment to making Victoria’s reformed fire services work more effectively for the community.

I would also like to acknowledge recent leadership changes in the fire services and the broader emergency management portfolio, which will support the continued implementation of Victoria’s Fire Services Reform. I thank Commissioner Ken Block for his time as the inaugural Fire Rescue Commissioner – his leadership was instrumental in establishing and leading the newly formed FRV. I welcome Gavin Freeman AFSM as the new Fire Rescue Commissioner. Commissioner Freeman’s experience with CFA and FRV stands him in good stead to guide FRV’s delivery. I would also like to welcome Jenni Rigby as the new CEO of Emergency Management Victoria and Rick Nugent APM as Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner following the retirement of Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp AM APM.

Monitoring Victoria’s reformed fire services supports volunteer and career firefighters and all the volunteers and staff who support them on the front lines, and I thank them for their commitment to protecting the Victorian community.

Hon. Niall Blair
Fire Services Implementation Monitor