Renewed focus

LATROBE Valley fire brigades have renewed its focus on its volunteers as it progresses with adopting themes from an independent inquiry which pushes for a “step-change”.

The Country Fire Authority independent inquiry, the Jones Inquiry, headed by retired County Court Judge the Honourable David Jones AM, revealed a range of findings indicating a need for change in the leadership approach and culture within CFA.

Victorian Deputy Premier and Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan called for the independent inquiry in March last year, to look in to the culture of the CFA and the effect of arrangements on CFA members.

CFA’s chief executive Mick Bourke said the themes would serve as a blueprint for CFA’s future.

“Having a fresh, independent set of eyes look at the organisation and its volunteers will have a lasting positive impact on CFA, its members and the wider community,” Mr Bourke said.

“CFA has wasted no time in working on a number of programs and initiatives, including the development of a clear statement of vision, mission and values along with the development of organisation leadership and structure.”

The inquiry addressed difficulties on recruitment, training, deployment, utilisation and support of CFA Volunteers and covered six themes to deal with the shortcomings.

Mr Bourke said a number of initiatives were already underway, including a member survey to better understand how CFA communicates with its members.

Currently underway are new online training programs, upgrades to existing training grounds and increased delivery of training within brigades.

“We’re also working on the deployment of 64 volunteer support officers over the next four years to work directly with CFA volunteer firefighters and we’re making progress on the joint CFA and Department of Sustainability and Environment Incident Management Team Training project,” he said.

“A key part of this is consultation and engagement with volunteers. CFA will continue to work and consult with its members and the government right throughout the process.”

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria chief executive Andrew Ford acknowledged implementing the process would take some time, and supported an immediate effort to start executing the initiatives.

“This report must not become just another list of recommendations sitting on the shelf; the findings need to drive the necessary change identified as being absolutely necessary by the inquiry,” Mr Ford said.

“Without this genuine, co-operative effort, the current benefits the Victorian community receives through volunteer based emergency management arrangements will be adversely affected into the future.

“This means real action, real improvements and genuine effort.”