CFA has been on a journey to improve its culture, to ensure it is a great place to volunteer and work and grow diversity in its membership base. We want to see, and have, a positive environment for all who want to contribute to CFA. We have made some inroads, but we know there is more to do.
CFA is an iconic organisation with a long and proud history. It is critical that we provide the best environment to support our people so they can continue their vital service to the Victorian community today, and well into the future.
We know that CFA has seen in recent times, and historically, examples of behaviours and actions that would not meet today's community standards. And we know that CFA has not always handled these issues well when they have arisen.
As the senior leaders we do not, and must not, shy away from these issues, and we accept the challenge for CFA to build further on actions taken to date to ensure that people feel welcome and supported when they are part of this great organisation.
Today we are at the next stage of our improvement journey. CFA is publicly releasing the External Review of Culture and Issues Management to Support the CFA of the Future (‘the Review’) by Allen & Clarke Consulting, with Lead Reviewer Dr Helen Szoke.
We thank Dr Szoke and Allen & Clarke Consulting Team for their dedicated efforts and all those members who have contributed to the review over a number of months.
We commissioned this Review in September 2021 to examine how CFA can enhance its culture and improve the management of issues when they arise. We commissioned it because we knew more needed to be done to support our people.
Some parts of the report are distressing reading. It will be distressing for those who have experienced any of the behaviours described, but also for the many thousands of CFA members who serve their communities with pride and exemplify the CFA values of safety, teamwork, respect and integrity.
We are deeply sorry to those current and past members who have experienced unacceptable behaviours at CFA and we are committed to doing better.
We wish to thank and gratefully acknowledge all the CFA members who courageously contributed to the Review, and the many more who will see themselves or their experiences reflected in the report body, its findings or recommendations.
The Review has made ten recommendations which we accept in full.
We will now work with our leaders, members and key partners over the coming weeks and months to develop a five-year action plan in response to the findings.
This will be our roadmap to building a diverse, safer, more transparent, inclusive and fair CFA for the future. We will report on progress regularly and we will facilitate independent validation throughout this journey, to ensure that CFA has a culture which attracts and supports volunteers and staff from all backgrounds and to give confidence that our words meet our actions.
The Review acknowledges that the changes we have already made are steps in the right direction, with the establishment of Women’s and Young Adults Advisory Committees, the rollout of Behavioural Standards, our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and a focus on resolving a backlog of outstanding complaints. But we must look at what else we can do to make CFA the best we can be.
Every day, tens of thousands of volunteers and staff dedicate their time in service to the Victorian community through CFA. We owe it to all of them to ensure our organisational culture is supportive of diversity and provides a great place to volunteer and work.
Over many years our people have shown a tremendous ability to grow, adapt and respond to changes in the organisation and the broader environment.
We have every confidence that working together, we can build a brighter, stronger future for CFA.
Chair Greg Wilson
CEO Natalie MacDonald
Chief Officer Jason Heffernan
Read the recommendations
Develop, communicate and implement a 5-year action plan (the Plan) for organisational change to improve culture and issues management which builds on positive initiatives already underway, embeds the recommendations of this Review, provides a 5-year timeline for implementation, including consideration of independent monitoring.
The Plan should incorporate the following features:
- a public recognition of past harms to members of CFA
- a clearly communicated 5-year implementation process for the Plan, that incorporates accountability measures that are transparent to members of CFA including consideration of independent monitoring at key milestones
- a commitment to reporting against progress of the Plan, alongside the requirements of the Fire Services Implementation Monitor, which includes the development of a monitoring and evaluation framework to support consistent, regular and systematic communication about progress against the recommendations of the Review.
Build on the Values of CFA as set out in the organisation's Strategic Framework, the Behavioural Standards and the Volunteer Charter, and support adherence to these values in all aspects of the engagement and work of the members of CFA.
This will require:
- ensuring that recruitment, induction and transfer documentation and processes reflect CFA values and the Behavioural Standards are understood and used to inform decision making processes at all levels
- ensuring position descriptions for Brigade Management Teams and leaders at the Group Officer level support the values and behaviours and recognise the importance of diversity and inclusion
- working with Districts to ensure that the Volunteer Charter is embedded in organisational practice and Commanders, ACFOs and Group Officers are supported to understand their responsibility in this area and to address localised challenges and opportunities
- enhancing and expanding training opportunities to support best practice across the organisation
- working with ACFOs and Commanders to set clear priorities in their roles to support the implementation of the plan for organisational change (outlined in Recommendation 1) and the role of all members of CFA
- incorporating into the current review of the recognition scheme for volunteer members of CFA, a process which is consistently applied to all members, and which enables nominations by local communities, includes assessment input by volunteer CFA members, and which builds local and less formal recognition processes at the community level
- increasing leadership of Board members in endorsing the values and standards of CFA including ensuring alignment with the values and standards of CFA on selection as well as alignment with the Victorian Government Guidelines on diversity and inclusion in recruitment and appointment processes including application of the Victorian Government’s Board skills and diversity matrix template2
- developing formalised and regular engagement opportunities at senior levels of CFA with the VFBV to ensure mutual understanding of the work of CFA and transparency and communication about how this engagement is incorporated by the management of CFA.
The relationship of ACFOs and Commanders with Group Officers and Brigade Management Teams (BMTs) should be reviewed to ensure that they are effectively supported, not only in their operational duties, but also in their key roles of recruiting new members, ensuring understanding and application of values and the behavioural standards, and localised conflict resolution.
This will require:
- the development of Volunteer Consultative Committees at the District levels which reflects the diversity of the community, and which is used as the avenue for engagement from Brigades to CFA Headquarters
- ensuring that ACFOs and Commanders are welcomed, inducted and supported in their roles within CFA, to support the values, ethos of volunteerism and to understand how to develop a volunteer friendly culture within CFA
- reviewing the current regional and district support to BMTs and Group Officers, to ensure that their needs are being addressed and that they are able to work with their communities effectively
- the addition of training, particularly for BMT members, Group Officer and District and Regional members, which incorporates a focus on the development of leadership attributes, managing teams, conflict resolution, and difficult conversations
- ensuring that access to training is equitable, and where members have not been able to access training, they are able to seek a review of the decision
- assessing the applicability and effectiveness of the current performance development plans for employed members to ensure they include sufficient accountability against the values of CFA and the organisation’s commitment to support volunteers.
Processes for issues management should build on the work of Right Environment Initiatives to continue to bring transparency, timeliness and effectiveness in dispute resolution to all levels of the agency.
This will require:
- continuing to build the transparency and accountability of complaints, through reporting of numbers, timeliness of process and final outcomes. This reporting should be published in aggregate for members, with appropriate protections for confidentiality, including anonymised case studies to build the understanding of breaches and consequences
- developing support for local resolution of conflict, through training and organisational support at the BMT, Group Officer, ACFO and Commander level, to prevent the unnecessary escalation of complaints, and to address vexatious complaints where appropriate
- ensuring that HR Business Partners, ACFOs and Commanders are clear about their responsibilities and accountabilities in dealing with complaints in a timely manner, and are provided with training and support to fulfil their role
- continuing to apply a specific framework to address the current backlog of complaints, in order to bring these matters to culmination ensuring that members can access information about the clearing of backlog of complaints and the outcomes achieved
- developing a framework for decision-making and any interventions relating to addressing vexatious complaints
- building an engagement strategy to ensure that members are aware of the processes, procedures and protections in place (including changes made as a result of this Review).
Additional avenues for conflict resolution and surfacing of behaviours that have harmed people should be implemented.
These should include:
- mechanisms for identifying issues including:
- instituting appropriate, best practice anonymous complaints avenues to increase channels for making a disclosure and to also inform CFA about adverse behaviour as it occurs
- ensuring regular organisational climate surveys are undertaken and include all members of CFA to collect data on those adverse behaviours which are not formally reported, and then to report back on action that will be taken in response to the surveys.
- mechanisms for more effectively and flexibly dealing with unresolved complaints including:
- focusing on local resolution by piloting new models of local resolution panels, with clear operational guidance to ensure consistency with CFA regulations, comprised of volunteers and independent expertise (where required) to address issues that may be mediated to resolution at the local level
- as part of the scheduled 2024 review of the Regulations, ensuring alignment with changes arising from this Review and the Right Environment initiatives. To ensure that the Regulations are modernised to apply processes in a timely and flexible manner particularly in the areas of definitions, penalties, how procedural fairness is protected and how a ‘human-centred’ complaints process can continue to be built within CFA.
CFA should ensure that its Health and Wellbeing Strategy is comprehensive, accessible to all members, regularly audited and that data is used to inform changes, training and operational responses.
This should include:
- further development of the peer support program to ensure that it is consistently available to all members for operational and non-operational advice and support
- an annual audit of all support services that impact on the member experience to ensure member feedback on efficacy and effectiveness and use of those services, and publish this with a response to any changes that will be made following the audit
- collecting information from Brigades on post incident debrief and whether members have sought help from the health and wellbeing service and if there are barriers to accessing this service and if so, address these barriers
CFA must align and extend its current initiatives to develop diversity and inclusion in its membership, to expand the volunteer base of CFA and ensure contemporary and current perspectives guide the work for CFA into the future.
This should include:
- bringing a strategic approach to its diversity and inclusion programs, that is consistently understood across Victoria. The approach needs to clearly identify where the requirements and accountabilities for the success lie and include clear outcomes that are built into reporting, performance development plans and inform training and engagement
- encouraging districts to develop localised approaches to support diversity and inclusion, including mechanisms such as diversity and inclusion sub-groups, local community engagement and awareness activities with schools and other emergency services, investment in youth and common understandings of the safety requirements for young people, including compliance with Child Safety Standards such as Working with Children Checks
- encouraging diversity at the leadership level, with clear targets relating to diversity and inclusion for professional, technical and administrative (PTA) staff and suggested approaches for BMT and Group Officers which highlight and celebrate success and positive outcomes
- ensuring that the principles of the Gender Equality Action Plan are incorporated and underpin the Diversity and Inclusion Plan.
There should be regular audits of Brigades to identify structural, system and intangible barriers to improving culture and to identifying supports to make the necessary changes.
This should include:
- consideration of the physical facilities and how these are conducive to and welcoming of diverse communities
- reports of issues that have been successfully managed locally and outcomes achieved
- identification of adherence to recruitment and induction processes
- training outcomes and any issues arising.
Prioritise the strengthening of collaboration and partnerships between the Victorian firefighting organisations, their leaders and members.
This should include exploration of:
- joint training opportunities for all CFA members with FRV and Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFM Vic)
- joint community engagement strategies particularly in regional Victoria where FFM Vic or FRV operations work alongside CFA
- continued dialogue with FRV with a focus on support for secondees within CFA, in relation to induction, understanding and fostering a volunteer ethos to ensure the ongoing growth and success of CFA volunteers consistent with Section 2A of the Fire Rescue Victoria Act 1958
- work with other fire services to ensure high standards of training and knowledge about training that encompasses safety in operational settings.
To support the implementation of this Review, CFA should invest in best practice Resource Management Systems that embrace Human Resource Management and support prevention of bullying, harassment and discrimination across CFA.
- reviewing current Resource Management Systems, and putting in place new tools and systems that support best practice people management
- seeking investment from the Government to scope, build and implement a suitable technology platform to support best practice people management.
Page last updated: Thursday, 23 June 2022 3:27:25 PM