As another year draws to a close, I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the dedication and passion of our people and thank you for your efforts throughout the year.
But firstly, today our thoughts are with our RFS colleagues and friends following the tragic incident in Buxton last night.
Our CFA crews have been honoured to fight alongside the RFS these past few months and our deepest sympathies go out to the family, friends and colleagues of these two members. Our thoughts are also with the other firefighters who were injured in the crash, and those who suffered burns in separate incidents.
This tragic event is a reminder of the dangerous situations our people face, and the weather this week has served as a continued reminder of our responsibility to the Victorian community, and to the safety of each other.
Our people are prepared for a challenging day today with heat wave conditions continuing despite a milder day yesterday. We have strike teams positioned in preparation for increased fire activity in East Gippsland. Please remember: our priority is safety first.
It’s been a big year for CFA; a year of change but also of opportunity as we move into a new era for our great organisation.
With Fire Services Reform passing through parliament in June, we can now move forward with certainty, creating a clear vision for our future as a volunteer organisation.
We’ve recently released Our Community, Our CFA: 2020 and Beyond, which combines our Vision and Mission, our Strategic Goals and the brand and narrative, into a draft document for discussion. We want to hear from you. I encourage you to read the draft and provide your feedback; thank you everyone who has provided feedback so far.
As is often the case, 2019 started with our people on the frontline of campaign and large fires across the state. February was a particularly difficult month with upwards of 2000 firefighters battling simultaneous fires at Bunyip, Licola, Dargo and Yinnar South.
We stood as one on the 10-year anniversary of the 2009 Victorian bushfires, honouring the lives lost and the bravery of those who risked their lives to save others. The anniversary provided the opportunity for CFA people, members of the emergency service sector and communities to reflect, with many commemoration services held in local communities impacted by the fires.
In February we also announced the new-look Championships in partnership with the VFBV. Both rural and urban events will take place over one weekend for the first time. It’s expected to be a flagship event on the firefighting calendar, and I hope to see you there.
We released a new Brigade Management Manual and launched the Annual Brigade Review Pilot to provide brigades with the data they need to plan and tailor their approaches to local challenges and opportunities.
Throughout the year we worked together with key agencies to deliver new training opportunities, engage our communities and conduct vital research into fire behaviour, including the first ever research burn into how fire behaves in crops.
We announced the development of a new Supplementary Alerting Service, released new e-learning training packages, launched a refreshed intranet presence, announced the successful tenderer for new volunteer structural helmets, and commenced rolling out internet connectivity to more than 1,000 brigades.
We put a spotlight on the contribution of our volunteers during National Volunteer Week, and brigades across the state celebrated NAIDOC Week through community events and awareness sessions.
More recently, more than 2,000 CFA people across multiple deployments have battled fires in NSW and QLD alongside their interstate counterparts, demonstrating the proud CFA tradition of supporting our neighbours in their time of greatest need.
Further 2019 highlights include:
- Development of new CFA strategy to set our path for 2020 and beyond
- CFA members raised more than $1.6M for the Good Friday Appeal
- Development of online Seasonal Focus portal to provide essential operational knowledge and safety information ahead of the summer season
- Launch of New Activity Reporting Tool (ART) to improve community engagement data collection
- Realignment of CFA Executive to put a greater focus on key areas including risk, governance and compliance
- Roll-out of The Working Mind First Responders and Mental Health First Aid wellbeing programs to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff and volunteers
- Launch of new smoke alarm campaign in conjunction with MFB
The success of our organisation is built on the extraordinary dedication of our volunteers and staff, and we are committed to driving positive change and setting CFA up as a strong organisation for the future.
Despite many challenges this year we have continued to deliver for each other and for the millions of Victorians we serve. This is why CFA is so valued.
As we stand ready and prepared for a long and difficult fire season ahead, I hope you will be able to get some well-earned rest and celebrate with your families over the Christmas and New Year period.
On behalf of CFA, I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Stay safe and look after yourself, your fellow brigade members and families.