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What was discussed at the recent VFRSA Executive Committee Meeting?


On Saturday May 6, the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services Association executive committee held their quarterly meeting.


They travelled from all over Western Australia to come together at the Old Guildford Fire Station to discuss all matters relating to Volunteer Fire and Rescue (VFRS), and to represent and give a voice to the brigades in their zone.


As you will read below, various topics were discussed throughout the day, with trying to fit in as much as possible into our quarterly meeting.


Here is a summary of what happened!


Update from VFRS Association Executive Officer

VFRS Association Executive Officer Tim Sonsee is rapidly learning the VFRS systems and is in the process of planning brigade visits for the remainder of the year.


Tim has joined Metropolitan VFRS to obtain a better understanding of how VFRS operates.


Meeting with Emergency Services Minister – Hon. Stephen Dawson MLC

Along with the presidents of other emergency service associations, President Paul du Boulay met with the Minister in March and discussed the changes to the Volunteer Advisory Committees and issues related to funding.


Volunteer Advisory Committee (VAC)

A new VAC for VFRS has been formed. The next meeting date has not yet been announced. VFRS Association are looking forward to having the committee reinstated.


VFRS Association Strategic Plan

The final strategic planning session has been deferred until the August 2023 meeting because the external consultant was unable to attend May’s meeting.


VFRS Association Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Western Australia Fire Emergency Services (WAFES) Conference

The VFRS Association are investigating AGM options if meeting cannot be held at future WAFES Conferences because it will need to be compliant with the VFRS Association constitution and / or constitution will need to be amended.


This year’s WAFES Conference will be held on September 8 and 9. Expressions of interest for registrations are now open. Refer to the DFES Volunteer Hub for more information.


VFRS Zones who would like their AGM to coincide with the WAFES Conference must let the VFRS Association know so rooms can be booked.


Recording of Brigade Finances

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) have suggested brigades use an Excel spreadsheet to record finances. They are reluctant to provide VFRS with a commercial package such as MYOB or Xero.


Water Hydrants

The Water Corporation will now service all hydrants in the State. To our knowledge, marking will be still done by brigades. Brigades are not being informed of the hand-over. The topic is to be discussed at the next Chief Supers meeting.


The Hydrant Location Mapping is still incomplete (for example in BART). The VFRS Association would like to obtain an accurate copy of the data.


VFRS Directive 5.4 and Administration Guide

Directive 5.4 and the VFRS Administration Guide on the DFES Volunteer Hub need to be reviewed. To be discuss with DFES to get direction.


Breathing Apparatus Refresher Courses

Breathing Apparatus refresher courses are being done internally by brigades or based on the number of actual wears per year. There has not been any confirmation from DFES about if this process has been accepted.


Honours and Awards

More clarification is required on how to make a request to broaden the criteria of Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) awards. The Council of Australian Volunteer Fire Associations (CAVFA) may be able to help.


Brigades are encouraged to nominate members for AFSM. Unfortunately, there are very few submissions, and we know there are many people deserving of the accolade.


The VFRS Association can assist brigades with submissions.


VFRS Occupational Health and Safety Statistics

There has been no progress on obtaining Occupational Health and Safety statistics from DFES with reference to volunteers’ accidents, near misses and so on.


Disciplinary Issues

Discussed obtaining further guidance for brigades who have members with disciplinary issues. The VFRS Association to discuss with DFES’s Professional Standards.


Cancer Blood Screening

Still a lot of work to do to cover the logistics surrounding cancer blood screening for volunteers. The VFRS Association to discuss with Matt Watson from DFES.


BART

Slow progress with obtaining funding from DFES to cover BART.


Green Radio Roll-Out

Green Radio roll-out has been delayed for regional brigades. There will be two versions of the Green Radio, with a simpler version for regional brigade users.


MR / HR Licences

The original proposal was taken out of context and became too complex to progress. The VFRS Association proposal targets only at-risk brigades who have limited qualified drivers. Discussions are currently being held with DFES.


Operational Efficiency Payments (OEP)

Treasury at DFES decided to not increase the OEP. The VFRS Association believes that the ‘individual subsidy’ component of OEP is outdated but we don’t want to lose the portion of funding to our brigades.


Career Pathway from VFRS to Career Fire and Rescue Service (CFS)

Still being discussed with DFES. There appears to be support for it creating a pathway.


VFRS Association Youth Committee Report - Presented by Chairperson Iesha Pugh

Iesha announced and welcomed Amelia Fitzgerald from Esperance VFRS to the VFRS Association Youth Committee.


The VFRS Association Youth Committee are discussing solutions to funding issues and listed potential sponsors they have approached for their scholarship.


The VFRS Association 2023 / 2024 financial year calendar is being finalised and will be distributed to brigades in June.


VFRS Association executive committee members showed interested in speaking to the zone presidents about offering funding to the VFRS Association Youth Committee.


Code 90s Report - Provided by Welfare Officer Max Osborn AFSM

There have been twenty four ‘Code 90s’ since the last VFRS Association executive committee meeting. Max advises executive committee members when there is a Code 90 in their zone.


Presumptive Legislation

The Presumptive Legislation note including volunteers, has concerned several brigades. Some have asked if this is discrimination or against the Work Health and Safety Act, which defines volunteers as employees. DFES and others have been advised of the dissatisfaction of the VFRS Association.


Height Safety Project Action Team (PAT)

There is urgency for progress. Roll out is planned for the next 6 months. The basic system is to attach to a safety line on a ladder that has been stabilised.


A simplified Roof Safety System will involve a heat resistant rope (to 500 °C) and alpine knot at peak of roof to attach to. The harness required is over L2 PPC and will cause extra heat stress, so short wear times will be needed.


Fireground Amenities for Women

Solutions are being sought for females on the fire ground with respect to having access to amenities.


Resignation of Michael Booth, Northwest VFRS Association Executive Committee Member

Michael Booth announced this was his last meeting. He truly believes positive changes have been made over his time. He noted that the Northwest volunteer firefighters ‘do a marvelous job’.


President du Boulay thanked Michael for giving a lot of input to the VFRS Association.


VFRS Association Policies

The following draft VFRS Association policies were edited to the satisfaction of the executive committee members during the meeting.

  • Appliances

  • Station design

  • Equipment

  • Uniform and PPE

Most policies are now completed. Once approved they will become available on the VFRS Association website.


Office Bearer Details

Reminder to brigades to update and provide office bearer details to the VFRS Association after their AGM. The form can be printed and completed online here.


Marketing and Media Officer Report

The Grill’d ‘Summer heroes’ partnership was successful. The VFRS Association received outstanding branding and public relations coverage, plus a donation of nearly $4,000.


The recruitments efforts VFRS Association have been assisting with have noted some brigades now have full membership.


LinkedIn has been set up for VFRS Association as an additional communication platform. All members are encouraged to follow us.

The VFRS Association website is being updated and new webpages created.

The next VFRS Association e-newsletter will be issued in June 2023.

Many thanks to Albany VFRS for modifications and repairs to Freddy the remote control fire truck and his trailer.


Merchandise was very popular with good sales results at the State Easter Firefighting Championships, and the feedback on the live streaming of the event proved positive. Thanks to Ben and Russell from Kalgoorlie VFRS for supplying the equipment free of charge and for running the streaming. The video content recorded will be used for other purposes such as training and recruitment of new teams.


Currently we are taking pre-orders for Ash and Phoenix, the firefighter soft toys. A minimum quantity of orders needs to be reached before the end of June in order to be able to proceed with their production. Because of the lack of an advertising budget, we are relying on our members to assist with promoting the products.

Find out more and place an order here.


Competition Management Committee Report – Provided by Executive Committee Member Tony Dodd

Harvey VFRS came second in the Urban Championships held in Victoria. A great result and some say they could have won!


A brief update from the Junior Reserve AGM:

  • Noted change of office bearers, Dave Fox from Kelleberrin VFRS is now President, Paul Munro from Kalgoorlie VFRS is the Vice President and Phil Scott is now the Secretary.

  • Vote of thanks to Bruce Warren (retiring as secretary) for his 37 years of supporting the Junior Competition.

  • New specifics required for Sub Junior Champion Firefighter, as only one single event now qualifies. Noting Hydrant race and One Competitor Marshall have been deleted. Introduced double flaked hose.

  • Discussion of possible major changes to competition dates.

Senior Competition AGM notes:

  • Most previous competition directors had not sought re-election. A new ‘Directors Committee’ was voted in.

  • State Seniors Competition seemed to go well with new format of four divisions. The competition was generally dominated by Harvey VFRS.

  • Numbers were a bit low, but understandable given last year was missed due to Covid-19.

  • Many thanks to Jodie Neuzerling for organising the State Easter Championships.

  • Struggled to get temporary approval for use of pressure vessel noting it is over 100 years old. Consultants advising seemed to have little idea of the workings of the system. Need a plan for the next competition. Thanks to Steve King from Merredin VFRS was the go-to person during the negotiations, which took up a considerable amount of time.

Upcoming Dates to Note

  • 8 – 9 September: WAFES conference / VFRS Association Annual General Meeting

  • 4 November: VFRS Association Executive Committee Meeting

  • 25 – 26 November: State Juniors Firefighting Competition

When is the next VFRS Association meeting?

The VFRS Association executive committee team will meet again Saturday, 5 August 2023.


In the meantime, if you have any stories or great photos you would like to share, please email Jamie at media@vfrs.asn.au.


Do you have a question or would you like more information?

The list above is a summarisation of the topics discussed throughout the meeting.


If you have any questions or would like to know more, please contact your VFRS Association zone representative or the VFRS Association executive officer, Tim Sonsee on 0427 800 038 or by email at executive@vfrs.asn.au.

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