Since the devastating 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, Victoria’s emergency management and fire services sectors have been put under the microscope. In fact, there have been eight reviews of the fire services in less than ten years.
These reviews have reached the same conclusion: Victoria’s fire services must be modernised.
We need to improve governance and refresh the structures that were implemented in the middle of last century.
And while some improvements have been made, substantive reform has been put in the too hard basket for too long.
Every day we’re at risk of outgrowing our fire services due to the rapid transformation of Victoria’s population and environment.
In short, the time for reviews is over. Now is the time to act.
Volunteers are, and will remain, vital to our response. It’s why, under these changes, Country Fire Authority (CFA) will revert to a volunteer firefighter organisation. CFA will continue to serve the same communities and be enshrined under law. But it will be better supported and equipped, as the Government invests more than $100 million to support volunteer brigades with additional training, equipment and facilities.
We will also create Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), bringing together the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and CFA career firefighters from the existing 35 integrated stations under one organisation. FRV will service metropolitan Melbourne and our major regional centres. For our career firefighters, the reform will mean resources, structures and working conditions that don’t depend upon an arbitrary distinction between city and country. And for Victorians, it will mean they can rely on the best fire and emergency service response, regardless of where they live.
In the future, our fire services will be able to adapt as Victoria grows and changes with the establishment of an independent Fire District Review Panel. This panel will advise on future changes to the fire district boundary and its recommendations will be based on expert modelling, objective criteria and population growth.
Our priorities are to support the critical contribution of volunteers, remove the barriers that have inhibited the work of our fire services to date and most importantly, to keep Victoria safe.
The Hon James Merlino MP
Minister for Emergency Services
Last updated: May 18, 2017