CFA changes in effect

By Yarrawonga Chronicle

Last Wednesday saw a change to local volunteer fire-fighting efforts with Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) fire service coming into effect.

CFA will continue its important role as a volunteer firefighting service with more than 50,000 volunteers operating through over 1200 brigades right across Victoria. 

FRV Acting CEO Catherine Greaves said she was pleased to join CFA and assist its transition over the coming months. 

“CFA is a respected, world-class fire service and I look forward to contributing to its exciting future,” Ms Greaves said. 

“CFA has a great opportunity to build upon its proud 75-year history and ensure it’s ready for the next 75 years.”

Under the changes, 1400 career firefighters including those at 38 CFA career and integrated stations have transitioned to FRV. 

Acting Chief Officer Garry Cook also acknowledged departing CEO/Chief Officer Steve Warrington’s contribution to CFA. 

“Steve was a much-loved leader and an outstanding ambassador for CFA,” he said. 

“He gave so much to the organisation and the Victorian people over four decades of service and was an incredibly supportive and inspiring leader. 

“On behalf of everyone at CFA I want to thank Steve for his immeasurable contribution and wish him well for the future.”

However, there are a number unhappy with the latest reform including Member for Northern Victoria Tania Maxwell and Nationals Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy as well as members of the local fire brigades.

Yarrawonga Fire Brigade First Lieutenant Simon Crawford said although Wednesday brought about changes, Yarrawonga will remain the same.

“On Wednesday we saw something’s change in the fire service to Victoria. One thing for sure is the service being provided to Yarrawonga will not change,” Mr Crawford said.

“We are, and always will be a volunteer brigade who puts the community first and foremost. We are proud to be part of the Yarrawonga community, and protecting it is our number one priority. “Together as one.”

Yarrawonga Fire Brigade Group Captain Craig Prescott also shared Mr Crawford’s views.

“It is very difficult to understand, it has been complicated all along,” Mr Prescott said.

“What was promised is changing and its very disappointing. It won’t change much for us but I feel sorry for those others that will have major change.” 

Burramine Fire Brigade Captain and Moira Shire Councillor Peter Lawless said it was disappointing that a number that had volunteered for years, now felt they had to resign.

“We are not very pleased,” Mr Lawless said.

“I don’t think there are too many volunteers who are happy with the changes as there is a large number of resignations across the CFA of many who have been a part of the CFA for decades.”

Member for Northern Victoria Ms Maxwell who is also a CFA volunteer, has called on all CFA volunteers to wear a black armband with their uniforms as the new FRV fire service came into effect saying that the changes are symbolising the “death of the CFA as we know it”. 

Ms Maxwell called on the incoming temporary CFA Chief Executive, Catherine Greaves, to publicly release the draft agreement and commit to not signing the document until volunteers were given the opportunity to scrutinise the agreement and provide feedback. 

Ms Maxwell said she joined with her fellow CFA volunteers across Victoria in being disheartened and concerned by the lack of consultation, evidenced by the recent resignation of CFA Chief Executive, Steve Warrington. 

“Volunteers feel let down and unappreciated by this entire process and it is heartbreaking. For many of them, this may be the last straw,” Ms Maxwell said. 

Ms Maxwell also said the lack of transparency around the agreement was an ominous sign of what was ahead for the CFA. 

“Unfortunately, I fear the death of the volunteer fire service.”

Ms Maxwell strongly opposed the legislative changes to Victoria’s fire structure in 2019 and at the time expressed grave fears that the proposed changes would divide emergency services in Victoria. 

Ms Maxwell said volunteers fear that the reforms will turn the CFA into a second-class service with budget concerns and a lack of access to future training. 

Ms Maxwell offered her ongoing support to CFA volunteer brigades and said she would continue to speak loudly on the issue. 

Nationals Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy also weighed in on the topic saying it was a sad day for the CFA and dedicated CFA volunteers were pushed further into insignificance.

“Volunteers are resigning around the state due to the situation,” Mr McCurdy said.

“Many generations of families have given thousands of hours and some have given their lives to support the communities they love and protect them from natural disaster.

“As the local Member of Parliament I have been supporting CFAs for 10 years, from the Spring Street march to local CFA meetings. I will not stop until we get justice for our CFA volunteers.”