Priority four: Build a sustainable emergency management workforce that represents the people it serves

In a major emergency, Victorians expect to be supported by a capable and effective workforce who are there for the long haul. We will design new and creative ways to attract skilled and experienced career and volunteer workers so Victoria can respond to our largest and most complex emergencies.

To build a sustainable workforce, we must be accountable for their health, wellbeing and development opportunities.

We will also make it easier for as many Victorians as possible to take part in our emergency workforce to strengthen our emergency planning, response and recovery.

Volunteering will be easier and more rewarding

Volunteering is the bedrock of our emergency management workforce. Around 100,000 volunteers contribute across disaster risk reduction, emergency response, relief and recovery every year. To keep Victorians safe and resilient, we must be able to attract, support and retain volunteers. As we face more frequent and intense emergencies, their role will be even more critical.

Victorians’ ability to volunteer changes throughout life as they face pressures like the demands of family, to financial barriers and physical limitations. We need to create pathways that encourage lifetime contribution. We’ll support greater flexibility, reduce key barriers to volunteer participation and retention, and strengthen mobility through integrated, shared and formally recognised training and development opportunities. In addition, we’ll capture and build on existing knowledge and expertise to support emerging leaders – asking those at the end of their volunteer journey to become mentors.

We understand that not all Victorians can volunteer regularly and we need to plan accordingly. We’ll develop a comprehensive strategy for coordinating spontaneous volunteers – harnessing Victorians’ goodwill, strengthening community connections and resilience and empowering Victorians to support their communities when they are needed most.

Our workplaces will be safe and inclusive

Victorians rightly expect emergency management organisations to be safe, inclusive and supportive workplaces that value wellbeing and welcome people from all walks of life. A workforce that reflects the communities it serves is better able to understand its strengths, challenges and biggest risks.

While progress has been made, we know that emergency management organisations need to continue to diversify in line with Victoria’s changing demographics and community expectations.

We will focus on key initiatives that build the gender, cultural and age diversity of our emergency management sector. It will include embedding flexibility in deployments and rostering, and building more inclusive approaches to recruitment, training and accreditation.

We will also respond swiftly to practices and behaviour that are unsafe and unwelcoming. We will work with people to strengthen culture and wellbeing and ensure we have leading systems and approaches to manage workplace complaints.

Planned Burn Taskforce

As part of the Safer Together program, the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and DEECA established the State-wide Planned Burn Taskforce. It aims to increase the firefighting workforce and upskill volunteers.

The Taskforce develops volunteers’ fire skills while providing local brigades with extra capacity for planned burns. Interested members across Victoria are told where and when people are needed so they can join local CFA and Forest Fire Management Victoria resources on the ground. Deploying this network of highly skilled volunteers means greater flexibility and capacity for planned burns.

The Taskforce continues to grow, with over 600 Victorian members participating.

We will increase capacity through greater mobility and public and private partnerships

To respond to multiple complex emergencies, we need to be able to tap into a much larger workforce. To do this, we will strengthen mobility across the Victorian public service – including developing a greater surge capacity by building dedicated resourcing pools to draw on.

We will continue to strengthen our partnerships with local government and the Commonwealth to build a clear understanding of capability and capacity. We must ensure we have enough people to help us when we need them and can reciprocate when required. Our continuing partnership with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is essential. We must facilitate new strategic partnerships and build on existing ones with the private sector and non-government organisations.

While we have developed strong networks with critical infrastructure providers and community partners in the lead up to and during COVID-19, we will need to continue to build and strengthen these relationships. We plan to design programs that maintain the knowledge, skills and connections of the thousands of public and private sector COVID-19 volunteers so we can re-engage them in the future.

There’s a role for everyone

Emergency services volunteers across Victoria play a vital role not only in a crisis, but every day of the year.

Volunteers are the backbone of many emergency services agencies including the Victorian State Emergency Service (VICSES) and the Country Fire Authority (CFA). Volunteers come from all walks of life, ages, and backgrounds. Diversity of membership is critical for success. There are plenty of volunteering opportunities both in frontline and other support roles.

Volunteers receive recognised training and skills development across a wide range of areas from first aid to fire response and general rescue, chainsaw operations, community education and media.

Volunteering provides a unique sense of satisfaction and camaraderie and gives a sense of community and purpose.

Volunteers assist their local communities in rural, regional and metropolitan locations. They play a critical role in emergency planning by providing education to help community members understand what to do in an emergency.

At times, volunteers face challenging events and experience high levels of stress, due to the combination of emergency response demands and events in their everyday lives. Emergency services organisations have a focus on looking after the wellbeing of members and their families, so they can do what they do best – look after our community.