The Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB) has long advocated for better, more thoughtful consultation with volunteers before decisions are made by the government. Needless to say, the way the DFES Rural Fire Division came about proves we’ve still got a long way to go and to Commissioner Klemm’s credit, that is openly acknowledged.

But of all the issues the AVBFB has taken on without fear or favour over the years, this is one we simply will not stop working on – and sometimes it seems, our difficult work has positive results.

For example, this week we received an email from Su Ferreira, the Volunteer Programs Consultant in the Strategic Volunteer and Youth Programs division of the Department of Fire & Emergency Services asking for feedback on the 2nd edition of DFES’s Child Deployment Release Form.

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To explain, this is what Su said:

I’m contacting you to get your feedback. As you’re probably aware the Child Safe Child Friendly Organisation Policy has been signed off by the Commissioner.  The intent of the Policy was not to ‘prevent’ but to ‘enable’ child engagement in an open, stimulating, safe and supportive environment. As I’m sure you agree, the deployment of a general member under the age of 18 years is permissible but not without risk (excludes cadets/juniors), so it is important that the child volunteer, parents/guardian, BGU leaders and mentors discuss and agree on how this will be carried out.

In light of this, we’ve developed a simple, one page DRAFT Child Operational Deployment and Activities Release Form to assist brigades, groups and units (BGUs) engage their child, ordinary members. As you can appreciate this is a complex issue as we apply the Working with Children Act, address particular risks from the findings from the Royal Commission in to Child Sexual Abuse, while we improve our child safe, child friendly culture within the emergency services community.

Feedback has already been received about the first edition of the form. The most significant change is that this form will now last 6 months; rather than being completed each time a child volunteer was engaged in operational activities.

I invite you to look at the one page form and provide any feedback you may have by COB 31 July, 2018. The form assumes the actual registration information about the child member will contain more personal information. Volunteer teams around the state have also been invited to comment on this form.

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Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you wish to discuss. If you have other stakeholders who you would like comment from please feel free to forward this on.

So we thought we would share it with our stakeholders and seek your feedback or thoughts on the form, its usefulness and adequacy in regard to the intent Su explained in her email above.

Please click the image below for a larger version and send any thoughts or comments you might have to before 28 July 2018 and we will include your feedback (anonymously unless you state otherwise) in our overall submission to DFES.

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