Emergency Services Workforce 2030
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Australia’s emergency management sector sits within an environment that is becoming ever more complex, dynamic and uncertain. This is due to factors like a growing population, changing climate, social and cultural change, and the impact of new technologies. At the same time, the nature of how we work, in both paid and voluntary ways, is also changing. Work is greatly influenced by changes in technology and lifestyle, and by increasing levels of interconnectivity and cross-boundary collaboration.
In this dynamic context, planning for the sustainability, effectiveness and wellbeing of the future emergency management workforce takes on considerable importance.
The workforces of Australia’s fire, emergency services and rural land management agencies (referred to in this report as emergency service organisations) are crucial to Australia’s emergency management capability. These workforces include career and volunteer members, they also include first responders as well as professional, technical, and administrative support staff and volunteers (hereafter referred to collectively as the emergency service workforce).
This report provides a consolidated, overview picture of emerging workforce challenges and opportunities likely to face emergency service organisations over the coming decade. It is a first step in bringing together the wide range of research that can inform and strengthen strategic workforce planning in these organisations.
The report presents a high-level summary of key trends and developments highlighted in research from beyond the emergency management sphere. It identifies potential implications of these trends and developments for the future emergency service workforce. It also highlights key Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) affiliated research that can assist workforce planners to understand and respond to these implications.
The bulk of the combined emergency service workforce are volunteers. According to the Productivity Commission, there were around 212,293 fire service volunteers and 23,897 state and territory emergency service volunteers across emergency service organisations in Australia in 2017-18 (Commonwealth of Australia, 2019). Volunteers therefore formed around 91% of the fire service workforce, and 97% of the state and territory emergency service workforce in that year. Furthermore, given the geographic size, changing risk profile, and demographic shifts in Australia, a heavy reliance on volunteers is likely to continue into the future. As such, volunteers and volunteering issues form a key component of the terrain covered in this report.
While focusing on the emergency service workforce, this report is also based on recognition that the emergency services are part of a wider emergency management workforce that is also diverse and changing. The complete emergency management workforce extends far beyond the emergency services to include the volunteer and paid workforces of not-for-profits active in recovery, local governments, wider community sector and faith-based organisations, government departments, private businesses and more. Increasingly, under the influence of changing community expectations, and policy goals of community resilience, shared responsibility, and clear risk ownership (COAG, 2011; Commonwealth of Australia, 2018), ‘unaffiliated’ community members and groups are also recognised as a valuable part of the emergency management workforce (AIDR, 2017).
Consequently, the future emergency management workforce is not going to be restricted to the affiliated volunteer and paid workforces of formal emergency service organisations. Therefore, this report considers the future emergency service workforce within the context of how it interacts with and forms a part of the wider emergency management workforce.
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