President's Report - 30 September, 2020

Posted on : Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Dear members,  


This year has thrown many hurdles in the way of  FPA Australia and its members. 

 

The industry, like all sectors, is undoubtedly hurting, but it is great to see everyone trying to rise to the challenge. 

 

Fortunately, FPA Australia has managed to navigate the rocky waters thus far, and the Association is in a strong position for the recovery and into the future. 

 

We are actively looking for ways that we can continue to support our members and the broader industry, with hopes that the industry returns to normal in the coming weeks.  

 

For this report, I wanted to highlight some of our key achievements from this year. 

 

 

Membership

 

With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, there were fears that membership would suffer as a result of harsher economic conditions and government imposed shutdowns.  

 

The team, however, has worked hard and our dedicated members have shown their commitment to the Association, delivering a current membership retention rate of 94.8%.     

 

We have also seen 91 new members join since the beginning of the financial year, leading to our highest membership results ever - 1,828 members. 

 

We are excited about the opportunities we plan to provide all of our members over the next nine months, and aim to ensure that each of you receives tangible benefits from belonging to FPA Australia. 

 

While our state and territory local coordinating committees are adjusting to the use of Zoom, we anticipate an increased level of activity and a more complete local program of activities in 2021 to cater to member needs - topic suggestions are always welcome! 

 

 

Advocacy and technical

 

Fire safety reforms are being pursued across the country, not the least in NSW, where the passing of the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 has established a clear direction from the NSW Government that all plans need to be signed by registered practitioners. 

 

At the moment, the Fire Protection Accreditation Scheme (FPAS) Fire Systems Design (FSD) category is being recognised, but the discussions to date have revealed that more work is needed to cover currently unaccredited areas such as mechanical smoke extraction, passive fire, and exit and emergency lighting. 

 

On the technical front, FPA Australia continues to contribute to the development of Australian standards and the National Construction Code, while providing support to members who seek guidance on technical issues. 

 

Our work program going forward will see us draft a significant number of good practice guides and practice notes to support accredited practitioners in their newly mandated roles. 

 

 

Accreditation and licensing

 

Our accreditations are increasingly being recognised by various state authorities:  


  • in NSW, FPAS FSD and Fire Safety Assessment (FSA) categories are now mandatory for those doing design or annual fire safety work.  Fire Systems Certification (FSC) is being considered by the Building Commissioner as a possible additional area for recognition;  

  • Victoria has recognised FPA Australia as an accrediting authority for the new restricted plumbing licence; 

  • FPAS Inspect and Test (I&T) has been accepted as a pathway for the routine service licence in Queensland;
     
  • ACT Fire and Emergency Services has recommended using qualified or accredited practitioners; 
     
  • we've discussed the potential for accreditation to be recognised under the South Australian and Tasmania regulatory regimes; and 
     
  • the Bushfire Planning and Development (BPAD) scheme is supported in WA, NSW, and Victoria. 
     

WA in particular shows some possible promise, given that the Government there is trying to implement some form of registration where none currently exists - initial discussions last year were positive and we hope to continue them once the border restrictions are eased. 

 

All of this is in line with the Board's 2021 Vision for all member companies to be recognised businesses, with all of their routine service practitioners holding some form of I&T accreditation. 

 

 

Education, training, and bushfire services

 

Our first joint training facility at the Fire and Rescue NSW Academy is due to be completed in October. 

 

This is the culmination of a couple of years' solid work negotiating with the brigade and designing and implementing the equipment needed to train practitioners. 

 

We could not have achieved this without several very generous member companies who donated equipment for use in training. 

 

The facility will initially start with a soft launch and then be formally launched later in the year. 

 

Our progress there has suggested that other facilities might be possible, particularly now that AFAC has come out in support of such joint ventures. 

 

Other brigades have expressed an interest, and we are currently in negotiations to establish other locations.  

 

On the training delivery side, we are in the middle of a transition to a contractor model, which will allow us to have locally-based trainers in each state and territory who can deliver training and assessment services as required. 

 

Nominations were sought back in April, and the first trainers will be contracted by the end of the year. 

 

This will help us to be more agile and to meet the training needs of our students more readily, without the need to fly trainers from state to state. 

 

 

Events

 

Our inability to hold face-to-face events caused initial setbacks but we have managed to implement a regular series of technical webinars. 

 

As time goes on, we'll start running more local events in order to cater for conditions at a state and territory level.  Look out for our webinars to build up your CPD points. 

 

I am pleased to say that our Fire Australia 2021 conference has been announced for 11-13 May, 2021, in Sydney - making up for this year's cancelled event. 

 

We have decided to incorporate the awards night into the conference program to make it bigger and more engaging for all members, so make sure you save the date, and we'll see you in May!   


 

Financial performance

 

Despite fears of a downturn, we have been able to deliver a modest surplus for FY20, rather than the budgeted deficit mainly as a result of our decisive actions earlier in the year. 

 

The focus of the team now is to increase revenue and reduce overheads so that we can reinvest in a better delivery model for the members and deliver more value. 

 

 

A digital future

 

With the formal appointment of Nathan Semos, the Association has started to develop plans for digitisation. 

 

This strategy is going to touch all aspects of FPA Australia's operations, from our membership database and application forms, to the creation of an online shop and the development of a new website. 

 

The purpose of this strategy is to streamline and simplify our processes and to make it easier for our stakeholders and users to engage with FPA Australia. 

 

 

FPA Australia Board Elections

 

As you know, the call for nominations for this year's Board electionswent out on 24 September, 2020, and will close at 5pm AEDT on 8 October

 

We have outsourced management of this process to Vero Voting, which conducting both the nomination and election. 

 

Vero Director, Greg Mitchell, is the independent returning officer for this year's election. 

 

 

FPA Australia AGM

 

This year's AGM will be held on Friday, 20 November, 2020. 

 

For the first time, as a result of the Coronavirus, it will be a completely digital event - continuing the trend of the current Zoom generation. 

 

Vero will also be managing the AGM for us, as well as the election process. 

 

The notice for the meeting will go out soon, and we encourage all members to participate. 

 

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As you can see, FPA Australia has been very busy over the last 12 months, and has had to adapt significantly to changing conditions during the current pandemic. 

 

While we are hoping things will go back to normal in the new year, we will continue to need to operate differently in the short-term until restrictions ease and businesses return to business as usual. 

 

Rest assured that the Board, and the FPA Australia team, are constantly looking for ways to support our members and to deliver better more relevant and effective services to you. 

 

Together, we can deliver a better, safer, and more engaged fire protection industry. 

 

 

Stay safe! 

 

William (Bill) Lea, AFSM

President