AEMVF | Training
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Training is acknowledged by the members of the AEMVF as a vital component in the effectiveness of the contribution of the emergency sector and all organisations devote considerable time and effort to it. The sector has generally embraced the National Training Reform Agenda, which has brought with it national standards of competence. The advantages of a national approach to training became immediately obvious to the volunteers, particularly when dealing with major disasters, which are no respecters of State and Territory boundaries.


However, it needs to be recognised that the move to competency-based training has meant that the volunteers are required to devote considerably more of their time to training than was the case in the past, and this places additional pressures upon them.




Where were we?
Emergency Management Volunteer Summit 2001 Main Recommendations

  • State government funding to enable volunteer organisations to implement competency based training; and
  • Emergency sector volunteers to be classified as trainees to enable them to access additional training funds.


Where are we now?
The attention given to the four themes at the Summit has paid off in many ways. For example it has given all the organisations a focus in their dealings with their State and Territory governments. There has been a degree of consistency of approach, which has never been evident previously. There are numerous examples of progress in the areas covered by the themes, which show that the Summit was well worthwhile and should be repeated at some time in the future.


The themes from the Summit have also provided the basis for a section on volunteers in the Report commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments into natural disasters in Australia.


The volunteer emergency sector has an integral role to play in the safety and well being of the Australian community, and due to demands for more and better services, is likely to face increasing pressure. If the sector is to be in a position to respond, there will need to be a complementary improvement in support from governments. Many of the organisations in the sector face serious problems with Training, Legal/Protection and Funding.


All training for Volunteers within the Emergency Sector must be:

  • uniform (within their specific area of responsibility)
  • nationally recognised
  • standardised
  • transferable and
  • compliant to an agreed set of competencies.


This can only be achieved through Competency Based Training (CBT). CBT can only be delivered through the agency of a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).


To date, some individual organisations have developed their own RTO’s within each state at great cost and effort (some state SES groups and volunteer fire fighters, Australian Volunteer Coast Guard, SLSA, NSWVRA, Red Cross, St. John and others) while others still have no formal structure in place or lack the resources to be able to do so.


RTO’s are:

  • difficult to set up
  • costly to maintain due the ongoing registration fees charged by overseeing Authorities and the cost of developing and producing learning materials
  • time consuming with administrative tasks and
  • unacceptably bureaucratic.


For their parent organisations, the implementation of the competency- based system of training has meant a dramatic increase in the administrative load. The recording and reporting requirements and the compliance standards are significantly more demanding than they were with the old training system. This relatively new requirement has placed considerable pressure on a number of the members of the AEMVF, particular the non-government organisations, some of which have no permanent staff and they need assistance.


The volunteer sector is given NO concessions by the Federal and State Education and training authorities in their delivery of training or reduction of costs:

  • the lack of willingness to define volunteers as ‘trainees’
  • recent changes to BSZ Trainer and Assessor qualifications to a new TAA qualification, placing yet more hurdles in the path of volunteers
  • RTO’s set up in the volunteer sector deliver to their clientele ‘gratis’ in contrast to commercial providers whose income stream from training not only allows easy coverage, but seems to determine, the costs of registration and annual fees charged.




Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association
Within the AVCGA we have been developing CBT since 1994 and have been an RTO since 1995. During that time we have been subject to more than 8 audits across 5 States.


We have developed a national, common set of minimum competencies, drawn from the Public Safety Training package and the Transport Distribution Training Package (Maritime), and have worked hard to have our competencies accepted by the relevant Emergency Services departments in those States. To this point in time we have addressed registration on a State-by-State RTO basis.


We have been considering consolidation to one single RTO registered to deliver competencies from the relevant training packages across ALL states in order to increase efficiencies and reduce costs. We already share resources, learner’s guides, assessment criteria, examinations, trainer and assessor skills and experience and RTO compliance paperwork.


We have affiliated with other marine sector volunteer organisations to share with them access to this training regime.


Where to from here?
Len Foster at the Emergency Services Volunteer Summit, in his introductory talk to Theme 1, raised the concept that in order to promote the volunteer cause to those who can fund or support it we need to (and I paraphrase him)
• become unified, not disparate
• national, not local
• co-operative, not adversarial
• consolidated, not individual at least in terms of our corporate aims and objectives.


Existing RTO’s can move towards co-operative activity rather than going it alone.

We have already seen the disdain in which ANTA holds the volunteer sector.


The members of the AEMVF need to work cooperatively and collaboratively towards the establishment of aNational Volunteer Emergency Services RTO.


An over-arching, national and multi-agency organisation that can register and delver the competencies required in each State and Territory and within each sector of the emergency services.

  • Set up under Federal and/or State funding $ (Rec 58)
  • Establish and register ‘National’ standards of training across all States
  • Delivery must be enabled at the ‘coal face’ (trainers and assessors from each organisation and across all locations)
  • Access to virtual and correspondence training
  • Utilisation of centralised government agencies facilities (eg. Mt Macedon, government academies etc)
  • Second the current training leaders and administrators from the existing agencies and set up the paperwork needed to satisfy each state and each organisation in the volunteer sector, converting materials into a style and format which can be easily disseminated
  • Print and distribute training materials
  • Issue Certificates
  • Maintain training records
  • Register Courses
  • Pay Fees to Training Authorities



The materials and competencies already developed within the existing sector RTO’s can be shared and developed further. This is the single most difficult aspect of setting up an RTO and most of the hard work has been completed.


Training and assessing still occurs through the agency of the organisational volunteers already carrying out these functions with some others added to the mix.


Then administration, record keeping, certificate issue, funding for registration costs and production/distribution of materials etc. can be covered by the RTO bureaucracy.


Obstacles and Solutions

  • Tribalism
  • Funding sources (State, Federal or both)
    • setup costs
    • sharing
  • Tyranny of Distance (virtual and correspondence)
  • Administration and personnel
  • Recognition by relevant State authorities


Issues to consider

  • We should consolidate within the sectors across Australia and use a minimum number of RTO’s
  • Consolidate the Emergency Volunteer Sector nationally with a single RTO to maximise utilisation and access by volunteers within their separate specialities.
  • Establish the Minimum competencies for each organisation and thus the KPI’s will become apparent
  • Overview the separate state government requirements, or better still, guide and advise them of what is reasonable and achievable in the balance between public expectations and achievable training goals for volunteers.


An achievable goal of national significance.

  • The bureaucrats excel at data input and information management and attendance to audits and ensure compliance and governanc
  • This then relieves the volunteers of the increasing administrative burden of managing an RTO and allow concentration of actual training. It also allows access to federal funding • The National RTO would print and distribute the necessary and appropriate training materials
  • Training and assessment is only performed by qualified trainers and assessors from each of the Volunteer organisations who then train and assess their own members
  • Once assessed the appropriate paperwork goes to the National RTO who then check off and issue the appropriate certificate. in accordance with the registered courses
  • All competencies are agreed across all states in accordance with the type of rescue / competency / function and courses registered nationally
  • This should not be an issue as chainsaw operation, putting out grass fires should be common throughout and across borders – simple examples
  • In the case of marine rescue this has been done in Qld and NSW. The other states and VMR units in those states are much smaller and we would expect to accept the already registered courses with little or no alteration
  • Desk and field audits would be carried out by the National RTO. Field audits should have a representative of the volunteer industry in attendance e.g road rescue, caves rescue, rural fire etc
  • Suggested changes to any course or competency should go through the volunteer organisation’s training regime first. Then if it has merit, goes to a training group made up of a senior training representative from each volunteer organisations in that particular field / sector e.g Marine rescue, road rescue
  • The courses should not be at the lowest common denominator. This defeats the purpose particularly when some volunteer organisations do not have structured training in place. The goal posts need to be raised not only for the professionalism of the operator but also for the safety of the victim.



The development of an industry RTO compliance group would be most beneficial.


Some of the key roles could include:

  • Validation of our industry training resources;
  • Standardised policy development and compliance tools;
  • Advocacy as a sector to gain VET concessions;
  • Advocacy as a sector to the skills council for changes to the Public Safety Training Package;
  • Sharing of non-endorsed training products.


The concept of a sector-training academy could also be explored.


At this stage the EMA College caters for the higher order units and qualifications. Consideration of EMA College meeting the needs of the volunteer sector emergency service offering lower order units within the framework.


Recommendation 58 of the COAG Review
The HLG recommends that each level of government examine and take action on the following recommendations from the Volunteers Summit:


(a) that all jurisdictions

  • agree to approach their respective occupational health and safety organisations in order to develop standards and codes of practice for volunteer organisations, and
  • conduct an audit of legal risks faced by emergency sector volunteers, share the results, and develop responses


(b) that the Commonwealth Government

  • considers providing support for employers of emergency services volunteers
  • recognises emergency management volunteers as trainees
  • examines the administrative processes associated with the implementation of the national Training Reform Agenda37 with a view to simplifying them


(c) that State and Territory Governments

  • review and compare the legal protections provided in their legislation to determine whether it offers adequate cover for both volunteers and their organisations
  • consider providing assistance with the provision of public liability insurance for emergency management volunteer organisations
  • recognise emergency management volunteers as trainees
  • provide funding to emergency sector volunteer organisations to enable them to implement the National Training Reform Agenda
  • explore the provision of concessions to emergency sector volunteers


(d) that Local Governments

  • examine the provision of concessions such as rate rebates to emergency services sector volunteers.


ANTA demise and DEST coming on board.



Theme 1: Drivers for Change
High quality training leads to better outcomes for the community
Accredited training leads to formal, recognised qualifications for volunteers to incorporate into their CVs. It also provides motivation and a means of recognising volunteers.


  • Mentoring
  • Induction programs
  • Clear career paths / options for the volunteer within the organisation
  • Team building activities
  • Leadership courses
  • Use of modern technology in training delivery
  • Targeted recruitment
  • Recognizing existing skills of volunteers
  • Employ “best practice”
  • Put the FUN back into training


Theme 2: Enhancing links for further benefit volunteers and their communities

  • Inter-agency training
  • Life skills training
  • Accreditation/certification
  • Media training


  • We require proper standardised industry standards nationally
  • We require equal and appropriate representation across the Sectors – from both NGO and Government agencies
  • Most agencies provide national competency based training to provide adequate coverage and for compensation and liabilities but struggle with the cost and administrative load this creates
  • Marine Rescue competencies will differ across States and Territories and therefore variances need to be considered without the administrative load for each agency on a State and Territory level
  • A National Volunteer Emergency Services RTO would have a purely administrative function carrying out data management and certification and NOT be involved in the training and assessment which must be completed by State and Territory jurisdictions
  • A National Volunteer Emergency Services RTO would allow for standardisation and consistency across borders and would free up the administrative burden
  • If the Federal level can see the benefits for the Commonwealth they will support such a recommendation but if it is just to shed State and Territory responsibilities it will not.


Training – Key Performance Indicators

  • Detailed proposal for a National Volunteer Emergency Services Registered Training Organisation prepared
  • Consultation received from
  • all AEMVF agencies
  • State and Federal departments of Education and Training
  • relevant politicians and stakeholders
  • Collect minimum competencies from all agencies
  • Collate into National Emergency Volunte VolCompetency Database
  • Publish on AEMVF website

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