Main Report - Volunteer Leadership Development Survey

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Volunteer-based emergency services throughout Australia need to sustain adequate numbers of volunteers in order to protect the lives, properties, and assets of communities vulnerable to bushfires. Concerns have been expressed about the likely future impacts of (a) changes in the Australian economy and (b) Australia‟s ageing population, on emergency services volunteer numbers. The Tasmanian Fire Service (TFS) can do little to influence the underlying economic and demographic factors threatening volunteer numbers; however it may be able to reduce the rate at which volunteers leave – that is boost retention. Some resignations are inevitable, such as those due to changed family responsibilities, re-location due to work commitments, ageing, illness and disability. However, some other resignations may be avoidable where brigade morale is high and member commitment is strong.

TFS requested the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (BCRC) Volunteerism Team at La Trobe University to undertake collaborative research to support a Volunteer Leadership Development Project. The project aims to investigate the leadership needs of TFS with the aim of fostering brigade morale and member commitment. The project involves four activities:
1. Interviews by Bushfire CRC staff with TFS Senior Management: Chief Officer, Deputy Chief Officers, and Region Chiefs;
2. Focus groups with TFS volunteers;
3. A mail-out survey of TFS volunteers seeking their views on brigade leadership needs; and
4. Focus groups with Brigade Chiefs in each Region.

This report documents the findings of Activity 3, the survey of TFS volunteers. The survey was designed to obtain volunteers‟ views on the quality of leadership experienced in their brigades and identify areas for improvement. The team conducted a survey of 4,195 TFS volunteers between December 2008 and February 2009, receiving over 900 responses.

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