Establishment of bushfire research institute: a response to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission
A national bushfire research institute will be established to build upon the gains of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre and the findings of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
The Royal Commission final report released today indicates how much more Australians need to learn about living in one of the three most fire prone regions in the world, if the 173 lives lost on 7 February 2009 are not to be in vain. It has called for a permanent national centre for bushfire research with reasonable surety of long-term funding.
Recommendation 65 of the Royal Commission Final Report states:
The Commonwealth establish a national centre for bushfire research in collaboration with other Australian jurisdictions to support pure, applied and long-term research in the physical, biological and social sciences relevant to bushfires and to promote continuing research and scholarship in related disciplines.
The Chairman of the Bushfire CRC, Mr Len Foster AO, said that while Australia has fire agencies amongst the best in the world we still have much to learn. “An Australasian Fire Research Institute will give us the new knowledge required for community safety,” he said.
In 2003 the Australian Government showed its support for the fire and land management industry by establishing the first nationally coordinated centre for bushfire research under its Cooperative Research Centres Program. The Centre’s current research program runs through to 2014 with significant support from the Australian Government providing $15 million for research into national issues arising out of the Royal Commission.
Australia’s fire services have agreed that, consistent with the above recommendation of the Royal Commission, the Bushfire CRC will transition into the Australasian Fire Research Institute. With support from the Australian Government and from partner contributions, the Institute will provide Australia and New Zealand with a much needed long-term, sustainable centre for bushfire research.
Mr Foster said it was essential that the issues raised by the Royal Commission and the many other reports and inquiries into fires in Australia, continue to be analysed over the longer term by the new Australasian Fire Research Institute.
“The transition to this Australasian Institute recognises the importance of long-term pure and applied research into fire and the need to work together to protect communities all over Australia from the threat of bushfires,” Mr Foster said. “While Victoria’s involvement is critical to this research program, the only sensible approach is on a national basis, with strong international links. We all realise that all the answers to future community safety cannot be found in Victoria alone. The Royal Commission recognised this by calling witnesses from around Australia and overseas.”
The ongoing bushfire research program is supported by all Australian and New Zealand fire and land management agencies and a range of research organisations.
“This support acknowledges the quality of the Bushfire CRC’s work and provides a strong sense of direction and certainty as we strive to better understand, not only the tragedy of the 2009 fires in Victoria, but the broader impacts of fire across Australia all year round.
“While the next three years of research will focus on those national issues arising from the tragic 2009 fires, the strong support across Australia and New Zealand clearly demonstrates that problems in one jurisdiction are common to all. Through a broad analysis of different approaches better guidance for fire agencies and communities can be provided.
“Australia is now well placed to continue long term pure and applied research and to work collaboratively with research partners internationally, particularly in parts of the United States and southern Europe, where communities are also seeking to better understand the major impacts of fire.”
The research program of the Bushfire CRC is focussing on issues arising from the Black Saturday fires that have been highlighted by the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission. These include communicating with bushfire prone communities, understanding the risk of living and working in bushfire areas, managing major incidents, and understanding extreme fire behaviour and its impact on the landscape.
The Bushfire CRC consists of more than 30 partners from fire and land management agencies, universities and research organisations including CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and Emergency Management Australia. Victorian involvement includes the CFA, DSE, OESC, Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water and universities including Melbourne, Deakin, RMIT and Monash. There are also strong links with European and North American research and fire management organisations.
The research program for the Institute will now be further developed to take into account issues generated by the Victorian fires and other recent fires in Australia and other fire prone areas around the world.