The Challenge

On 7 February 2009, Australia suffered its worst-ever loss of life and property in a series of bushfires driven by severe weather in Victoria. On this day, 173 people lost their lives, many more were injured and lost their homes and livelihood along with extensive community infrastructure.

This was a latest in a line of bushfire disasters stretching back to European settlement of Australia, including many iconic events in recent times such as Ash Wednesday (SA and Vic.) in 1983; Canberra (ACT) in 2003; Sydney (2001–2); Wangary (SA) in 2005; Boorabin, (WA) in 2008 and Toodyay (WA) in late 2009.

The scale and the consequence of the February 2009 fires in Victoria resulted in the establishment of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (VBRC).

Commentary in the media and the preliminary analysis of the Bushfire CRC research suggests that the community did not fully understand the risk that it faced, and this is probably the case for most natural disasters. This underlines the warnings made in 2008 by Australasia’s chiefs with fire and emergency responsibilities - that existing fire management practices, at all levels, are not sustainable in today’s changing world.

The Bushfire CRC’s mission is to build on the previous work, the understanding of these events to help the sector and the community address this broader challenge.

The response

In responding to this challenge, the Bushfire CRC, in conjunction with its partners, has developed a comprehensive research plan for the next three years that will set the agenda for longer-term studies. This has drawn on an extensive data collection following the 2009 fires, discussions with leaders in the fire, land-management, local government, academic and policy arenas, and the Council Assisting the VBRC.

The critical areas of concern to the community and the broader sector fall within three main program areas, which have been aligned to the widely accepted risk-management paradigm.

Download here - a six-page overview of the research projects

The Programs

Understanding the Risk

The work in this program seeks to understand the underlying risk exposure of the community and the things it values. .

Communicating the Risk

This program of work focuses on the communication of risk and threat: how are warnings and information best communicated?

Managing the Threat

This program considers the impact of fire events on important infrastructure, resources and the environment.

Research program 2003-2010

The Bushfire CRC, began its operations on 1 July 2003 with four inter-related research programs with a seven year plan.

A: Safe Prevention, Preparation and Suppression

B Management of Fire in the Landscape

C: Community Self-Sufficiency for Fire Safety

D: Protection of People and Property


The research outputs of the Bushfire CRC do not necessarily represent the views, policies, practices or positions of any of the individual agencies or organisations who are members of the Bushfire CRC.

Posted: 41 weeks 2 days ago

It has been a while since I last wrote a blog – things have been moving quickly with the development of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, but more on that later.

The Bushfire CRC chairs the annual meeting of the North Australian Fire Manager’s Forum; this year held in Darwin in mid-June. The meeting is a critical opportunity for fire and land managers...

Richard Thornton
Former Deputy CEO and Research Director Bushfire CRC

Principal Scientific Advisers

The four Principal Scientific Advisers provide a scientific oversight of the whole research program.