Reframing responsibility-sharing for bushfire risk management in Australia after Black Saturday

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TitleReframing responsibility-sharing for bushfire risk management in Australia after Black Saturday
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsMcLennan, BJ, Handmer, J
JournalEnvironmental Hazards
Pagination1 - 15
Date Published01/2012
AbstractIn the context of risk, the concept of responsibility incorporates the notion that certain parties have a prospective obligation to undertake actions to manage risk. However, differences in judgements about which parties are responsible for which aspects of risk management often lead to social conflict. This paper uses the heuristic of a ‘responsibility continuum for risk management’ to highlight how judgements of the obligations of different parties to manage risk are underpinned by particular ways of framing responsibility-sharing. It then uses the heuristic to examine the case of a Royal Commission enquiry into Australia's deadliest bushfire (wildfire) event, known as Black Saturday. It argues that the Royal Commission reframed responsibility-sharing away from an emphasis on the self-reliance of at-risk communities towards a greater degree of responsibility for government emergency management agencies. This is particularly the case when fire conditions are extreme and where vulnerable people are at risk. This position runs counter to an international trend in policy towards placing greater responsibility for risk management on at-risk communities. However, the Commission's analysis is strong for the distribution of responsibility across government and between government and communities, but is weaker across the government–private sector interface and where the factors underlying vulnerability are concerned.
Short TitleEnvironmental Hazards
Refereed DesignationRefereed