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Federal and State Inquiries

On the 6th April, State Council requested that both the Federal and State bushfire inquiries that were established earlier this year extend the period available for volunteers to make submission.

With this year’s debriefing and after-action reviews significantly impacted by COVID-19, there is little opportunity or chance for CFA members to genuinely respond to the terms of reference.

With submissions for both enquiries closing shortly after Easter (April 15 for the Victorian Enquiry and April 17 for the Federal Enquiry) State Council is urging a little common sense and respect for those who have not had a second to catch their breath from this year’s fire season.

Update: 9th April 2020: Both inquiries have made a short extension to their submission closing timelines. The new closing dates for submission for each are:

Federal - closing date of Tuesday 28th April 2020

State - closing date of Thursday 30th April 2020

Federal Inquiry

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements was established on 20 February 2020 in response to the extreme bushfire season of 2019-20 which resulted in loss of life, property and wildlife and environmental destruction.

Sometimes referred to as the ‘Bushfires Royal Commission’, the Commission will examine coordination, preparedness for, response to and recovery from disasters as well as improving resilience and adapting to changing climatic conditions and mitigating the impact of natural disasters. The inquiry will also consider the legal framework for Commonwealth involvement in responding to national emergencies.

Terms of Reference are located here: https://naturaldisaster.royalcommission.gov.au/about/terms-reference 

Submissions can be made via here: https://naturaldisaster.royalcommission.gov.au/submissions 

Summary of Terms of Reference

  1. the responsibilities of, and coordination between, the Commonwealth and State, Territory and local Governments relating to preparedness for, response to, resilience to, and recovery from, natural disasters, and what should be done to improve these arrangements, including with respect to resource sharing;

  2. Australia’s arrangements for improving resilience and adapting to changing climatic conditions, what actions should be taken to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters, and whether accountability for natural disaster risk management, preparedness, resilience and recovery should be enhanced, including through a nationally consistent accountability and reporting framework and national standards;

  3. whether changes are needed to Australia’s legal framework for the involvement of the Commonwealth in responding to national emergencies, including in relation to the following:
    1. thresholds for, and any obstacles to, State or Territory requests for Commonwealth assistance;
    2. whether the Commonwealth Government should have the power to declare a state of national emergency;
    3. how any such national declaration would interact with State and Territory emergency management frameworks;
    4. whether, in the circumstances of such a national declaration, the Commonwealth Government should have clearer authority to take action (including, but without limitation, through the deployment of the Australian Defence Force) in the national interest;

  4. any relevant matter reasonably incidental to a matter referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c).


State Inquiry

On 14 January 2020 the government announced an inquiry into the 2019-2020 Victorian fire season would be conducted by the Inspector-General for Emergency Management (IGEM).

Through this Inquiry, IGEM will examine Victoria’s preparedness for the fire season, response to fires in large parts of Victoria's North East, Gippsland, and Alpine regions, and will review relief and recovery efforts.

Terms of Reference are located here: https://www.igem.vic.gov.au/Fire-Season-Inquiry

Submissions can be made via here: https://www.igem.vic.gov.au/Fire-Season-Inquiry 

Summary of Terms of Reference

Phase 1: Matters for consideration:

  • Effectiveness of emergency management command and control and accountability arrangements in Victoria.

  • Effectiveness of Victoria’s operational response to the 2019-20 fire season.

  • Review of the effectiveness of the declaration of a state of disaster under the Emergency Management Act 1986 – including the appropriateness of supporting legislative and administrative processes, communication, and community compliance.

  • State evacuation planning and preparedness processes/practices and their effectiveness with an emphasis on remote/isolated communities and Victorian peak holiday season locations.

  • The timeliness and effectiveness of activation of Commonwealth assistance, and Commonwealth resource availability

  • Preparedness ahead of the 2019-20 fire season; including the effectiveness of regional emergency management work undertaken to inform and educate the community about the coming season, community engagement, impact of lengthening fire seasons, and any relevant legislation, policy and practice. 

  • Consider all challenges and implications for bushfire preparedness arising from increasingly longer and more severe bushfire seasons as a result of climate change. 

  • In the context of bushfire preparedness, assess the readiness and responsibilities of statutory agencies, Local Government and State Government bodies. 

  • Review of all opportunities and approaches to bushfire preparedness, including different methods of fuel and land management (for example ‘cool burning’, mechanical slashing, integrated forest management, traditional fire approaches) to protect life and property as well as ecological and cultural values.

  • Consideration of the effectiveness of Victoria’s Code Red day arrangements and their application in practice.

  • In considering effectiveness of Victoria’s operational response to the 2019-20 fire season, IGEM should particularly consider:
    • effectiveness of the State’s response priorities, including primacy of life
    • effectiveness of public information and warning systems, including cross-border coordination and communication
    • impact of increasingly longer fire seasons on the ability to prepare, deploy and sustain efforts directed towards emergency events in Victoria
    • impact of providing Victorian responder officers to other Australian jurisdictions to assist with emergency events (as early as September 2019 this summer season)
    • availability and utilisation of private assets and resources (including plant equipment) to support emergency preparedness and response
    • planning and response mechanisms to protect biodiversity threatened by bushfire
    • effectiveness of the existing workforce model to support response, relief and recovery.

  • Review support available to staff and volunteers in terms of mental health and wellbeing.

  • Consideration of the adequacy of existing administrative and funding mechanisms in place at a state level to support the operational response efforts.

  • In considering the timeliness and effectiveness of activation of Commonwealth assistance, and Commonwealth resource availability, IGEM should particularly consider:
    • effectiveness of current national resource sharing arrangements when multiple and simultaneous fire events are occurring
    • effectiveness of existing governance arrangements supporting access to Commonwealth and State air fleets
    • use and integration of Australian Defence Force assets into Victoria’s emergency response and relief operations.
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