The 2019–20 Eastern Victorian bushfires were significant. Lives were lost, thousands were displaced, and numerous communities were temporarily isolated.
The bushfires were unlike any previous fire events because they burned over many months and occurred alongside bushfires across the eastern seaboard and other parts of Australia.
- On 21 November 2019, more than 150 fires had ignited, with 2,000 firefighters and 500 trucks on the ground.
- On 31 December 2019, approximately 4,000 people were forced to shelter on the Mallacoota foreshore as fire threatened the town. Over the next 2 days almost 2,000 were evacuated by air and sea.
- On 2 January 2020, a State of Disaster was declared in parts of Victoria that would last 10 days.
- More than 60,000 people are estimated to have evacuated East Gippsland as a result of the warnings and the State of Disaster declaration.
- When all significant fires across Victoria had been contained in February 2020, over 1.5 million hectares had been burnt:
- More than half of the East Gippsland LGA was burnt (1.1 million hectares).
- In Towong LGA, 205,000 hectares were burnt.
- 187,000 hectares in the Alpine LGA were burnt.
The bushfires resulted in far-reaching devastation for local people, communities, ecosystems, businesses and infrastructure.
There was significant damage to environment, loss of and damage to significant cultural heritage and large numbers of deaths of wildlife.
Over 1.5 million hectares of Country were burnt in the fires – an area containing more than 1,000 registered Aboriginal heritage places. Two hundred and forty-eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were impacted by the fires and 42 had homes destroyed or made unliveable.
Habitats and national parks were significantly impacted, with devastating effects for Victoria’s biodiversity.
Key regional industries such as agriculture, tourism, forestry and retail were severely affected. Homes, businesses, community facilities and thousands of kilometres of roads and fences were damaged or destroyed.
Many of the fire impacted areas were already facing pressures from drought and industries in transition. Following the 2019–20 Eastern Victorian bushfires, all affected communities experienced further challenges because of coronavirus.
Snapshot of impacts
People and wellbeing
5 people lost their lives
120+ communities directly impacted
313 homes destroyed or damaged
2,687 calls to the BRV bushfire recovery hotline
1,408 case support cases
1,371 evacuees by sea from Mallacoota, 551 by air
3 LGAs were directly affected and 5 adjacent LGAs were indirectly affected
Aboriginal culture and healing
Over 1,000 known registered Aboriginal heritage places were impacted within the fire affected areas
248 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people impacted
42 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had homes destroyed or unliveable
14 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander run businesses affected
Environment and biodiversity
170 rare or threatened species have had more than 50% of their habitat impacted by fires
More than 1.5 million hectares burnt
463,000 hectare of National Parks and other Parks Victoria managed land impacted by the fires
57% of state forest burnt in the three most directly hit LGAs
At least $30 million in damage to buildings and infrastructure managed by Parks Victoria
Business and economy
$114–$199 million estimated decline across all industries in Alpine, East Gippsland and Towong
$79–$181 million estimated decline across all industries in Indigo, Mansfield, Wangaratta, Wellington and Wodonga
$330–$350 million in lost tourism revenue in bushfire affected regions between December 2019 and March 2020
656 farm infrastructure damaged or destroyed
22% of agricultural land in the fire affected area was burnt
10,000 livestock lost
$325 million economic impact on farms in Victoria through loss of assets and production (as at February 2020)
Around 8,600 businesses were within 5km of the fires
80–100 fishing and aquaculture business impacted
$391 million in cumulative expected production losses by the end of 2022
Buildings and infrastructure
458 residences damaged or destroyed
51 business buildings and community facilities destroyed or damaged
$40 million in damage to agriculture buildings
6,350km of fencing destroyed
$69 million of fencing lost
1 school destroyed (Clifton Creek Primary School)
1,162 buildings destroyed, damaged or closed as a result of the fires
1/3 of homes destroyed in the fires are believed to be uninsured or underinsured
742 properties requiring clean up, as at 26 June
1,400km of arterial roads closed
1,500 road signs and over 14,000 guide posts damaged or destroyed
4.6 days was the average length of telecommunications outage incidents
324 telecommunications facilities in Victoria impacted by the fire
State Recovery Plan
The State Recovery Plan sets out our comprehensive and coordinated plan for the recovery of communities impacted by the 2019–20 Eastern Victoria bushfires.
As part of the State Recovery Plan $78.06 million was invested towards region-wide projects vital for recovery, including:
- $10 million to repair and reinstate roads, crossings and fire-tower infrastructure and $8 million to ensure the safety of the arterial road network
- $8 million to deliver and install more high-quality, short-term modular homes and $4.4 million for support, services and rebates to help locals plan and complete their rebuild
- $7.7 million to fund new seed stocks and directly sow forest areas by hand and helicopter, and $5 million to protect rare and threatened species from pests and predators
- $7.15 million to upgrade infrastructure at Cape Conran to make it ‘visitor ready’
- $6.4 million for safety works in parks and forests so they are fit for public use and $1.2 million to support a major event review of Regional Forest Agreements
- $4.8 million to support Aboriginal community organisations, businesses, jobs and infrastructure
- $5.1 million to fund legal assistance and $2 million to provide tailored financial counselling for bushfire-affected individuals and businesses
- $3.6 million to further boost the capacity of councils – Victoria’s key partners in recovery
- $1.95 million to strengthen the resilience of schools and help them prepare for future disasters
- $1.88 million to increase family violence support services, including early intervention programs, and $88,000 to support health and housing services.
In addition, the State Recovery Plan also delivers $34.3 million towards the Local Economic Recovery program, matching a previous Commonwealth contribution.
View the full State Recovery Plan below.
Bushfire Recovery Framework
Our Recovery Framework (Framework) provides a consistent and community-led approach for the planning and delivery of recovery activities for the 2019–20 Eastern Victorian bushfires.
The Framework describes five lines of recovery important to successful recovery, as well as principles to guide locally led recovery and outcomes for Victorian people and communities.
The five lines of recovery are:
- People and wellbeing
- Aboriginal culture and healing
- Environment and biodiversity
- Business and economy
- Buildings and infrastructure
View the full Bushfire Recovery Framework below.
The recovery journey so far
The recovery journey has started but there is still a long way to go.
The journey of recovery takes time, sometimes many years. We’re here to support people and communities every step of the way.
Twelve months on from the 2019–20 Eastern Victorian bushfires, people are still coming to terms with the fire events and the broad-ranging impacts. Coronavirus has made coming to terms with those impacts, coming together as a community and moving forward as a collective more difficult.
After the Flames
After the Flames is a document that aims to preserve experiences and stories from those who were impacted by Victoria’s most devastating bushfire season in more than a decade.
Reviewed 27 April 2021