Key recommendations and themes directed at the states and territories
Victoria looks forward to building on this reform journey by addressing the recommendations from the Royal Commission. Recommendations directed at the State are broadly consistent with themes arising from the Victorian IGEM’s Review of 10 Years of Emergency Management Reform and Phase 1 of IGEM’s Inquiry into the 2019–20 Victorian Fire Season. These areas of reform and recommendations intersect across all pillars of emergency management and will strengthen resilience across communities, businesses and all levels of government.
1. Capability and capacity
Victoria has a large, committed and highly capable workforce with first-hand experience of Victoria’s natural disaster events. We are committed to keeping Victorians safe by ensuring continued focus on emergency management sector capacity and capability.
Victoria will work with all jurisdictions to:
- gain greater clarity about how and when states and territories can access Commonwealth resources like the Australian Defence Force;
- continue to evaluate our aerial firefighting capability; and
- support local governments’ emergency management capacity and capability.
Victoria supports the Royal Commission’s recommendations relating to cross-jurisdictional interoperability of equipment for fire and emergency services, particularly radio and communications. This was identified as a key area of reform of the IGEM’s Inquiry into the 2019–20 Victorian Fire Season, and Victoria is working to improve interoperability through identifying resourcing, training and professional development needs.
Victoria has committed to undertaking scenario exercises with cross-border emergency management partners to foster interoperability and stronger relationships between states. Victoria also continues to support the Emergency Management Operational Communications Program.
3. Evacuation planning
Victoria supports the Royal Commission’s recommendations regarding evacuation planning and is considering emergency management planning and evacuation through its response to the IGEM Inquiry and associated implementation plan.
Following the significant evacuation of Victorians during the 2019-20 bushfires, policies, processes and procedures, such as the Joint Standard Operating Procedure for evacuation operations were updated to make communities safer ahead of the 2020-21 summer season. Victoria is also reviewing emergency management arrangements to ensure evacuation plans are clear and appropriate for different emergency scenarios.
4. Information and warnings
Clear and consistent information and warnings save lives. Developing a standard system across Australia will assist cross-border communities to access accurate information in an emergency.
The Royal Commission made several recommendations to ensure consistency of messaging across borders. This included recommendations regarding the Australian Fire Danger Rating System, a national all-hazard warning system and app, and minimum information standards.
As a leader in an ‘all hazards and all communities’ emergency management approach, Victoria supports these recommendations and opportunities to further strengthen the accessibility of current, clear and localised information through the VicEmergency app and VicEmergency website.
5. Education and engagement
Community education and engagement are important elements of disaster preparedness and resilience. Victoria supports the Royal Commission’s recommendations regarding disaster education for individuals and communities. We will continue to deliver community education programs and work to ensure national consistency of key messages.
Victoria will also ensure that tailored community education campaigns accompany new programs and information streams, such as the Australian Fire Danger Rating System, national all-hazard warning system and changes to evacuation planning. This community education and engagement will extend to all communities and community members, including culturally and linguistically diverse communities, Aboriginal communities and targeted stakeholders such as seniors and young Victorians.
6. National resilience, relief and recovery agency
Victoria notes the complex nature of the recovery challenges highlighted by the Royal Commission and acknowledges that the Commonwealth has committed to establishing a national resilience, relief and recovery agency by 1 July 2021. Victoria supports the view that a greater national focus is needed on investing in resilience and risk reduction both prior to emergencies and as part of recovery.
Victoria considers that the creation of this new agency should be used as an opportunity to secure ongoing, dedicated investment; build efficiencies within the sector; and provide further attention to critical areas of recovery. It is also an opportunity to pursue risk reduction efforts and best available climate science to support decision makers to take account of future climate risk. Further, coordination between national and state bodies should be streamlined, efficient and effective.