Victoria’s actions to progress emergency management reforms
At the time of the 2019–20 fires, Victoria was already progressing significant emergency management reforms. These reforms will continue to be implemented and expanded to build upon our learnings, and will support the key recommendations of the Royal Commission.
Key actions underway include:
1. Emergency management planning reforms
Victoria has recently reviewed its emergency management planning arrangements. Victoria’s first State Emergency Management Plan (SEMP) was released in September 2020 in the lead up to the 2020–21 summer season. The SEMP sets out what is expected of agencies and communities in the event of an emergency and will streamline emergency management arrangements in Victoria. The SEMP will be reviewed in 2021 to ensure it aligns to sector best practice and addresses relevant findings of the Royal Commission.
2. Councils and emergencies
Victoria is continuing to build local government capability and capacity through the implementation of the Councils and Emergencies Project. This project is developing a capability and capacity model of local government in emergency management.
3. Recovery reform and the establishment of Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV)
In January 2020, Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV) was established as a permanent and dedicated recovery agency to support Victorians in their recovery journey, and is working directly with communities devastated by 2019–20 summer’s bushfires. BRV supports locally-led and locally-driven recovery, and has adopted a place-based approach to empower and work directly with communities on decisions about recovery programs and supports.
BRV has established a dedicated team and has adopted Aboriginal Culture and Healing as a fifth and additional line of recovery. This recognises the importance of engaging with Traditional Owners and Aboriginal communities in land and fire management and the recovery phase.
Additionally, Victoria released its Resilient Recovery Strategy in November 2019. The Strategy identifies four priority actions that promote a shared-responsibility approach to emergency management and the importance of recovery planning. The Strategy builds on and complements existing initiatives in the sector that will enhance recovery outcomes and build resilience for Victorians. Victoria looks forward to working more closely with its interjurisdictional counterparts to ensure alignment in resilience and recovery nationally.
4. Fuel management and risk reduction work
Like emergency management, land and fuel management is and should remain the responsibility of the states and territories. The Victorian Government has recently committed to further investment to better manage bushfire risk. This funding will employ more firefighters, strengthen Victoria’s bushfire risk modelling and evaluation capability, and support more mechanical fuel treatment and planned burning.
The funding will also support implementation of the Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Burning Strategy, enabling Traditional Owners to lead the reintroduction of cultural fire practices to restore cultural fire to more Country, and meaningfully furthering Aboriginal self-determination.
The Victorian Government is also investing in the creation and upgrade of strategic fuel breaks in the highest priority areas across Victoria. Strengthening and expanding Victoria’s network of strategic fuel breaks is one of the key adaptation actions in our strategy to reduce the risks of more frequent, intense and damaging bushfires under a changing climate.
5. Protecting Victoria’s biodiversity
The protection of Victoria’s unique biodiversity is of significant focus for the Victorian Government and recent investments are helping threatened plants and animals survive future fires and climate change. Additional investment has also been provided to support intensified management of threats such as introduced animals and weeds after the 2019–20 bushfires.
6. Investment in capability and capacity before the 2020–21 summer season
Victoria has committed to boosting the State Control Centre’s capacity by investing in additional personnel. We have appointed a dedicated Cross-Border and Preparedness Operations Manager, whose immediate priority is to assess existing cross-border mutual aid agreements for emergency management.
The Emergency Management Commissioner will partner with the Cross-Border Commissioner to strengthen interstate relationships in relation to emergency management arrangements. Emergency liaison officers for critical infrastructure, such as telecommunications and food and groceries, have also been established.
Further investment in incident management capability across the sector will help ensure Victoria can respond quickly and effectively to future demands. Due to the effects of climate change, it is expected that we will need to respond to multiple major emergencies occurring simultaneously in different hazard environments.
7. Critical infrastructure resilience arrangements
Victoria welcomes the Royal Commission’s findings to invest in the identification and mitigation of risks to critical infrastructure during a natural disaster. Victoria has comprehensive critical infrastructure arrangements in place including legislation covering the energy, water and transport sectors.
Owners and operators of infrastructure designated to have vital importance to Victoria’s safety and economy must undertake an annual resilience improvement cycle in relation to their key emergency risks and preparedness. Victoria takes a collaborative approach to resilience building with industry across a range of critical infrastructure sectors.