Australia’s first National Disaster Preparedness Summit

by | Oct 3, 2023

Australia’s first National Disaster Preparedness Summit took place in Canberra on September 25-26, as the country gears up for hot, dry spring and summer seasons.

Image: https://nema.gov.au/

The Prime Minister and the Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt, joined around 250 crisis management, response and recovery specialists from governments, industry, community and the not-for-profit sector who attended the two-day event convened by the Government’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

The Summit is the first time all key stakeholders – including leaders from Federal, State and Territory emergency services and the logistics, food and groceries, insurance, energy and utilities, telecommunications and non-government sectors – have come together to prepare for the coming Higher Risk Weather Season. It was a timely reminder that being bushfire ready is a 365-day-a-year job, the President of Forestry Australia Dr Michelle Freeman said.

“It is great to see the national spotlight on the critically important issue of bushfire preparedness, but this must be more than just a two-day flash in the pan,” Dr Freeman said.

“Being bushfire-ready does not happen overnight, it is a 365-day-a-year job that demands a long-term commitment to evidence-based approaches. To protect human life and forest biodiversity, fire must be strategically planned and managed at a landscape scale and over long timeframes.”

“Fire in forests must be supported by legislation, government policy, and ongoing research. Fire must be managed by professionally trained, experienced, and accredited forest managers in partnership with Traditional Custodians, not just emergency service or defence agencies,” Dr Freeman said.

The Summit’s aim was to ensure all key stakeholders know what resources and capabilities state and territory governments can draw upon and when, as well as additional operational and information-sharing support according to Minister Watt.

“We know that due to climate change, disasters will become increasingly frequent and intense, which is why we have taken significant steps to build our resilience and response capabilities,” Minister Watt said.

“I am confident that as a country we are well-prepared for the conditions forecast, but we are not complacent, and want to make sure we are doing everything within our power to get ready.”

Since being elected, the Albanese Government has introduced significant improvements to the way Australia prepares for the higher-risk weather season.

This includes:

  • Co-investing $94 million this year in bushfire mitigation and preparedness with State and Territory governments through the first round of the Albanese Government’s flagship Disaster Ready Fund.
  • Supporting the leasing and positioning of the largest ever national fleet of highly specialised firefighting aircraft for use by state and territory governments through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC), and the lease of another National Large Air Tanker.
  • Opening an upgraded National Situation Room (NSR) and developing the National Joint Common Operating Picture, which enables collaboration amongst federal, state and territory government agencies and non-government organisations during a crisis including obtaining satellite imagery from partner agencies as well as predictive analysis to anticipate likely challenges and associated impacts on communities.
  • Unifying the two arms of federal emergency management to create the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), to be more efficient in disaster management.
  • Through NEMA, coordinating partnerships with state and territory emergency services organisations, industry, the not-for-profit sector and other representative groups, which will enable a higher level of readiness for the upcoming season.
  • A new, simplified Australian Fire Danger Rating System so that no matter where someone is, they understand the fire risk and what action they need to take.
  • Building a National Emergency Management Stockpile, which includes key resources such as emergency shelter, water and electricity, to enable states and territories to quickly access these resources in times of need.
  • Investing in Disaster Relief Australia to grow their volunteering force which provides recovery and clean-up support after disasters. DRA’s veteran-led operating model provides a trained, on-the-ground force during recovery and relief efforts.

“Since our election 16 months ago, the Albanese Government has worked hard to ensure Australia is better connected, better coordinated and better prepared for the disasters we know are coming.”

“[The National Disaster Preparedness] summit is the next step in that plan, to make sure that all who have a role in disasters know what to expect this upcoming season, and that they are as prepared as possible,” Minister Watt concluded.