Commission Hears Bushfire Recovery a Marathon As Thousands Still Struggle

With the start of spring and the weather warming, many areas of Australia have already entered the official start of a new bushfire season. Every Australian now knows the extreme dangers posed by the growing bushfire risk. Last summer’s catastrophic season, which wreaked havoc, death and destruction across so much of the nation, has also left scars across the landscape and in communities which may never heal.

On August 31, the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements made its interim observations. This points to a suggestion that come October 28, when the commission’s final report is due, Australia could be facing a major shakeup of how disaster management is governed. This includes the need to collate, harmonise and share disaster data across jurisdictions, enhance research in climate and disaster resilience, reassess aerial firefighting capabilities, and plan more effectively around critical infrastructure. 

Most importantly, the royal commission is considering consolidating disaster recovery and resilience functions in a new national body. This comes after the commission heard that many of the people affected by last season’s bushfires are only now coming forward for assistance and support. The commission heard that:

  • 1,700 calls a week are still being made to a dedicated helpline
  • There are 600 presentations a week on either telehealth or face-to-face for support in relation to trauma caused by bushfires 
  • Charitable and government services are reporting new presentations as people grow anxious about the coming season

Coordinator of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, Andrew Colvin, responded to the interim report with support for a single, scalable national body.

“You don’t want to be trying to make arrangements while actually dealing with disaster,” he said. 

You want to have those well-embedded, understood and in place so that they can be rolled out when they need to be, as quickly and efficiently as possible. Recovery starts before the disaster has hit the community.”

Surprisingly, the interim report made no mention of action on climate change.

Download the interim observations here.

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