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Frequently asked questions

Royal Commission

A Royal Commission is a public inquiry. In Australia, Royal Commissions are the highest form of inquiry on matters of public importance. A Royal Commission is also independent of government.

A Royal Commission has broad powers to gather information to assist with its inquiry. The Royal Commission has the power to summons witnesses to appear before it and the power to request individuals or organisations produce documents as evidence.

The terms of reference set out the Royal Commission’s key areas of investigation and when the inquiry must be completed. 

This Royal Commission is sometimes referred to as the Bushfire Royal Commission and will focus on the 2019-20 bushfire season (also referred to as the ‘Black Summer Bushfires’).

The Commission’s focus is Australia’s national natural disaster arrangements. It will examine how Australia is prepared for and coordinated with the states and territories to respond to bushfires and other natural disasters as well as mitigation and recovery.

The inquiry will also consider the legal framework for Commonwealth involvement in responding to natural disasters.

For more details, please refer to the National Natural Disaster Arrangements Royal Commission’s terms of reference.


A submission is a statement to the Royal Commission which assists the Commission in its collection of information that is relevant to the inquiry as set out in the terms of reference.

Individuals, organisations, community groups and the broader community were invited to make submissions on the 2019-20 bushfire season.

The deadline for public submissions was Tuesday, 28 April 2020.

However, you can contribute to the Commission’s work through the 2019-20 Bushfire History Project by submitting videos or photographs taken during the bushfires or the ongoing recovery.

Yes, you are free to publish and share your own submission once you have sent it to the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commission has published submissions to its website unless the author has requested it not be made public or the Royal Commission considers that it shouldn’t be made public. Submissions may be published anonymously where requested. Submissions that are made public may include redactions made as the Royal Commission considers appropriate.

Some people have asked that their submission not be made public or to have content removed so that they cannot be identified publicly.

Submissions which are made public may include redactions (words blacked out) as the Royal Commission considers appropriate.

Community forums

The community forums allowed people to engage with the Royal Commission in a less formal way than in public hearings and submissions.

While these forums were not formal sittings of the Royal Commission they provided important background and context which informed the inquiry.

The Commission has suspended its community forums to help prevent any potential exposure to the Coronavirus.

The Federal Government’s health advice regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19), means it is no longer possible for the Commission to conduct its work face-to-face without exposing the community to unnecessary risk.

The Commissioners strongly encourage anyone affected by the bushfires to share their experiences. You can contribute to the 2019-20 Bushfire History Project.


In accordance with the Federal Government’s health advice regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Commission has adjusted its operations using digital, rather than in-person engagement.

Details about the Commission’s hearings will be announced on the Commission's website.

A Royal Commission hearing is very similar to court. Please check the website for hearing details.

You will be able to watch or listen to hearings through the webcast available on the Royal Commission website. You will also be able to watch previous hearings on replay through the webcast portal.

Transcripts of hearings are available on the website.


Counsellors are available during all hearings for witnesses to talk to if required.

If necessary, a witness' identity will be protected. The witness will not be shown on any webcast and their name will be suppressed and redacted from all transcripts. A non-publication direction can also be issued.


Individuals who are visually impaired can call our public information line on 1800 909 826 for assistance . We can provide an Auslan interpreter at hearings on request.

There is more information about accessibility on our website.


The Royal Commission cannot resolve individual disputes or complaints. It cannot order an insurer or person to take particular action or make a payment. However, the National Bushfire Recovery Agency may be able to provide advice on available support.

Further assistance

If you feel that you need support and counselling please consider contacting Lifeline’s dedicated 24 hour bushfire recovery support line – call 13 HELP (13 43 57). 

The National Bushfire Recovery Agency  also has information about a broad range of organisations and services which are available to support you.

Read more about the work of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency .

If you are interested in working for the Royal Commission, please visit the the Australian Public Service Jobs website.