Frequently asked questions
What is a 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.
Why is a Royal Commission different from other inquiries?
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.
How does the Royal Commission decide what it investigates?
The terms of reference set out the Royal Commission’s key areas of investigation and when the inquiry must be completed.
What is the National Natural Disaster Arrangements Royal Commission?
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.
What is a submission?
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.
When will submissions close?
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.
Can I publish my own submission on my website or elsewhere?
Yes, you are free to publish and share your own submission once you have sent it to the Royal Commission.
Will the Royal Commission be publishing the submissions it receives?
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.
Why are some submissions published anonymously?
Some people have asked that their submission not be made public or to have content removed so that they cannot be identified publicly.
Why do some submissions have words or sections blacked out?
Submissions which are made public may include redactions (words blacked out) as the Royal Commission considers appropriate.
Why did the Royal Commission hold 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.
Will there be any more community forums?
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.
I wasn’t able to attend a community forum – can I still contact the Commission?
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.
What happens at a hearing?
A Royal Commission hearing is very similar to court. Please check the website for hearing details.
How can I get access to the Royal Commission?
What support is available to witnesses?
Counsellors are available during all hearings for witnesses to talk to if required.
What degree of anonymity do witnesses have?
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.
Has the Royal Commission made provision for someone who is visually impaired or hearing impaired?
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.
What do I do if I have a complaint about a disaster related issue that needs attention now, can I take this to the Royal Commission?
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.
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.