List of recommendations
Recommendation 3.1 Forum for ministers
Australian, state and territory governments should restructure and reinvigorate ministerial forums with a view to enabling timely and informed strategic decision‑making in respect of:
- long-term policy improvement in relation to natural disasters
- national preparations for, and adaptation to, natural disasters, and
- response to, and recovery from, natural disasters of national scale or consequence
including, where appropriate, through the National Cabinet or equivalent intergovernmental leaders’ body.
Recommendation 3.2 Establishment of an authoritative disaster advisory body
Australian, state and territory governments should establish an authoritative advisory body to consolidate advice on strategic policy and relevant operational considerations for ministers in relation to natural disasters.
Recommendation 3.3 Revise COMDISPLAN
The Australian Government should revise the COMDISPLAN thresholds to provide that a request for Australian Government assistance, including Defence assistance, is able to be made by a state or territory government when:
- it has exhausted, or is ‘likely to exhaust’, all government, community and commercial resources
- it cannot mobilise its own resources (or community and commercial resources) in time, or
- the Australian Government has a capability that the state or territory does not have.
Recommendation 3.4 Integrating disaster management of the Australian Government
Australian Government agencies should work together across all phases of disaster management.
Recommendation 3.5 Establishing a standing resilience and recovery entity
The Australian Government should establish a standing entity that will enhance national natural disaster resilience and recovery, focused on long-term disaster risk reduction.
Recommendation 3.6 Enhanced national preparedness and response entity
The Australian Government should enhance national preparedness for, and response to, natural disasters, building on the responsibilities of Emergency Management Australia, to include facilitating resource sharing decisions of governments and stress testing national disaster plans.
Recommendation 4.1 National disaster risk information
Australian, state and territory governments should prioritise the implementation of harmonised data governance and national data standards.
Recommendation 4.2 Common information platforms and shared technologies
Australian, state and territory governments should create common information platforms and share technologies to enable collaboration in the production, analysis, access, and exchange of information, data and knowledge about climate and disaster risks.
Recommendation 4.3 Implementation of the National Disaster Risk Information Services Capability
Australian, state and territory governments should support the implementation of the National Disaster Risk Information Services Capability and aligned climate adaptation initiatives.
Recommendation 4.4 Features of the National Disaster Risk Information Services Capability
The National Disaster Risk Information Services Capability should include tools and systems to support operational and strategic decision making, including integrated climate and disaster risk scenarios tailored to various needs of relevant industry sectors and end users.
Recommendation 4.5 National climate projections
Australian, state and territory governments should produce downscaled climate projections:
- to inform the assessment of future natural disaster risk by relevant decision makers, including state and territory government agencies with planning and emergency management responsibilities
- underpinned by an agreed common core set of climate trajectories and timelines, and
- subject to regular review.
Recommendation 4.6 Consistent impact data standards
Australian, state and territory governments should work together to develop consistent data standards to measure disaster impact.
Recommendation 4.7 Collection and sharing of impact data
Australian, state and territory governments should continue to develop a greater capacity to collect and share standardised and comprehensive natural disaster impact data.
Recommendation 5.1 Make provision for a declaration of a state of emergency
The Australian Government should make provision, in legislation, for a declaration of a state of national emergency. The declaration should include the following components:
- the ability for the Australian Government to make a public declaration to communicate the seriousness of a natural disaster
- processes to mobilise and activate Australian Government agencies quickly to support states and territories to respond to and recover from a natural disaster, and
- the power to take action without a state or territory request for assistance in clearly defined and limited circumstances.
Recommendation 6.1 Assessment of the capacity and capability of fire and emergency services in light of current and future natural disaster risk
State and territory governments should have a structured process to regularly assess the capacity and capability requirements of fire and emergency services, in light of both current and future natural disaster risk.
Recommendation 6.2 A national register of fire and emergency services personnel and equipment
Australian, state and territory governments should establish a national register of fire and emergency services personnel, equipment and aerial assets.
Recommendation 6.3 Interoperable communications for fire and emergency services across jurisdictions
State and territory governments should update and implement the National Framework to Improve Government Radio Communications Interoperability, or otherwise agree a new strategy, to achieve interoperable communications across jurisdictions.
Recommendation 6.4 Delivery of a Public Safety Mobile Broadband capability
Australian, state and territory governments should expedite the delivery of a Public Safety Mobile Broadband capability.
Recommendation 6.5 Multi-agency national-level exercises
Australian, state and territory governments should conduct multi-agency, national-level exercises, not limited to cross-border jurisdictions. These exercises should, at a minimum:
- assess national capacity, inform capability development and coordination in response to, and recovery from, natural disasters, and
- use scenarios that stress current capabilities.
Recommendation 6.6 Employment protections for fire and emergency services volunteers
The Australian Government should consider whether employment protections under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) are sufficient to ensure that fire and emergency services volunteers will not be discriminated against, disadvantaged or dismissed for reasons associated with their volunteer service during natural disasters.
Recommendation 7.1 Improve understanding of Australian Defence Force capabilities
State and territory governments should take steps to ensure that there is better interaction, planning and ongoing understanding of Australian Defence Force capabilities and processes by state and territory fire and emergency service agencies and local governments.
Recommendation 7.2 Review of Defence Assistance to the Civil Community
The Australian Government should review the content of the Defence Assistance to the Civil Community manual to ensure consistency of language and application with a revised COMDISPLAN.
Recommendation 7.3 Legal protections for Australian Defence Force members
The Australian Government should afford appropriate legal protections from civil and criminal liability to Australian Defence Force members when conducting activities under an authorisation to prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters.
Recommendation 8.1 A sovereign aerial firefighting capability
Australian, state and territory governments should develop an Australian-based and registered national aerial firefighting capability, to be tasked according to greatest national need. This capability should include:
- a modest, very large air tanker/large air tanker, and Type-1 helicopter capability, including supporting infrastructure, aircrew and aviation support personnel, and
- any other aerial firefighting capabilities (eg Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), line-scanning, transport, and logistics) that would benefit from a nationally coordinated approach.
Recommendation 8.2 Research and evaluation into aerial firefighting
Australian, state and territory governments should support ongoing research and evaluation into aerial firefighting. This research and evaluation should include:
- assessing the specific capability needs of states and territories, and
- exploring the most effective aerial firefighting strategies.
Recommendation 8.3 Developing the aerial firefighting industry’s capability
Australian, state and territory governments should adopt procurement and contracting strategies that support and develop a broader Australian-based sovereign aerial firefighting industry.
Recommendation 9.1 Supply chains – government review
Australian, state and territory governments, in consultation with local governments and the private sector, should review supply chain risks, and consider options to ensure supply of essential goods in times of natural disasters.
Recommendation 9.2 Comprehensive information
State and territory governments should include road closure and opening information on all roads within their borders on public apps.
Recommendation 9.3 Provision of information
State and territory governments should provide information to the public on the closure and opening of roads. Information should be provided in real-time, or in advance based on predictions, where possible.
Recommendation 9.4 Collective awareness and mitigation of risks to critical infrastructure
The Australian Government, working with state and territory governments and critical infrastructure operators, should lead a process to:
- identify critical infrastructure
- assess key risks to identified critical infrastructure from natural disasters of national scale or consequence
- identify steps needed to mitigate these risks
- identify steps to make the critical infrastructure more resilient, and
- track achievement against an agreed plan.
Recommendation 9.5 Improving coordination arrangements between critical infrastructure sectors and with government
The Australian Government should work with state and territory governments and critical infrastructure operators to improve information flows during and in response to natural disasters:
- between critical infrastructure operators, and
- between critical infrastructure operators and government.
Recommendation 10.1 Disaster education for individuals and communities
State and territory governments should continue to deliver, evaluate and improve education and engagement programs aimed at promoting disaster resilience for individuals and communities.
Recommendation 11.1 Responsibility for local government disaster management capability and capacity
State and territory governments should take responsibility for the capability and capacity of local governments to which they have delegated their responsibilities in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from natural disasters, to ensure local governments are able to effectively discharge the responsibilities devolved to them.
Recommendation 11.2 Resource sharing arrangements between local governments
State and territory governments should review their arrangements for sharing resources between their local governments during natural disasters, including whether those arrangements:
- provide sufficient surge capacity, and
- take into account all the risks that the state or territory may face during a natural disaster.
Recommendation 12.1 Roadside vegetation management
State and territory governments, working with local governments and fire and emergency service agencies, should ensure that there are appropriate arrangements for roadside vegetation management that take into account, among other things:
- priority access and egress routes
- road priority, utility and strategic value
- cost, and
- residual risk to national natural disasters.
Recommendation 12.2 Evacuation planning – Evacuation routes and seasonal populations
State and territory governments should ensure that those responsible for evacuation planning periodically review those plans, and update them where appropriate, including in relation to:
- roles and responsibilities of state and territory governments, local governments and local communities
- education and signage about evacuations and evacuation routes, including education of seasonal populations
- the adequacy of evacuation routes; including contingencies if evacuation routes or centres are assessed as not being able to cope, and
- the potential inability to evacuate, either by reason of circumstances or personal characteristics.
Recommendation 12.3 Evacuation planning – Essential services and supplies
State and territory governments should ensure that those responsible for evacuation planning periodically review those plans, and update them where appropriate, including in relation to:
- key risks that essential service outages have on communities during a severe or catastrophic natural disaster (particularly communications and power)
- availability of essential supplies, including food and water, and
- consequence management and compounding events such as the loss of essential services or health impacts.
Recommendation 12.4 Sheltering terminology should be made nationally consistent
State and territory governments should, as a priority, adopt nationally consistent terminology and functions for the different sheltering facilities, including evacuation centres, Neighbourhood Safer Places, places of last resort and natural disaster shelters.
Recommendation 12.5 National community education
State and territory governments should provide further community education on the function and limitations of different sheltering facilities, including evacuation centres, Neighbourhood Safer Places, places of last resort and natural disaster shelters. This education should be nationally consistent.
Recommendation 12.6 Evacuation planning – Evacuation centres
State and territory governments should ensure those responsible for evacuation planning periodically review these plans, and update them where appropriate, to account for the existence and standard of any evacuation centres and safer places (however described) in the community, including:
- the capacity of a centre to handle seasonal population variation
- the suitability of facilities to cater for diverse groups, including vulnerable people, and those evacuating with animals, and
- the existence of communications facilities and alternate power sources.
Recommendation 12.7 Evacuation planning – Planning for evacuations across boundaries
State and territory governments should ensure those responsible for evacuation planning periodically review those plans, and update where appropriate, to provide for coordination between states and territories in cross-border areas and to provide cross-border access to evacuation centres.
Recommendation 13.1 Development and implementation of the Australian Fire Danger Rating System
State and territory governments should expedite the development and implementation of the Australian Fire Danger Rating System. It should ensure that there is national consistency in the visual display of the AFDRS and action to be taken in response to each rating.
Recommendation 13.2 Education on the Australian Fire Danger Rating System
State and territory governments should deliver education to ensure that the public understands the new Australian Fire Danger Rating System ratings, the potential danger attached to each rating, and the action that should be taken in response to each rating.
Recommendation 13.3 The Australian Warning System
State and territory governments should urgently deliver and implement the all‑hazard Australian Warning System.
Recommendation 13.4 An education campaign on the Australian Warning System
State and territory governments should ensure that the implementation of the Australian Warning System is accompanied by a carefully developed national education campaign that considers the needs of all Australians.
Recommendation 13.5 The development of national standards for mobile applications
The Australian Government should facilitate state and territory governments working together to develop minimum national standards of information to be included in bushfire warnings apps.
Recommendation 13.6 Exploring the development of a national, all-hazard warning app
Australian, state and territory governments should continue to explore the feasibility of a national, all-hazard emergency warning app.
Recommendation 14.1 Nationally consistent air quality information, health advice and interventions
Australian, state and territory governments should:
- develop close to real-time, nationally consistent air quality information, including consistent categorisation and public health advice
- greater community education and guidance, and
- targeted health advice to vulnerable groups.
Recommendation 14.2 National Air Quality Forecasting Capability
Australian, state and territory governments should develop national air quality forecasting capabilities, which include broad coverage of population centres and apply to smoke and other airborne pollutants, such as dust and pollen, to predict plume behaviour.
Recommendation 15.1 Australian Medical Assistance Teams
Australian, state and territory governments should review Australian Medical Assistance Team capabilities and procedures and develop necessary training, exercising and other arrangements to build capacity for domestic deployments.
Recommendation 15.2 Inclusion of primary care in disaster management
Australian, state and territory governments should develop arrangements that facilitate greater inclusion of primary healthcare providers in disaster management, including: representation on relevant disaster committees and plans and providing training, education and other supports.
Recommendation 15.3 Prioritising mental health during and after natural disasters
Australian, state and territory governments should refine arrangements to support localised planning and the delivery of appropriate mental health services following a natural disaster.
Recommendation 15.4 Enhance health and mental health datasets
Australian, state and territory governments should agree to:
- develop consistent and compatible methods and metrics to measure health impacts related to natural disasters, including mental health, and
- take steps to ensure the appropriate sharing of health and mental health datasets.
Recommendation 16.1 Environmental data
Australian, state and territory governments should ensure greater consistency and collaboration in the collation, storage, access and provision of data on the distribution and conservation status of Australian flora and fauna.
Recommendation 17.1 Public availability of fuel load management strategies
Public land managers should clearly convey and make available to the public their fuel load management strategies, including the rationale behind them, as well as report annually on the implementation and outcomes of those strategies.
Recommendation 17.2 Assessment and approval processes for vegetation management, bushfire mitigation and hazard reduction
Australian, state and territory governments should review the assessment and approval processes relating to vegetation management, bushfire mitigation and hazard reduction to:
- ensure that there is clarity about the requirements and scope for landholders and land managers to undertake bushfire hazard reduction activities, and
- minimise the time taken to undertake assessments and obtain approvals.
Recommendation 17.3 Classification, recording and sharing of fuel load data
Australian, state and territory governments should develop consistent processes for the classification, recording and sharing of fuel load data.
Recommendation 18.1 Indigenous land and fire management and natural disaster resilience
Australian, state, territory and local governments should engage further with Traditional Owners to explore the relationship between Indigenous land and fire management and natural disaster resilience.
Recommendation 18.2 Indigenous land and fire management and public land management
Australian, state, territory and local governments should explore further opportunities to leverage Indigenous land and fire management insights, in the development, planning and execution of public land management activities.
Recommendation 19.1 Communication of natural hazard risk information to individuals
State and territory governments should:
- each have a process or mechanism in place to communicate natural hazard risk information to households (including prospective purchasers) in ‘hazard prone’ areas, and
- work together, and with the Australian Government where appropriate, to explore the development of a national mechanism to do the same.
Recommendation 19.2 Guidance for insurer-recognised retrofitting and mitigation
The insurance industry, as represented by the Insurance Council of Australia, working with state and territory governments and other relevant stakeholders, should produce and communicate to consumers clear guidance on individual-level natural hazard risk mitigation actions insurers will recognise in setting insurance premiums.
Recommendation 19.3 Mandatory consideration of natural disaster risk in land-use planning decisions
State, territory and local governments should be required to consider present and future natural disaster risk when making land-use planning decisions for new developments.
Recommendation 19.4 National Construction Code
The Australian Building Codes Board, working with other bodies as appropriate, should:
- assess the extent to which AS 3959:2018 Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas, and other relevant building standards, are effective in reducing risk from natural hazards to lives and property, and
- conduct an evaluation as to whether the National Construction Code should be amended to specifically include, as an objective of the code, making buildings more resilient to natural hazards.
Recommendation 20.1 Debris clean-up arrangements
Governments should create and publish standing policy guidance on whether they will or will not assist to clean-up debris, including contaminated debris, resulting from natural hazards.
Recommendation 21.1 Arrangements for donated goods
State and territory governments should develop and implement efficient and effective arrangements to:
- educate the public about the challenges associated with donated goods, for example, the storage and distribution of donated goods, and
- manage and coordinate donated goods to ensure offers of support are matched with need.
Recommendation 21.2 Reform fundraising laws
Australian, state and territory governments should create a single national scheme for the regulation of charitable fundraising.
Recommendation 21.3 National coordination forums
The Australian Government, through the mechanism of the proposed standing national recovery and resilience agency, should convene regular and ongoing national forums for charities, non‑government organisations and volunteer groups, with a role in natural disaster recovery, with a view to continuous improvement of coordination of recovery support.
Recommendation 21.4 National recovery resource sharing arrangements
Australian, state and territory governments should establish a national mechanism for sharing of trained and qualified recovery personnel and best practice during and following natural disasters.
Recommendation 21.5 National level recovery exercises
Australian, state and territory governments should work together to develop a program for national level recovery exercises, building on the work currently underway through the Community Outcomes and Recovery Subcommittee of the Australia-New Zealand Emergency Management Committee.
Recommendation 22.1 Evaluation of financial assistance measures to support recovery
Australian, state and territory and local governments should evaluate the effectiveness of existing financial assistance measures to inform the development of a suite of pre‑effective pre‑determined recovery supports.
Recommendation 22.2 Appropriate sharing of personal information
Australian, state and territory governments should ensure that personal information of individuals affected by a natural disaster is able to be appropriately shared between all levels of government, agencies, insurers, charities and organisations delivering recovery services, taking account of all necessary safeguards to ensure the sharing is only for recovery purposes.
Recommendation 22.3 Review the thresholds and activation process for the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements
In reviewing the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, Australian, state and territory governments should examine the small disaster criterion, and financial thresholds generally.
Recommendation 22.4 Nationally consistent Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements assistance measures
Australian, state and territory and local governments should develop greater consistency in the financial support provided to individuals, small businesses and primary producers under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.
Recommendation 22.5 Develop nationally consistent, pre‑agreed recovery programs
Australian, state and territory governments should expedite the development of pre‑agreed recovery programs, including those that address social needs, such as legal assistance domestic violence, and also environmental recovery.
Recommendation 22.6 Better incorporate ‘build back better’ within the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements
Australian, state and territory governments should incorporate the principle of ‘build back better’ more broadly into the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.
Recommendation 22.7 Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements recovery measures to facilitate resilience
Australian, state and territory governments should broaden Category D of the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements to encompass funding for recovery measures that are focused on resilience, including in circumstances which are not ‘exceptional’.
Recommendation 22.8 Streamline the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements processes
Australian, state and territory governments should create simpler Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements application processes.
Recommendation 24.1 Accountability and assurance mechanisms at the Australian Government level
The Australian Government should establish accountability and assurance mechanisms to promote continuous improvement and best practice in natural disaster arrangements.
Recommendation 24.2 An independent accountability and assurance mechanism for each state and territory
Each state and territory government should establish an independent accountability and assurance mechanism to promote continuous improvement and best practice in natural disaster arrangements.
Recommendation 24.3 A public record of national significance
The material published as part of this Royal Commission should remain available and accessible on a long-term basis for the benefit of individuals, communities, organisations, businesses and all levels of government.
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