On 14 January 2020 the government announced an independent inquiry into the 2019-2020 Victorian fire season would be conducted by the Inspector-General for Emergency Management (IGEM).

Through this Inquiry, IGEM will examine Victoria’s preparedness for the fire season, response to fires in large parts of Victoria's North East, Gippsland, and Alpine regions, and will review relief and recovery efforts.

Clicking on the sections below will show details on the Inquiry's two phases and Terms of Reference, timing, and community participation.

Terms of reference

 

Phase 1 - Community and sector preparedness for and response to the 2019-20 summer season

Matters for consideration:

  • Effectiveness of emergency management command and control and accountability arrangements in Victoria.
  • Effectiveness of Victoria’s operational response to the 2019-20 fire season.
  • Review of the effectiveness of the declaration of a state of disaster under the Emergency Management Act 1986 – including the appropriateness of supporting legislative and administrative processes, communication, and community compliance.
  • State evacuation planning and preparedness processes/practices and their effectiveness with an emphasis on remote/isolated communities and Victorian peak holiday season locations.
  • The timeliness and effectiveness of activation of Commonwealth assistance, and Commonwealth resource availability
  • Preparedness ahead of the 2019-20 fire season; including the effectiveness of regional emergency management work undertaken to inform and educate the community about the coming season, community engagement, impact of lengthening fire seasons, and any relevant legislation, policy and practice. 
  • Consider all challenges and implications for bushfire preparedness arising from increasingly longer and more severe bushfire seasons as a result of climate change. 
  • In the context of bushfire preparedness, assess the readiness and responsibilities of statutory agencies, Local Government and State Government bodies. 
  • Review of all opportunities and approaches to bushfire preparedness, including different methods of fuel and land management (for example ‘cool burning’, mechanical slashing, integrated forest management, traditional fire approaches) to protect life and property as well as ecological and cultural values.
  • Consideration of the effectiveness of Victoria’s Code Red day arrangements and their application in practice.
  • In considering effectiveness of Victoria’s operational response to the 2019-20 fire season, IGEM should particularly consider:
    • effectiveness of the State’s response priorities, including primacy of life
    • effectiveness of public information and warning systems, including cross-border coordination and communication
    • impact of increasingly longer fire seasons on the ability to prepare, deploy and sustain efforts directed towards emergency events in Victoria
    • impact of providing Victorian responder officers to other Australian jurisdictions to assist with emergency events (as early as September 2019 this summer season)
    • availability and utilisation of private assets and resources (including plant equipment) to support emergency preparedness and response
    • planning and response mechanisms to protect biodiversity threatened by bushfire
    • effectiveness of the existing workforce model to support response, relief and recovery.
  • Review support available to staff and volunteers in terms of mental health and wellbeing.
  • Consideration of the adequacy of existing administrative and funding mechanisms in place at a state level to support the operational response efforts.
  • In considering the timeliness and effectiveness of activation of Commonwealth assistance, and Commonwealth resource availability, IGEM should particularly consider:
    • effectiveness of current national resource sharing arrangements when multiple and simultaneous fire events are occurring
    • effectiveness of existing governance arrangements supporting access to Commonwealth and State air fleets
    • use and integration of Australian Defence Force assets into Victoria’s emergency response and relief operations.
 

Phase 2 – Progress and effectiveness of Victoria’s immediate relief, and recovery arrangements concerning the 2019-20 fire season

Matters for consideration:

  • Effectiveness of immediate relief and recovery work and arrangements, including at the regional and incident levels.
  • Creation of Bushfire Recovery Victoria, the National Bushfire Recovery Agency and how these entities will work together for the benefit of affected Victorian communities, including consideration of long term efforts directed at social, economic (including small business, tourism and agricultural sectors) and environmental recovery.
  • Effectiveness of how roles and responsibilities for recovery have been divided between Emergency Management Victoria and Bushfire Recovery Victoria.

 Timing of the Inquiry

 

Timing of Phase 1 and Phase 2

Phase 1

The Inquiry concluded its information collection focusing on preparedness for and response to the 2019-20 fire season (Phase 1) at the end of April 2020.

The Inspector-General will provide government with his first Inquiry report into Victoria’s preparedness for and response to the 2019-20 fire season by 31 July 2020. This will allow appropriate time for government consideration of the report before the next fire season.

 

Phase 1

As the Inquiry moves to Phase 2, focusing on relief and recovery, submissions remain open and can continue to be provided by email, online, and mail through to April 2021.

The Inspector-General will provide their second Inquiry Report into the effectiveness of progress with relief and recovery arrangements to government by 30 June 2021.

The government will work with IGEM to allow timings of the inquiry to be adjusted to ensure its engagement with emergency management agencies will not impact current response efforts.

 Community participation - sharing your views

To ensure the Inquiry considers the views and experiences of the Victorian community before, during and after the fires, the Inspector-General will offer communities opportunities contribute.

Currently views and experiences can be provided through submissions under Phase 2 of the Inquiry, through to April 2021. Submissions relating to phase 1 of the inquiry can continue to be provided, however these will inform an addendum to the Phase 2 report.

As further opportunities for community participation under Phase 2 are confirmed, we will publish details  on this website, and promote through our Twitter (External link) our Facebook (External link) accounts, and local media outlets.

 

Submissions

To make sure the Inquiry considers the views and experiences of the community before, during and after the fires, the Inspector-General invites individuals and organisations to make submissions addressing the Terms of Reference.

The Inquiry is being conducted over two phases:

  • The Inquiry concluded its information collection focusing on Victoria’s preparedness for and response to the 2019-20 fire season (Phase 1 of the Inquiry) on 30 April, to allow their consideration in the first report.
     
  • The second report will focus on relief and recovery, and submissions on these topics will be considered until April 2021.
     
  • Submissions relating to Phase 1 of the inquiry can continue to be provided, however these will inform an addendum to the Phase 2 report.

 

We understand that views and experiences may change over time, particularly as communities recover from the impacts of last summer’s fires. For this reason individuals and organisations are welcome to make more than one submission throughout the Inquiry.

The more views and experiences the Inspector-General hears, the more informed he will be to make recommendations that - if implemented - will bring better outcomes for Victorians. 

Making a submission

Individuals and organisations are invited to provide submissions, addressing the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, through:

          Inspector-General for Emergency Management
          GPO Box 4356
          Melbourne VIC 3000

Online submissions can be provided in Arabic, Chinese (simplified), Filipino, Italian, Persian, and Vietnamese, in addition to English.

How we treat submissions

  • Your submission will become property of the Inspector-General for Emergency Management
  • The Inspector-General for Emergency Management may publish, quote or summarise information provided by you in the Inquiry reports
  • None of our reports include any identifying information
  • The Inquiry reports will be provided to the Victorian Government
  • With your permission, submissions may be published on the website igem.vic.gov.au
  • Your submission may be requested by the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements (External link)
  • Let us know if your submission is to remain anonymous and/or confidential
  • Personal details and sensitive information will be removed from published submissions unless you ask for your name to be published
  • You do not need to provide any identifying information unless you want to
 

Survey

The Inquiry's survey closed on 30 April 2020 so the information provided can be considered under for the Inquiry's Phase 1 report.

What did the survey ask?

IGEM used the survey to find out about views on:

  • individual and family emergency plans
  • community emergency plans
  • fuel and land management in the community
  • campaigns and messages
  • information and warnings (including evacuations and the State of Disaster in Victoria)
  • Victoria’s immediate response to the fires

 

 

Community meetings 

The Inquiry has concluded its information collection focusing on Victoria’s preparedness for and response to the 2019-20 fire season (Phase 1)

As opportunities for community participation under the Inquiry’s Phase 2 are confirmed, IGEM will publish details on this website, and promote through its Twitter (External link) and Facebook (External link) accounts, and local media outlets.

About our Phase 1 community meetings

When were the meetings held?

IGEM held nine meetings focusing on communities from specific Victorian areas: 

  • Monday 6 April 3-5pm - north/central west and south west Victoria
  • Tuesday 7 April 6-8pm - north East Gippsland
  • Wednesday 8 April 6-8pm - far East Gippsland
  • Thursday 9 April 6-8pm - south East Gippsland
  • Tuesday 14 April 6-8pm - north east Victoria
  • Wednesday 15 April 3-5pm - Eastern Metro and Mornington Peninsula
  • Thursday 16 April 3-5pm - All areas of Victoria
  • Thursday 16 April 6-8pm - Alpine
  • Friday 17 April 3-5pm - Geelong and Bellarine

Why does the Inspector-General want to hear your views and experiences?

The Inspector-General for Emergency Management (IGEM) is conducting the independent inquiry into the 2019-20 Victorian Fire Season (the Inquiry).

To ensure the Inquiry considers the views and experiences of the Victorian community before, during and after the fires, the Inspector-General will offer communities several ways to contribute.

The Inquiry has concluded its information collection focusing on Victoria’s preparedness for and response to the 2019-20 fire season (Phase 1)

As the Inquiry moves to Phase 2 focusing on relief and recovery, submissions will remain open and can continue to be provided by submission online (External link), via email (External link) or mail.

What was the purpose of the online meetings?

Online meetings provided an opportunity for individuals from across Victoria to discuss their views and experiences with bushfire preparedness, response and recovery.

The information gathered during the meetings will contribute to the community views in relation to the Terms of Reference.

Meetings will also help the Inspector-General to identify issues for further consideration relating to community preparedness; and the performance of emergency services, government agencies and other organisations involved in bushfire preparedness and response.

Who could join the online meetings?

The Inspector-General particularly wanted to hear from communities directly affected by the 2019-20 bushfires, however all interested community members could join the meetings.

Joining a meeting was also an opportunity for any Victorians wanting to share their views or experiences on broader community and emergency management sector preparedness for the 2019-20 fire season.

Media, council staff, government agency, or police and emergency service representatives also joined or listened to these meetings.

For anyone not yet ready to share their experiences, there will be opportunities to do so later in the Inquiry, including further face to face meetings when it is safe to do so.

How were the meetings run? ​​​​​​

We used a cloud-based product called Zoom (External link) that allows people to join a meeting over the internet with their mobile phone, landline or computer.

Why did the meetings focus around locations?

The meetings focused on a range of communities across Victoria.

Each location would provide the Inspector-General with an opportunity to hear a broad range of community experiences of bushfire preparedness and response activities across Victoria.

Some meetings allowed us to specifically hear the views and experiences of many of those affected by the 2019-20 Victorian bushfires.

The locations chosen were intended to provide people the opportunity to join as a community, however anyone was welcome to join a meeting.

What was the format of the online meetings?

Each meeting ran for approximately two hours.

The facilitators set the scene, then Inspector-General Tony Pearce briefly explained the scope of the Inquiry.

The facilitators then helped each attendee to share their thoughts, views and experiences over the course of the meeting.

Do people share their identity at a meeting?

Only by choice, however 'a name' was needed to register for the meeting.

Our facilitators asked each person joining to state their first name when they came to microphone to tell their story/give reflections. 

Some people also chose to activate their smartphone, tablet or computer camera.

Will my details be retained by IGEM or the meeting host?

No. your details are not stored.

We do not collect any personal information; and the IP addresses are not logged or kept (under Victoria’s Information privacy and data laws). 

How can I share my views if I couldn't join a meeting?

The Inquiry has concluded its information collection focusing on Victoria’s preparedness for and response to the 2019-20 fire season (Phase 1)

As the Inquiry moves to Phase 2 focusing on relief and recovery, submissions will remain open and can continue to be provided by submission online (External link), via email (External link) or mail.

 

 

No events are currently scheduled.