Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the tabling in Parliament of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements Report.
The impacts of the Black Summer bushfires were felt right across Australia. Lives were lost, communities were shattered, and swathes of our beautiful country were blackened beyond belief.
In many areas, the bushfire impacts continue to be exacerbated by severe weather events such as hailstorms and floods, and communities have also endured the pandemic.
Recovery from these unprecedented events will take years. We are committed to the long-term recovery of impacted communities and we have put in place a suite of initiatives to make that happen.
Of the $2.8 billion the Liberal and Nationals Government committed to recovery from the Black Summer bushfires, $2.5 billion has been delivered so far, assistance so desperately needed in the immediate aftermath as well as for the medium and longer term.
Some examples of the hundreds of projects that have been funded in partnership with states and territories include:
- Repairing and replacing damaged infrastructure in the Shoalhaven, to provide energy and telecommunication security
- Providing mobile firefighting equipment
- Supporting economic recovery with projects like the modernisation of the Tumut timber mill
- The upgrade of community facilities in 32 towns across East Gippsland, such as public halls and recreation reserve buildings
- Funding towards a collaborative package of projects that will support rural landholders recover and build back better on Kangaroo Island and across the Adelaide Hills and Mt Barker
- A project that will support the environmental recovery of Washpool Creek, including revegetation to improve water quality and the planting of up to 20,000 trees.
Further successful projects under the $280m Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants Program will be announced by the end of the year. Applications from the 110 most impacted Local Government Areas and Alpine Regions received under this program indicate that there are still significant unmet recovery needs in these communities – and the Government continues to stand side-by-side with them.
Since the 2019-20 bushfires, the Government has made critical investment commitments of more than $1 billion to bolster national capabilities and preparedness, and is working with states and territory governments to ensure that Australians see tangible improvements to crisis response and recovery activities.
Thanks to the establishment of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency – a key recommendation of the Royal Commission – we now have Recovery Support Officers on the ground within affected communities right around the country, identifying local needs and ensuring a coordinated and holistic approach to recovery.
These officers work with, and alongside, local government, charities, community groups, industry groups and the insurance sector.
We are identifying opportunities for investment in disaster risk reduction and resilience initiatives to better prepare communities for future disasters, such as $600 million for the Preparing Australia Program to improve the long-term resilience of Australian communities.
Recognising the toll that disasters take on our brave and invaluable emergency service workers, we have committed approximately $4.5 million for the development of a national mental health network and national action plan to support them.
On a practical level the Government has implemented a number of initiatives including providing $4 million to fund the lease of a Large Air Tanker which takes our annual aerial firefighting investment to more than $30 million. Additional measures include a $2 million public education campaign to promote the Australian Warning System and $20 million to implement the Australian Fire Danger Rating System to give clear and consistent fire danger information across Australia.
We have further strengthened Emergency Management Australia, including the development of a real-time ‘common operating picture’ in the National Situation Room, to provide decision-makers with the most up-to-date information during a disaster event.
The Australian Climate Service has been established to provide detailed climate and risk information that helps the Government better protect Australian communities.
We know that we can never completely disaster-proof our country, but we can be better prepared.
We have achieved a lot and we know there’s more to do and the Government will continue to work collaboratively with States and Territories to continue to progress recommendations to ensure national resilience and future preparedness.