Rebekha welcomes Bushfire Royal Commission recommendations

2 Nov 2020

Calls for a streamlined recovery process, more support for farm firefighting units, and the development of an Australian-based aerial firefighting industry are among the bushfire Royal Commission recommendations welcomed on Friday by the Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie.

The Centre Alliance MP, whose electorate was ravaged by the Black Summer fires in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island, also welcomed recommendations to incorporate resilience with disaster recovery measures, better information sharing among essential services and improved community education about assessing risk, insurance and emergency alerts.

“Tragically, three people lost their lives in the bushfires in my community. Hundreds of homes and outbuildings were destroyed, and the fires caused more than $160 million worth of damage to the local economies,” Rebekha said.

“We need to learn the lessons from these fires because we know that climate change will only make these terrible incidents more frequent and more intense, a point stressed in today’s report by the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.

“It is a comprehensive document and will take some time to digest but I note that community feedback reflected in the report echoes much of the feedback from bushfire-affected communities in my electorate.

“I pleased to see the recommendations for significant investment in firefighting capability including an Australian-based sovereign aerial firefighting industry.

“In the aftermath of the fires I wrote to the Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud to request more funding for Australian-based aircraft due to the extended fire danger season and more investment in volunteer firefighting equipment.

“This report just reinforces the importance of making sure we have the right resources at the right time.

“I also welcome the recommendation for streamlined recovery assistance package that involves all levels of government and non-government agencies and that can be rolled out for different disasters.

“The Report highlighted the trauma experienced by individuals needing to tell their story multiple times to different agencies involved in the recovery effort.

“I know our constituents found navigating the complex system of recovery support to be a challenge and the findings highlights that personal information needs to be shared more effectively.”

“Engagement fatigue, documentary requirements and eligibility assumptions were all barriers to people seeking help and so many didn’t seek the help they needed until many weeks later.”

The report also highlighted the significant contribution made by farm fire fighting units despite issues with communication and co-ordination with emergency services and the need for better integration and training.

“Personally, I think farm firefighting units need more than the offer of training. I raised this point with Federal Government, and I believe we need to do more than just offer the Primary Producer Grant to replace damaged tanks and equipment.

“It shouldn’t just be the responsibility of the states to come up with programs to fund farm firefighting units.

“I know in my community it has been the farm firefighting units who have been the first-responders in their locality, saving many homes and outbuildings.”

The report also recommended a Public Safety Mobile Broadband capability for emergency services, a national approach to communicating bushfire risk and other initiatives to improve telecommunications.

“The report did note that the Government had allocated $37 million towards enhancing telecommunication resilience and energy and telecommunication providers were developing guidelines to make their assets more resilient and to improve information sharing, and that is welcome,” Rebekha said.

“However, I would like to see more funding support for the ABC which, in many instances, was the primary source of emergency information sharing in some fire-affected communities.

“I also think we need to improve information sharing between emergency operation centres and energy and telecommunication providers so we can get temporary telecommunications solutions into fire-affected areas quickly and safely."

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