Funding follows recommendations of the 2019/2020 bushfire inquiry
University of Wollongong (UOW) Associate Professor Owen Price will head up the new Wollongong node of the Bushfire and Natural Hazard Research Centre, established to better understand and predict the risk of fire and other natural hazards. The team also includes Professor Clare Murphy (Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry) and Associate Professor Nicholas Gill (School of Geography and Sustainable Communities).
One of the recommendations of the enquiry into the Black Summer (2019/2020) bushfires that ravaged New South Wales and Victoria was to establish a major world centre for bushfire research to both better understand wildfires and to develop technologies and services to better predict, fight and clean up after bushfires.
First, the NSW Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub was established through support of the NSW State Government. The Hub published 19 scientific reports for the NSW inquiry analysing the causes and impacts of the 2019/20 bushfires, for which it received the Eureka Prize.
Now, building on the success of the Hub, the State’s first permanent Bushfire and Natural Hazard Research Centre has been established to coordinate research efforts and share world-first insights.
UOW is one of the three core universities in the team, along with the University of Western Sydney and the University of NSW. The UOW branch will lead research into bushfire suppression, preparation, prescribed burning and the effects of smoke exposure.
Associate Professor Price (above) explained that the new centre will address key knowledge gaps in community and emergency service preparedness as well as prediction, detection and response to bushfires.
“The centre will look at optimum fire practices for biodiversity, property protection, cultural land management and recovery from disasters. UOW expertise from leading research on prescribed burning will expand into knowledge on fire suppression methods, including backburning and supporting Indigenous cultural burning practices with data-based evidence.
“We will also investigate the community response to bushfire risk and gaps between householder’s knowledge and action,” Associate Professor Price said.
Professor David Currow, UOW’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Sustainable Futures), said, “UOW researchers are well-placed to draw together knowledge across the breadth of research areas that we specialise in – from health and environmental sciences to sustainable building practices.”
The Research Centre is funded through the $44.3 million Natural Hazards Research and Technology Program, which brings together Australian federal and state governments, fire, emergency services and disaster agencies, with energy and infrastructure bodies to address the major challenges arising from natural hazards, including bushfires, floods, cyclones, heatwaves, storms and other hazards.