Former fire and emergency chiefs call on Federal Government to better serve bushfire survivors

Former fire and emergency chiefs have expressed concern for bushfire survivors and their communities after a new report outlines multiple failings in the Federal Government’s support for communities affected by the Black Summer bushfires.

Written by think tank Per Capita and commissioned by GetUp, the report: Smokescreen: The rhetoric and reality of Federal bushfire recovery funding finds that less than half of promised bushfire recovery funds have been spent, and there is little transparency over the funds.

“Bushfire survivors and their communities deserve all possible support to rebuild their homes and lives after the traumatic Black Summer bushfires, which were driven by climate change,” said Peter Dunn, former ACT Emergency Services Authority Commissioner and Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA) member.

“Communities want to adopt resilience measures such as renewables-powered microgrids, better emergency planning and emergency facilities, but they have come up against funding and bureaucratic roadblocks.

“The Federal Government’s failure to provide funding support to bushfire survivors and their communities at the speed, scale, and level of transparency they deserve, and to ensure that local and state governments are acting quickly on this, is deeply disappointing,” said Mr Dunn.

The report also underscores the government’s failure to reduce the risk of worsening extreme weather events through its climate inaction.

“The Federal Government has had months to act on expert advice to improve Australia’s bushfire response, recovery and resilience, including the Bushfire Royal Commission’s final report and ELCA’s Australian Bushfire and Climate Plan,” said Mr Dunn.

Key recommendations from the Australian Bushfire and Climate Plan include:

  • The Federal Government must address the root cause of the climate crisis and worsening bushfires through a national commitment to net zero emissions, strengthening of Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction targets, and the managed phase-out of all fossil fuels.

  • Streamline and integrate disaster recovery payment processes so that help gets to people on the ground quickly.

  • The Federal, State and Territory Governments should increase support to people and communities to build resilience, prepare, respond and recover from bushfires.

  • The Federal Government should establish a national climate compensation fund dedicated to meeting the increasing cost of climate-fuelled disasters, with fossil fuel companies paying to clean up climate damage.

“There is no time left for excuses and empty rhetoric. The Federal Government must fully implement all 80 recommendations of the Bushfire Royal Commission and transition Australia to net zero emissions by 2040,” said Mr Dunn. You can download the report here.