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Civil Protection in Australia report
  • Neil Dufty
Australia has had a long history of disasters related to natural hazards, with events such as the Tasmanian bushfires of 1967, Cyclone Tracy in 1974, the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983, Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 and the Queensland floods in 2011, causing widespread destruction and deaths. The frequency and scale of natural hazards when compared to the population is a significant issue as it means disasters are a part of the Australian psyche. “Man-made” hazards and events (e.g. Granville train disaster, 1977; Longford gas explosion in Victoria in 1998) have become more prevalent with increasing urbanisation.
In Australia, state and territory governments have primary responsibility for protecting life, property and the environment within their jurisdictions. The Australian Government plays an important role in partly funding the emergency capacity of the states and territories, coordinating response for emergencies that occur across jurisdictions, and partly funding disaster relief and recovery. For some hazards such as flood, tropical cyclone and tsunami, the Australian Government provides warnings to potentially impacted communities. Local government is responsible for local emergency management and decision-making and plays a key role in emergency management due to its knowledge of its own economy, infrastructure and social environment, including community needs and capabilities
All state and territory emergency agencies rely heavily on volunteers. Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) such as the Australian Red Cross play an important role in increasing preparedness and providing recovery support.
There is no overarching national disaster legislation and therefore no single legal position on emergency management arrangements in Australia. Each state and territory government has established emergency response agencies tailored to its hazard risks, as well as overarching emergency or disaster management legislation and plans in which the roles of various agencies are set out.
There is a move toward building disaster resilience in Australia particularly through the implementation of the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience. This is required due largely to the future risks associated with climate change and increasing costs of disaster recovery.
In 2016-17, Australia committed $3.61 billion (USD) to emergency management across all levels of government. The fire services attracted by far (94%) the highest level of funding.
The annual expenditure by Australian emergency agencies involves close to an equal split between infrastructure and equipment, and other costs such as salaries. There is some evidence to show that the expenditure has provided benefits such as reduced response times and lower death rates. 
However, a SWOT analysis related to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction found some gaps and possible improvements in Australia’s civil protection system. As a result, five recommendations are made:
1.    Develop a National Heatwave Emergency Plan
2.    Provide greater funding to disaster preparedness and resilience-building, as opposed to recovery
3.    Move towards shared responsibility for civil protection
4.    Increase funding to non-fire emergency agencies
5. Understand the impacts of climate change on emergency management capacity. 
  • Australia,
  • emergency management,
  • civil protection,
  • disaster,
  • flood,
  • wildfire
Publication Date
November, 2018
Citation Information
Neil Dufty. "Civil Protection in Australia report" (2018)
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