Agency VA 4864
2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission
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Date Range: 2009 - 2010
 
Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency
Establishment and Functions

The Letters Patent setting out the terms of reference of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and appointing the Hon. Bernard Teague AO (Chairperson) and supported by Commissioners Ron McLeod AM and Susan Pascoe AM were issued by His Excellency's Command, Professor David De Kretser and the Premier of Victoria, John Brumby on the 16 February 2009, to investigate the causes of, preparation for, and responses to the Victorian Bushfires, which swept through parts of Victoria in late January and February 2009 and the impact of the fires on infrastructure.

The Commission was established for the purposes of inquiring into, and reporting on the following matters:

1. The causes and circumstances of the bushfires which burned in various parts of Victoria in late January and in February 2009 (2009 Bushfires)

2. The preparation and planning by governments, emergency services, other entities, the community and households for bushfires in Victoria, including current laws, policies and practices, resources and strategies for the prevention, identification, evaluation, management and communication of bushfire threats and risks.

3. All aspects of the response to the 2009 Bushfires, particularly measures taken to control the spread of the fires and measures taken to protect life and private and public property, including but not limited to:
(a) immediate management, response and recovery
; (b) resourcing, overall coordination and deployment; and
(c) equipment and communication systems.

4. The measures taken to prevent or minimise disruption to the supply of essential services such as power and water during the 2009 Bushfires.

5. Any other matters that you deem appropriate in relation to the 2009 Bushfires.

The Commission was further directed to make recommendations arising out of the inquiry as considered appropriate, including recommendations for governments, emergency services, other entities and the community on:

6. The preparation and planning for future bushfire threats and risks, particularly the prevention of loss of life.

7. Land use planning and management, including urban and regional planning.

8. The fireproofing of housing and other buildings, including the materials used in construction.

9. The emergency response to bushfires.

10. Public communication and community advice systems and strategies.

11. Training and infrastructure, and overall resourcing needs.

Reports

The terms of reference required the Commission to deliver an Interim Report by 17 August 2009. The report, released on 17 August, focussed on immediate actions that could be taken before the 2009-2010 fire season. The report represented the completion of six months work, including community consultations, examination of submissions, and public hearings. It contained 51 recommendations.

Following publication of the interim report, matters arose in relation to building regulations that the Commission considered warranted action before the release of its final report. As a result, Interim Report 2, Priorities for Building in Bushfire Prone Areas, was released on 24 November 2009. In this second interim report the Commission made seven recommendations regarding the need for a national standard for bushfire bunkers and urgent changes to building standards in bushfire-prone areas.

This final report was delivered on 31 July 2010 and consisted of four volumes and a summary:

- Volume I, The Fires and the Fire-related Deaths, describes the progress of the fires that burned in Victoria in January and February 2009 and summarises the results of the Commission's inquiries into the 173 associated deaths.

- Volume II, Fire Preparation, Response and Recovery, presents the Commission's conclusions and recommendations in connection with fire preparation, response and recovery.

- Volume III, Establishment and Operation of the Commission-describes how the Commission went about its work.

- Volume IV, The Statements of Lay Witnesses, presents the statements and associated materials of the 100 lay witnesses who shared with the Commission their experiences of the fires.

Winding Up

Staff numbers were gradually reduced once the hearings ended in late May 2010 in the lead up to the Commission's end. The report production team remained during July to manage the production process - editing, layout, proofing and printing.

A small team remained to complete the wind-down, which involved settlement of all financial matters, archiving, cleansing of IT equipment, and the handover of the Commission's accommodation to the Department of Justice. The Commission officially wound up on 31 July 2010.
 
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Date Range Series Title Series Number Series Location Public Access
2009 - 2010 Interim Report and Final Report VPRS 16295 North Melbourne Open
2009 - 2010 Case Management System - Main Collection VPRS 16490 North Melbourne Closed
2009 - 2010 Administrative and Investigative Records VPRS 16494 North Melbourne Closed
2009 - 2010 Exhibits VPRS 16497 North Melbourne Part Open
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2009 - cont Royal Commissions and Boards of Inquiry VRG 14