National Bushfire Management

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National Bushfire Management

Policy Statement for Forests and Rangelands

Prepared by The Forest Fire Management Group for The Council of Australian Governments


In committing to this statement, governments acknowledge the important and on-going roles played by professional and industry organisations, and by staff and volunteer associations. This includes the policy and ‘standards’ setting roles played by the Forest Fire Management Group, the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council and Emergency Management Australia. The significance of the establishment in 2003 of Australia’s first, nationally coordinated, multi-disciplinary bushfire research program (the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre), and the importance of an on-going national research effort, is also acknowledged.


© Forest Fire Management Group 2014

This work is copyright. The text may be reproduced in whole or in part for your personal, non-commercial use or use within your organisation, subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgement of the source. Copyright in the photographs remains with the photographers and/or agencies.

Author: Forest Fire Management Group ISBN: 978-0-646-58481-2

Design: Papercut, PO Box 6264, O’Connor ACT 2602,

Printer: Bytes ‘n Colours


Introduction 5

Policy Scope 7

The International Dimension 8

Vision 11

Principles 11

Learning to Live with Fire – Bushfires are Understood, Accepted and Respected 11

Shared and Individual Responsibility 11

Protection of Lives as the Highest Consideration 11

Consistency of Purpose and Unity of Command 11

Manage Fire According to the Landscape Objectives 12

Decisions within a Risk Management Framework 12

Integration of Learning and Knowledge 12

Monitoring Performance 12

Strategic Objectives 13

National Goals 13

B. Involved and Capable Communities 14

Implementation and Reporting 18

Appendix 1: Fire in Australia 20

Glossary 23

References 26


Australia and many other fire-prone parts of the world have experienced an increase in bushfires over the past decade. The bushfires have increased in intensity and caused more damage. There is increasing debate within Australia and overseas about how best to reduce bushfire risk. This debate is occurring against a backdrop of a changing climate and a growing, more urbanised population. It is informed by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission into the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires which led to the deaths of 173 people and destroyed over 2000 homes.

Central to this debate is the role fire plays in maintaining and enhancing biodiversity. Sustainable long-term solutions are needed to address the causes of increased bushfire risk. Greater investment in prevention and preparedness is essential.

This policy statement and supporting strategies have been developed by all Australian governments to guide the evolution of effective and ecologically sustainable fire regimes within Australia. It builds on experience gained across Australia and assists in developing a more coordinated approach.

This policy lays the foundation for future bushfire management in Australia, and ensures that Australia will continue to be a global leader and innovator of bushfire management.

The policy focuses on the management of fire

in forests and rangelands. While it largely covers public lands, the general issues and principles apply more widely. The policy places priority on the protection of life, as well as the need for due consideration of the important responsibility of governments to address the purpose for which they set aside the bushland that surrounds many urban areas. The purpose being that all Australians, now and in the future, should benefit from the roles of these lands in the provision of ecosystem services such as conserving biodiversity, heritage and carbon, producing water and timber, and hosting recreation and tourism opportunities.The vision inspiring this policy is that:

Fire regimes are effectively managed to maintain and enhance the protection of human life and property, and the health, biodiversity, tourism, recreation and production benefits derived from Australia’s forests and rangelands.

To achieve this vision for the enhanced management of fire in the landscape, actions must fall under four strategic objectives:

  • Effectively Managing the Land with Fire.

  • Involved and Capable Communities.

  • Strong Land, Fire and Emergency Partnerships and Capability.

  • Actively and Adaptively Managing Risk.

‘…appropriate use of planned fire to protect communities and their assets, and to protect and conserve natural and cultural values.’

To deliver these objectives, fourteen national goals have been identified:

  1. Maintain Appropriate Fire Regimes in Australia’s Forests and Rangelands.

  2. Balance the Environmental Impacts of Fire.

  3. Promote Indigenous Australians’ Use of Fire.

  4. Community Engagement.

  5. Public Awareness and Education.

  6. Integrated and Coordinated Decision Making and Management.

  7. Employment, Workforce Education and Training.

  8. Bushfire Risk Mitigation.

  9. Bushfire Response.

  10. Safety in Fire Operations.

  11. Bushfire Recovery.

  12. International Responsibilities.

  13. Risk Management.

  14. Investing in and Managing Knowledge.

Knowledge of the costs and benefits of alternative bushfire management strategies is incomplete.

While community expectations of land and fire managers are high, they vary in terms of what is most valued from forests and rangelands.

Fire prone parts of the world have always had, and will continue to have, bushfires. The current approach to bushfire management is ineffective due to changes to settlement, demographics and climate. The approach has a response and recovery focus, which is necessary for dealing with immediate challenges, but is unsustainable as a stand-alone solution.

‘Greater investment in prevention and preparedness is essential.’

Sustainable long-term solutions are needed to address the causes of increased bushfire risk. Greater investment in prevention and preparedness is essential. This requires the appropriate use of planned fire to protect communities and their assets, and to protect and conserve natural and cultural values. It also implies greater efforts to improve overall understanding of bushfire risk by governments, agencies and communities, and to encourage an acceptance of living with fire.

This statement was jointly developed by governments under the auspices of two ministerial councilsi, in consultation with land management and rural fire agencies. The statement was endorsed by all members of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), including the Australian Local Government Association, during late 2011 and early 2012.

In endorsing this statement, governments committed to implementing the policies it outlines for the benefit of present and future generations of Australians. COAG acknowledged that implementation of policies requiring funding will be subject to budgetary priorities and constraints in individual jurisdictions; however the principles identified in this document will be reflected in all the individual land and fire management agencies’ codes of practice (or alternative instruments).

Tim McGuffog


Forest Fire Management Group

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