Ten years after the Black Saturday fires, what have we learnt from post-fire research?



Publication Details

Whittaker, J. (2019). Ten years after the Black Saturday fires, what have we learnt from post-fire research?. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 34 (2), 32-37.


Ten years ago, 173 people lost their lives and more than 2000 homes were destroyed in the Black Saturday bushfires. The fires of 7 February 2009 led to a royal commission and significant changes to bushfire management throughout Australia. Research played an important role in the royal commission and subsequent changes. This paper reflects on what was learnt from research into human behaviour and community safety undertaken as part of the Bushfire CRC 2009 Victorian Bushfires Research Taskforce. The research involved interviews with over 600 householders and a mail survey of 1314 households affected by the fires. This paper reviews findings from subsequent post-fire research to consider the extent to which there have been changes in findings related to community planning, preparedness and responses to bushfire. The review suggests that many of the issues encountered on Black Saturday-limited awareness of and preparedness for bushfire risk, a tendency for leaving (or evacuating) at the last moment and a commitment to defending, even under the highest levels of fire danger-persist, despite major changes to policy and public messaging.

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