CSIRO, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (BNHCRC) and the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council will collaborate to establish a new national disaster research centre. 

The organisations and government departments will work together to transition the current BNHCRC into a new  world-class research centre for natural hazard resilience and disaster risk reduction. 

The research centre is supported by a $88.1 million Federal Government investment into natural hazards research over the next ten years.

Within this funding, the BNHCRC has been allotted $2 million to perform immediate investigation into key issues from the 2019/20 bushfire season.

Dr Katherine Woodthorpe AO, FTSE, Chair of the BNHCRC, said, “The BNHCRC will work closely with the Australian Government to develop a new strategic research agenda for Australia along with its partners at CSIRO, the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council, state-based emergency service agencies, universities and industry partners.

“This new funding will allow Australia to remain at the forefront of natural hazards research. As a country, we must continue to improve how we prepare for, respond to and recover from bushfires, cyclones, floods and storms.”

CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall, said the recent devastating bushfire season placed a renewed focus on building resilience to better equip Australia for the future.

“The summer of 2019-20 was defined by consecutive natural events including bushfires, floods, drought and heat extremes which have touched every Australian,” Dr Marshall said. 

“While much has already been done and achieved by all levels of government, response agencies and the community to increase Australia’s resilience, there is more that science can deliver to predict and protect against disasters – we must deliver for Australia.

 “The establishment of a new national disaster research centre is an important step forward.” 

CSIRO was tasked in January 2020 by the Prime Minister to deliver an independent study recommending ways in which Australia can increase its climate and disaster resilience, supported by an Expert Advisory Panel chaired by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel.

“Climate change means the frequency and severity of these events will be a factor into the foreseeable future,” Dr Marshall said.

“Increasing climate variability and hazard exposure means we need to consider a truly national response. 

“The establishment of the new centre will bring together world-leading science and technology capability, together with Australia’s frontline responders to help our nation prepare for and confidently deal with what lies ahead.”

The National research priorities for natural hazards emergency management, developed by the BNHCRC between 2015 and 2019, represents the consensus view of industry experts, and will be the starting point for a nationally-coordinated research program.

Image credit: CSIRO

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