Ministerial statement - Bushfire science roundtable

On Wednesday, 15 January 2020 the Hon Karen Andrews MP, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, hosted a roundtable meeting of top scientists and experts to work together in response to the devastating bushfires.

Minister Andrews highlighted that disaster response, recovery and resilience activities should be informed by multi-disciplinary research. Bushfire research, as well as broader natural hazards research, demands drawing on a wide range of disciplines, including the natural and physical sciences, engineering, humanities and social sciences.

Research and technology is playing a critical role in supporting the efforts of emergency management agencies and other government departments to prepare for, and manage, the threat of bushfires, and help communities recover from the impact of fire events.

The group of experts was brought together to understand the state of our current science and where the opportunities are for future science.

Participants discussed contributing factors to bushfires, including the impacts of a changing climate, Australia’s bushfire research capability, and how to leverage research and technologies to deliver real impacts on the ground, including in mitigation and adaptation.

Minister Andrews called on the group to improve scientific communications regarding bushfires and other natural hazards. It was agreed that the CSIRO would develop a document, in consultation with the group, for the public to understand key facts around the contributing factors to bushfires. This will be a factual document that would be easy to read and could be distributed widely through the group and their networks.

It was noted that members of the community are eager to practically assist and there are opportunities for individuals to be engaged through citizen science. CSIRO will lead identification of opportunities for the public to engage in citizen science projects that will help with response, recovery and resilience efforts.

Participants noted that fire volunteers and communities impacted by events are essential to the response and knowledge base. Furthermore, participants agreed to greater collaboration across science and research efforts. Collectively leveraging national and international knowledge and developing new capabilities will be
essential for the future. This will also ensure duplication of scientific endeavour and interactions with fire authorities, industry and government broadly are avoided.

Specifically, Earth observation resources were identified as an immediate area where the Australian Space Agency, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology can better work together to improve access. The Office of the Chief Scientist will coordinate research capability mapping to assist with collaboration. Participants also agreed to encourage their networks to register for Expert Connect, a platform which aims to boost industry-researcher identification and collaboration.
Minister Andrews noted that research and technologies need to be leveraged by industry and non-government organisations to deliver real impact on the ground. The group agreed that research and technology collaboration efforts should include businesses, volunteers, first responder organisations and different levels of government to ensure new products, services, processes and practices are delivered to where they are needed. It is essential that industry is involved in the development of mitigation and adaptation solutions. CSIRO, in consultation with the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, will convene a number of industry sessions to bring relevant parties together.

It was also noted that as new technologies emerge, such as digital twins and autonomous vehicles, our ability to model and respond to bushfires will evolve. To this end, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC will convene a working group to examine technology advances than can assist fire response and management.

Minister Andrews concluded the meeting by thanking participants and noted that discussions like this assist the Government to understand what research and technology is out there and what it can do.
Media Contact:

Minister Andrews' office 02 6277 7070