Bushfires are a part of life in Victoria – but together, we can reduce their impact and build safer communities, a thriving economy and a healthy environment. Safer Together is Victoria’s approach to reducing the risks of bushfire. It focuses on how effective our actions are in reducing risk, not just the amount of activity we undertake.

Safer Together means a more integrated approach across public and private land, with fuel management just one of the different management actions we will take to protect lives, homes, jobs and the environment. There are four major themes under Safer Together:

  • Community First: We involve local communities in decision making about bushfire management all year round – this means understanding what they care about most and working with them to determine local solutions to reduce bushfire risk.
  • Working Together:We plan and deliver bushfire management across public and private land. Risk reduction will drive all our activities from planned burning to fire response.
  • Science and Technology: We continue to investment in science, and partnerships with research institutions, to build knowledge of the relationship between fire and the environment and to better manage risk.
  • Understanding Risk: Bushfires impact the things we care about - our communities, our homes, our businesses, liveability and our environment. We can better reduce these impacts by understanding where and how bushfires spread, how they impact communities and the environment, and measuring how effective our actions are in reducing these impacts.

Consistent with the ‘working together’ theme,Forest Fire Management Victoria, Country Fire Authority, Emergency Management Victoria and local governments work in partnership to deliver Safer Together.

Safer Together is part of how we are implementing the recommendations of the Inspector-General for Emergency Management’s 2015 Review of performance targets for bushfire management on public land. This included moving from a hectare-based target for fuel management activities to a risk-reduction target, which we did in 2016–17. Safer Together is being implemented through 16 enabling projects.

Community first

This is about working with local communities to understand what risk means for them, the things they value and how communities and fire and emergency management agencies can work together to create safer, more resilient communities and ecosystems.

A big focus in this area is the community-based bushfire management (CBBM) we are implementing. This brings together community members, agencies and local government to share their knowledge about bushfire risk management. Community-based bushfire management provides the opportunity for communities to be more actively involved in bushfire management planning and decision making and to shape local and specific ways to reduce bushfire risk. There are now 18 active CBBM communities: Benloch, Strathbogies, Mallacoota/Buchan, Wye River, Lorne, St Andrews, Harrietville, Healesville, Macedon Corridor, Daylesford/Hepburn Springs, Latrobe Valley, Yellingbo, Clonbinane, Briagolong, Timboon/Peterborough, Airey’s Inlet, Balmoral, Bolwarra Complex (Bolwarra, Gorea, Gorea West, Heathmere). A further 5 communities will be established in 2018–19.

Another Community First project is building the awareness, skills and capabilities of firefighters, volunteers and fire managers to engage with local communities. A third project is helping communities understand and manage their bushfire risk, including by writing bushfire plans, preparing their properties and joining fire learning networks.

Working together

Through Safer Together, land and fire agencies are working more closely than ever to plan and undertake bushfire management activities across both public and private land including:

  • staff and volunteer training
  • planning, preparing for and conducting planned burns
  • resource allocation
  • risk assessment, and
  • bushfire planning and response.

This makes bushfire management more-informed and better-resourced, and there is a consistent approach by all the agencies communities turn to for protection from bushfire risk. It also gives communities and Traditional Owner groups clearer, more direct access to the fire management sector.

There are 10 projects underway focusing on improving the sector’s preparedness and response to bushfires on public and private land:

  • common burn risk assessment tool
  • common quality assurance system for fuel management
  • cultural burning practices
  • expanding strategic bushfire management planning
  • joint delivery
  • joint planning
  • joint training system in relation to planned burning
  • Safer Together policy and legislative enablers
  • shared doctrine framework.

Two workshops were held in pilot areas, Loddon Mallee (15 multi agency participants) and Gippsland (11 multi agency participants). The intent of the workshops was to review the current Strategic Bushfire Management Plan (SBMP) process and select areas of the Technical Methods Reference Document and look for ways to incorporate an all tenure approach to first attack suppression and prevention of human caused ignitions. The workshop highlighted positives and areas for improvement. The recommendations from the review workshops will be incorporated into future planning for the project.

Science and technology

There are four key science and technology research themes under Safer Together:

  • effective operations
  • fire science
  • understanding our community
  • understanding our environments.

We currently partner with major Australian universities, iconic Australian research institutions (including CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology) and other organisations to run 11 research projects under these research themes:

  • application of self-evacuation archetypes
  • behavioural insights into Fire Danger Ratings and warnings
  • creation of Grass Fire Danger Index dataset
  • cropland fire behaviour research
  • development of season fire prediction tools
  • effectiveness of resources to suppress bushfire - aerial and ground-based
  • fire and biodiversity – impacts, recovery and future planning: vegetation responses to planned fire
  • identifying planned burning windows
  • understanding the impacts of climate change on fire weather variables
  • user interface platform for the Victorian historical fire weather gridded dataset
  • relationship between soil and fuel drying – flammability switch.

This Safer Together theme includes a project to develop a monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework to measure and report on our success in reducing bushfire risk to people, property and the environment in a multi-agency context.

DELWP will lead and deliver on behalf of the emergency management (EM) sector a common Safer Together Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Framework (ST MERF) and systems that enable partner agencies under the Safer Together policy to efficiently manage strategies performance and effectively improve current systems and processes.

The Safer Together Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Framework will:

  • measure the implementation and effectiveness of Safer Together
  • consolidate existing and proposed MER across the EM sector and align efforts for a sector wide MER process
  • identify the baseline data required to understand our current state and progress towards the Safer Together outcomes
  • provide accountability for and transparency of sector wide actions toward delivering Safer Together.

The framework is currently under development with multiagency workshops to ensure cross agency suitability and relevance.

Through the application of new science, data and research, the stream will also deliver a bushfire science strategy  to guide our research priorities and investments and to improve the Phoenix Rapidfire modelling software and the Victorian Fire Risk Register .and tools for use in planning and community engagement. We use this to target our actions to where the risk is and ensure actions are appropriate for the local environment.

Page last updated: 16/10/18