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 bushfire risk. It emphasises the effectiveness of our actions to reduce 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 management actions we take to protect lives, homes, jobs and the environment. There are four Safer Together streams.

  • Community First: We involve local communities in decision-making about bushfire management all year round. This means understanding what they care most about, and we work with them to determine local solutions to reducing bushfire risk.
  • Working Together: We plan and conduct bushfire management activities on public and private land. Risk reduction drives all activities from planned burning to fire response.
  • Science and Technology: We continue to invest in science and partnerships with research institutions to build knowledge of the relationships between fire and the environment and to better manage risk.
  • Understanding Risk: Bushfires affect the things we care about: our communities, our homes, our businesses, liveability and our environment. We can better reduce impacts by understanding where and how bushfires spread and how they affect communities and the environment, and we can better measure how effective our actions are in reducing impacts.

Consistent with the Working Together priority, FFMVic, the CFA, Emergency Management Victoria, Parks Victoria, local governments and Traditional Owners work in partnership with each other and with communities 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 includes 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 from 2017 to 2019. The program, now in its third year, will build on the learnings of these projects, focusing on:

  • programs to strengthen community engagement and shared responsibility for bushfire management (such as the Community-Based Bushfire Management project)
  • projects to strengthen interoperability and joint systems for the tenure-blind planning and conduct of fuel management on private land
  • investment in the development and use of modelling tools and the application of research to practice.

Community First

To improve communities’ preparedness for and responses to bushfires, this stream of the Safer Together program:

  • works with local communities to increase their understanding of bushfire risk and to get them involved in fuel-reduction planning
  • boosts the skills and capabilities of firefighters to work with communities.

Community-based bushfire management (CBBM) project

In this project, eight regionally based facilitators worked in 22 communities over two years to bring together community members, agencies and local governments to share knowledge and increase the role of communities in the planning and conduct of bushfire management. At the end of the year, there were 20 active CBBM communities: Macedon, Fryerstown, Daylesford, Benloch, Briagalong, Latrobe Valley (Toongabbie and Moe South), Balmoral, Timboon, Lal Lal, Smythesdale, St Andrews, Healesville, Mallacoota, Tolmie, Aireys Inlet, Wye River, Lorne, Clonbinane and Bolwarra. Communities previously involved with the program include Strathbogies and Harrietville.

Build capacity and capability for partnering with the community project

This project was developed as an internal, agency-focused, change-management project to build the skills of agency and local government staff to better engage with their communities. Three training workshops were developed: Community Engagement, Community Development and Creative Facilitation. A total of 53 workshops were conducted across the state from September 2018 to mid-June 2019, with 787 agency staff and volunteers completing at least one type of workshop. Over 20 agencies and community groups and 37 local governments were represented.

Community risk understanding project

This project drew on the biophysical and psychosocial sciences evidence about bushfire and risk to develop accessible, understandable tools and content for community engagement professionals across the sector. Project outputs include:

  • summaries of current bushfire risk information (such as a bushfire risk source document)
  • videos on a range of topics
  • advice about engagement strategies to the engagement and planning teams of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), the CFA and increasingly of local governments.

Working Together

Through Safer Together, land and fire agencies work more closely together than ever to plan and undertake bushfire management activities on public and private land. This stream of Safer Together establishes shared models so FFMVic and the CFA can unify their staff and volunteer training; planning, preparing for and conducting planned burning; resource allocation; and risk assessment.

This makes bushfire management more-informed and better-resourced, and agencies and partners take a consistent approach. It also gives communities and Traditional Owners clearer, more-direct access to the fire management sector.

During the year, 10 projects were conducted under the Working Together stream to improve the sector’s preparedness and responses to bushfires on public and private land:

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

The achievements of these projects include:

  • the Joint Fuel Management Program (JFMP) replaced the fire operations plan process in October 2018, and it involved the CFA for the first time
  • the Joint Delivery Manual, outlining the JFMP approach, was produced
  • FFMVic and CFA trainers conducted a pilot Level 1 (simple) training program in December 2018, and a Level 2 (complex) training program was drafted
  • the Fuel Management System, an end-to-end planning and delivery application for fuel management operations, was developed and deployed
  • a risk framework, to improve interoperability and consistency between agencies doing risk assessments for planned burning, was developed.

Safer Together also funded fuel management works on private land and roadsides, in conjunction with the fuel management program on public land.

Science and Technology

By developing and applying a monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework for the program, this stream will measure and report on our progress reducing bushfire risk. It will also draw on new science, data and research to produce a bushfire science strategy and planning and community engagement tools.

The stream has projects relating to effective operations, fire science, understanding our community and understanding our environments.

Joint research strategy project

To conduct this project, we partnered with major Australian universities, iconic Australian research institutions (including the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology) and other organisations to run 11 research projects under the themes:

  • application of self-evacuation archetypes
  • behavioural insights into fire danger ratings and warnings
  • creation of a Grass Fire Danger Index dataset
  • cropland fire behaviour
  • development of season fire prediction tools
  • effectiveness of aerial and ground-based resources to suppress bushfire
  • 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.

Sector-wide monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework

This project is developing a monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework for the Safer Together program. The framework sets out the program logic, which links actions to intended outcomes, evaluation questions and the data and information needed to respond to the evaluation questions. Implementing the framework, which will start in 2019–20, will enable consistent monitoring, evaluation and reporting on the program to:

  • continuously improve the program and its approach to bushfire management
  • inform decision-making and future investments
  • make investments more transparent and accountable
  • help agencies communicate the program’s achievements internally and externally.

The first output from the framework will be a status report to assess progress and explain the main achievements. An evaluation will then start, identifying evaluative conclusions, lessons and recommendations for improvement to ensure the outcomes in the program logic are achieved.

Improve modelling tools project

This project developed bushfire risk products for testing with local governments. A pilot assessment for identifying risk using the Victorian Fire Risk Register and the Phoenix Rapidfire software was also developed, and as a result the tool provided a validation mechanism to assess bushfire risk against existing models.

Another project output was to integrate a plantation fuel layer into Phoenix Rapidfire, to help plantation owners and agencies better predict fire behaviour.

The project team also worked closely with the Community Risk Understanding Team to support the education of agency staff about bushfire risk modelling.

Page last updated: 23/12/20