I would like to provide a quick update on progress of the independent Inquiry into the 2019-20 Victorian Fire season.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has rightly assumed a significant amount of community and government focus, I want to assure that the Inquiry is progressing at full pace, and unabated.

My Inquiry team's evidence-gathering processes have for all intents and purposes been completed and writing of the draft Phase One Inquiry Report has commenced.

Inquiry methodology includes:

  • 26 community meetings in fire-affected and non-fire affected areas
  • 16 formal structured interviews with agency heads/secretaries some of whom also provided written submissions
  • 31 formal structured interviews with key agency and system personnel, formal requests for evidence from agencies and other stakeholders
  • our interrogation and analysis of emergency management system databases
  • more than 3000 pieces of documentary evidence gathered and analysed.

Our non-Victorian agency interviews include:

  • four Commonwealth agencies
  • two interstate agencies
  • our joint meeting with the Natural Disaster Arrangements Royal Commissioners, and New South Wales and South Australian Inquirers
  • our meetings with Victoria’s Cross-Border Commissioner.

Following the call for public submissions under Phase 1, we've received 475 submissions and 96 online surveys were completed. Thank you everyone who took the time to share your views and experiences with us.

In addition, theme-specific literature reviews have been conducted and scientific analysis commissioned to underpin the evidence base of potential recommendations, and we've sought analysis of good/best practice in environments external to Victoria.

My Phase 1 report addressing preparedness for, and response to, the 2019–20 Victorian fire season will be provided to the Victorian Government on 31 July.

In the meantime, planning for the Inquiry's Phase 2 addressing immediate relief and long-term recovery is underway, and we'll be in contact with agencies and departments regarding our evidence requirements in July.

On that note, community views and experiences of relief and recovery can be provided through to April 2021. And if you want to say something about before and during the fires, please do - these will go to the addendum to the Phase 2 report.

Our work continues.

But importantly experiences of the summer season – and the learnings these experiences provide – will not be forgotten.

Tony Pearce

@The_IGEM (External link)