What the Bushfire Royal Commission Report means for animals

09/11/2020

The Bushfire Royal Commission has handed down their final report after the devastating fire season in 2019/2020 which saw more than 3 billion animals killed or displaced.

The Royal Commission was only the first step towards ensuring that people and animals are better protected in future fire seasons. 

Image: Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals Media

Earlier this year, you helped us make a submission on behalf of animals to the Bushfire Royal Commission.

We welcome recommendations in the final report which suggests that including non-governmental wildlife organisations within emergency management arrangements can help ensure they deploy as swiftly and safely as possible.

Another good step forward is that the report recommends that “State and Territory Governments should work together with relevant NGOs to establish best practice arrangements and responses relevant to emergency wildlife response and recovery.”

However, while the report calls for the Federal Government to have the ability to declare a national state of emergency, they stop short of demanding a clear national disaster plan. The creation of a national disaster plan that goes beyond declaring a state of emergency or bringing in the military is vital. It needs to be a comprehensive plan with clear accountabilities and chains of command. A national plan including animals has been done in New Zealand and we urgently need to develop one here in Australia.

The Royal Commission also made a series of observations around the suitability of evacuation centres and their ability to cater for animals. They recommended that the relevant authorities should regularly review their evacuation centres and their suitability to hold people with animals. Again, this is a promising step and we hope to see local authorities take this recommendation seriously. People evacuating with animals need to know they have somewhere safe to go as animals are part of the family and must be included.

In our submission, we highlighted the scientific consensus that climate change is exacerbating fire conditions in this country. We are pleased to see the Royal Commission acknowledge that climate change is leading to harsher and more prolonged fire seasons. They warned that what was once unprecedented will now be our country’s future. We hope the Federal Government listens to this warning and takes direct action to help prevent future climate-related harm to people and animals.

The Royal Commission was only the first step towards ensuring that people and animals are better protected in future fire seasons.  

With your help, we’ll closely monitor the response to these recommendations and will be working to hold the Government accountable for implementing measures to better protect animals.

On behalf of all Australian animals, thank you for helping to make this important work possible.