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Australia’s first National Disaster Preparedness Summit will get underway in Canberra today, as the country gears up for hot, dry spring and summer seasons. 

The Prime Minister and the Minister for Emergency Management will join around 250 crisis management, response and recovery specialists from governments, industry, community and the not-for-profit sector who are attending the two-day event convened by the Government’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), on September 25-26. 

The Summit is the first time all key stakeholders – including leaders from Federal, State and Territory emergency services and the logistics, food and groceries, insurance, energy and utilities, telecommunications and non-government sectors - have come together to prepare for the coming Higher Risk Weather Season. 

The Summit will include a range of scenario exercises based on the seasonal outlook, to examine how each organisation will respond individually and collectively. 

Attendees will also work through best practice approaches for preparedness, response and relief, and will also look at better preparedness for vulnerable communities, including people living with disabilities and First Nations people. 

It follows the official declaration from the Bureau of Meteorology this week that Australia is now facing El Niño conditions and a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) for the first time in eight years. 

The Bureau of Meteorology’s 2023-24 Higher Risk Weather Season Outlook says warmer and drier conditions are likely for the coming months, with heatwave conditions expected this season. There is also an increased likelihood of severe storms and cyclones. 

Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt said since the Black Summer Bushfires, two-thirds of Australians have been impacted by natural disaster – some more than once.
“We know that due to climate change, disasters will become increasingly frequent and intense, which is why we have taken significant steps to build our resilience and response capabilities,” Minister Watt said. 

“I’m confident that as a country we’re well-prepared for the conditions forecast, but we aren’t complacent, and want to make sure we’re doing everything within our power to get ready. 

“Since our election 16 months ago, the Albanese Government has worked hard to ensure Australia is better connected, better coordinated and better prepared for the disasters we know are coming.

“Today’s summit is the next step in that plan, to make sure that all who have a role in disasters know what to expect this upcoming season, and that they are as prepared as possible. 

“The Summit will ensure all key stakeholders know what resources and capabilities state and territory governments can draw upon and when, as well as additional operational and information sharing support.”

Since being elected, the Albanese Government has introduced significant improvements to the way Australia prepares for the higher risk weather season.

This includes: 

  • Co-investing $94 million this year in bushfire mitigation and preparedness with State and Territory governments through the first round of the Albanese Government’s flagship Disaster Ready Fund. 
  • Supporting the leasing and positioning of the largest ever national fleet of highly specialised firefighting aircraft for use by state and territory governments through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC), and the lease of another National Large Air Tanker. 
  • Opening an upgraded National Situation Room (NSR) and developing the National Joint Common Operating Picture, which enables collaboration amongst federal, state and territory government agencies and non-government organisations during a crisis including obtaining satellite imagery from partner agencies as well as predictive analysis to anticipate likely challenges and associated impacts on communities. 
  • Unifying the two arms of federal emergency management to create the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), to be more efficient in disaster management. 
  • Through NEMA, coordinating partnerships with state and territory emergency services organisations, industry, the not-for-profit sector and other representative groups, which will enable a higher level of readiness for the upcoming season. 
  • A new, simplified Australian Fire Danger Rating System so that no matter where someone is, they understand the fire risk and what action they need to take. 
  • Building a National Emergency Management Stockpile, which includes key resources such as emergency shelter, water and electricity, to enable states and territories to quickly access these resources in times of need. 
  • Investing in Disaster Relief Australia to grow their volunteering force which provides recovery and clean up support after disasters. DRA’s veteran-led operating model provides a trained, on the ground force during recovery and relief efforts.