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Joint media release with the Hon Catherine King MP, acting Minister for Emergency Management, and the Hon​ Madeleine King MP

Western Australians will have an extra layer of defence this bushfire season, with new waterbombing aircraft to be stationed in the state.​

Central western and southern parts of the State are forecast to experience extreme fire risk in the months ahead, and communities are being urged to listen to warnings and get bushfire-ready.

Dangerous fires have already occurred in Western Australia in the past month, with multiple Emergency Warnings already issued. These provide a timely reminder to ensure everyone is as prepared as possible. 

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has been working closely with fire authorities, councils and the Western Australian Government to ensure suitable plans are in place.​

Federal Acting Minister for Emergency Management, Catherine King said Australia’s aerial firefighting capability will be significantly boosted by the National Large Air Tanker (LAT), funded by the Federal Government, which will be based in WA for the start of the summer bushfire season.

“Phoenix is a highly customised Boeing 737 able to reach anywhere in the country within hours and drop 15,000 litres of fire-retardant or water,” Minister King said.

“We know being prepared with aerial firefighting capability to support ground crews can make all the difference when communities are under threat.”

Speaking as the senior Western Australian Minister representing the Albanese Government, Federal Resources Minister and Minister for Northern Australia Madeleine King said the aircraft would be a great additional asset to protect the state.

“Phoenix can operate around outer urban areas but also remote and difficult-to-reach locations, and can be deployed quickly to wherever is needed, whenever is needed,” Minister King said.

“I’ve very pleased that all levels of government are planning ahead to put us in best position possible to respond to the high-risk weather season we face.”

Western Australian Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said bushfires were an inevitable part of the WA summer.

“For more than 20 years the State’s aerial fleet has been protecting life and property from above,” Minister Dawson said.

“We are very pleased to have a second Large Air Tanker join the fleet – these aircraft were used a number of times with great effect last bushfire season.​

“We welcome the Boeing 737 Fireliner, Phoenix, to Western Australia, where it will be ready for rapid deployment when bushfires strike.”

The LAT will join over 150 aircraft in Australia’s sophisticated national firefighting fleet positioned around the country this season to protect communities against bushfires.

A competition to name the aircraft was organised last year and open to school students across Australia.

Three schools shared in the honour after the Year 5 students from both Bishop Druitt College in Coffs Harbour and Christian College Geelong, along with Year 7 students from St Patrick's College in Campbelltown, saw the phoenix - a mythological fire bird reborn from the ashes - as the perfect metaphor for our new aerial firefighter.

The name will be displayed on the aircraft until 2024, when the current contract ends. 

In the past six months, the Government has made big changes to the way Australia prepares for and recovers from disasters, including:  

  • Unifying the two arms of federal emergency management to create the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), to be more efficient in disaster management.
  • Legislating the Disaster Ready Fund to invest up to $200 million a year in mitigation projects like fire breaks, evacuation centres and flood levees.
  • Fast-tracking recovery payments to help individuals, local councils, small businesses, primary producers and non-profit organisations get back on their feet faster after a disaster.
  • Getting money out the door for resilience and betterment projects in disaster-prone regions.
  • Investing in Disaster Relief Australia to provide recovery and clean up support after disasters.
  • Taking action on future building developments on floodplains, by working with the state and territory governments through the National Cabinet process.
  • Galvanising voluntary home buybacks in regions repeatedly impacted by floods.

This release was originally published on the Ministers for the Department of Home Affairs' website.