Priority five: Strengthen governance arrangements to improve accountability, cooperation and participation

Emergency management is a shared responsibility and we all have a role to play. To work together effectively, we need strong governance arrangements where roles and responsibilities are clear and well understood; empowered people who can deliver what is required; and clear lines of accountability. Transparent decision making allows Victorians to have trust in and understand the how and why of chosen options.

We’ll embed partnerships in our arrangements and keep building more inclusive governance structures so Victorians can influence and shape emergency management decisions that affect them.

Victorians will have opportunities to shape, influence and inform decisions that affect them

For governance to be effective, it must be inclusive and reflect the constituents it serves. Inclusion, in both processes and outcomes, is vital. Participation leads to more responsive decision making that better meets people’s needs and builds commitment from both individuals and the community. Empowered decision makers have confidence in what was decided. The Victorian Government will build governance mechanisms that provide formal and informal opportunities for community, volunteers and industry to have a voice in shaping emergency management decisions that affect them.

We will capitalise on the success of initiatives like Safer Together that recognise community priorities and expertise and the importance of local solutions to local problems; and continue to invest in leadership training and capacity building at the grassroots level, improving inclusivity for Victoria’s diverse communities.

We will keep supporting community-led approaches where communities apply local skills, knowledge and experience and have ownership over decisions. Importantly, we’ll support emergency management practices and initiatives led by First Nations people and work with Traditional Owners, as equal partners, recognising culture, Country and community in planning and decision making.

We will build and embed partnerships in our arrangements 

The emergency management sector cannot meet the challenges of the future alone. Partnerships will be increasingly vital to how we work together. To keep Victorians safe we will need to recognise, work with and leverage the expertise, capability and capacity of all levels of government, academia, industry and the not-for-profit sector.

The Victorian Government will embed partnerships into our governance arrangements and make sure these arrangements provide the simplicity and the flexibility we need to deliver greater value to Victoria over time.

We will work with local government to clarify and support their crucial role in planning for and coordinating local relief and recovery in emergencies and their role in building community resilience. Working with Commonwealth and state and territory governments will enhance cross-border arrangements, strengthen national preparedness, emphasise greater cooperation across interjurisdictional risks and improve resource sharing arrangements. We’ll streamline how we partner with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to achieve the best possible results.

Existing partnerships with industries and businesses will be reinforced, using their unique knowledge, expertise and capability to help us all to deliver better outcomes in high value areas by:

  • working to better understand industry’s needs
  • continuing to enhance our critical infrastructure sector resilience networks
  • strengthening supply chain resilience
  • leveraging the power of technology.

Partnering with Traditional Owners to preserve our heritage

During the 2019–20 Victorian bushfires, many scar trees were at risk of burning.

“Aboriginal scarred trees are found across all of Australia, with most being over 100 years old. They hold great significance to our local Mobs,” says DEECA heritage specialist, Gerry Laughton. “Protecting these pieces of history for future generations is one of the most important things we can do as First Nations people.”

Thanks to the swift, innovative and dedicated work of a coalition of Traditional Owners and DEECA staff, scar trees were saved. Wrapping their trunks in protective insultation (adapted from materials used to protect house roofs from embers and direct heat) and creating fire breaks 3 to 5 metres wide beneath the trunks, meant fire did not directly reach them.

Traditional Owners helped with the removal of insulation once the fire areas were deemed safe.

Developed over the last seven years, this method of asset protection has also been used to protect heritage bush huts. It is being adapted and improved through experience, research and development.

Emergency management planning

In 2018, the Victorian Government introduced legislation to strengthen and improve Victoria’s emergency management planning arrangements. State, regional and municipal planning committees were established under the Emergency Management Act 2013 with the Emergency Management Commissioner responsible for state-level planning. Regional and municipal emergency management planning committees (REMPCs and MEMPCs) – designed jointly by government, industry and community organisations – were a national first.

Each plan covers the unique circumstances, needs and risks at each planning level and identifies strategies to manage consequences and community impacts. They recognise that emergency management planning is a shared responsibility and that expertise sits with a range of players in and outside government.

The plans have strengthened participation, including with industry and community, and enabled diverse groups to work together to develop a transparent, shared understanding of the actions needed to keep Victorians safe.

We understand our roles and responsibilities and are empowered to deliver them by working together 

A shared understanding of roles and responsibilities and clear lines of accountability for command, control and coordination are at the heart of effective emergency management. It means we will have the right people with the appropriate accountability, taking responsibility and making decisions to protect the lives of Victorians, at the right time. Governance must be right, so we work from a position of strength to address challenges. Arrangements must be contemporary, flexible, and practical.

The Victorian Government will clarify roles and responsibilities, removing any ambiguities, so everyone knows exactly what is expected of them in all situations. Mechanisms will be in place so those who are accountable are able to lead, and there are safeguards if the system fails. This includes establishing dedicated leadership in relief and recovery. We will also strengthen sector-wide exercises, so arrangements are well-tested and operational before an emergency.

All this will ensure that when the time comes, those who are responsible will be better able to act.