A message from the Emergency Management Commissioner about Human Rights Week 2019

12 December 2019

Human Rights Week is an opportunity to reflect on what human rights means to us all. The theme for Human Rights Week 2019 is ‘human rights start with you’.

It’s a reminder that regardless of our background, culture, gender, age or belief that we all share the same rights and responsibilities. It is also a reminder that each of us have a role to play in ensuring that our communities, our workplaces, our sports and social groups are inclusive and fair.

This Human Rights Week, I have been reflecting on the impact of longer and more severe fire seasons on our communities.

We currently have more than 100 bushfires burning across NSW and QLD and more than 12 bushfires in Victoria.

Although we are only at the start of the summer fire season, we know that Victoria has and will again experience potentially destructive bushfires. Each summer we brace for those hot and dry conditions. This is our difficult reality and one that Victorians have again been reminded of with the ongoing fires in NSW, QLD and Victoria.

Last fire season in Victoria was our hottest summer on record and hottest January on record. There were more frequent hot days, drier and more intense fire behaviour. We saw fires as early as August and as late as March. In fact, we had more fires in March this year than we had in January or February.

The changing climate has an impact on our emergency services and communities that we need to, and do plan for.  

Responding to the challenges that a changing climate brings is a priority for the emergency management sector. 

Of course, in our work we see the human impact of longer and more severe fire seasons. 

The longer fire seasons, increased drought frequency and severity, increase in frequency of bushfires and weather events as well as greater demand for peak summer energy requirements and a rise in heat-related illness have lasting impacts on our communities. The scale and frequency of bushfires also means that there is going to be an ever increasing focus on relief and recovery for impacted communities. This negative outcome for communities is motivating us to explore further ways that we can  mitigate the risk through enhanced preparedness and preparation.  

The key however to addressing the future uncertainty and complexity we face is through partnerships – communities, emergency services agencies, government and business working as one team to better understand our strengths and to identify opportunities for development. At the very core of those partnerships must be a commitment to our individual rights and responsibilities. 

Human Rights Week is another opportunity to reinforce the critical importance of working together. The more we work together, the more we embrace and celebrate diversity, the more inclusive we are, the stronger we will be as emergency services and as a community.

Take care,                                

Andrew