News & Media

Learning lessons from post disaster inquiries

By: Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC

Category: Planning & Research

  3.57 PM 10 November, 2016

Location: General

Views: 1197

If you have been involved in a post disaster inquiry, you can help research at the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

The CRC research project, Policies, institutions and governance of natural hazards, has recently released a discussion paper on ‘Learning for emergency services, looking for a new approach’. This paper does not ask ‘what do post event inquiries tell us about disaster management?’ but ‘what do post event inquiries tell us about how we do post event inquiries’?  

If you have had inquiry experience after a disaster, whether it be a bushfire such as the 2009 Royal Commission, or any other type of disaster, researchers would like your feedback on the paper. In particular, they are seeking comments from inquiry witnesses, lawyers, Commissioners, Coroners, special investigators, community leaders, people affected by a natural disaster or with knowledge and experience of restorative justice.

The paper is authored by Dr Michael Eburn and Prof Stephen Dovers, and argues that the coroner/Royal Commissioner model has not proved effective in identifying learning that will help communities to rebuild relationships after an event, or develop resilience in anticipation of the next event. It is argued that rethinking the way post event inquiries are conducted is necessary.

Dr Eburn and Prof Dovers identify that restorative justice, a concept established in the area of criminal law, could assist in developing inquiries that would assist all the parties to come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the disaster and deal with its implications for the future.

The paper also argues that a standing Fire and Emergency Safety Bureau should be considered to conduct enquiries and where necessary, act as a standing secretariat for inquiries in the nature of a Royal Commission. Issues of compensation for those affected by natural disasters are touched upon.

But will it work? And do the objections and suggestions of the authors ring true? This is where the opinion of those who have been involved in an inquiry is sort. In particular, Dr Eburn and Prof Dovers are asking the following questions: 

  1. What do you think the community should expect from post‐event reviews?
  2. Are we well served by current post‐event review processes?
  3. Are the criticisms of current post‐event reviews justified?
  4. Is there value in current post‐event reviews that the authors have not identified or given due weight to?
  5. Do you agree with the suggestions for the move to restorative justice practices? Why or why not?
  6. Do you have other suggestions on how post event reviews may be improved and made more meaningful?
  7. How could we improve this report to make it more relevant, meaningful and helpful?
  8. Are there any other thoughts, criticisms, concerns or ideas you would like to share?

Please send any comments on the paper to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thank you in anticipation.  

This research is conducted by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre. The author of this post is Nathan Maddock, Senior Communications Officer at the Centre.

Last Updated: 14 November 2016