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Annual Report 2007-08 Output 2.4

Provide national leadership in the development of emergency management measures to reduce risk to communities and manage the consequences of disasters


Emergency Management Australia continued to undertake the role of lead agency in the national coordination of Australian Government assistance in the provision of emergency and disaster support. We responded to, and provided advice on, a broad range of current and emerging national and international emergency management issues. We worked closely with other Australian Government authorities, State and Territory agencies, local government and industry bodies, to provide a comprehensive national approach to emergency management. Through a number of programs and initiatives we contributed to emergency management national capability development and capacity building.

EMA responded to the challenges presented by the continually changing emergency management environment. We achieved our output by working in five key areas of activity and by delivering a range of services and products. These areas were:

  • providing strategic leadership
  • developing strategic partnerships
  • developing community capacity and resilience
  • developing emergency management capability, and
  • managing the consequences of disasters and emergencies.

Major achievements

Strategic leadership

Working with the Strategic Management Group, a senior officials group of the Australian Emergency Management Committee (AEMC), we facilitated the development of a new work plan for the AEMC.

Strategic issues led by EMA during the past 12 months include:

  • the development of the Australian Emergency Management Arrangements (AEMA)
  • the future funding of AEMC projects, including a national rapid damage assessment methodology
  • the consideration of the Prepared Community concept
  • the development and implementation of a nationally consistent emergency warning system in Australia; and
  • the report to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on AEMC progress on the recommendations of three COAG reports.

The revised draft of the AEMA paper was tabled and endorsed for submission to COAG at the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management—Emergency Management (MCPEM—EM) meeting in March 2008. The AEMA is now being enhanced to address gaps in the high-level national emergency management coordinating mechanisms.

Strategic partnerships

EMA fosters a network of Australian, State and Territory Government agencies, local government, volunteers, non-government and community organisations, businesses, professional bodies, individuals and international agencies.

The National Community Safety Working Group is reviewing community education, awareness and engagement programs designed to enhance community safety in natural hazards. Research will be completed in December 2008 and a nationally agreed public education strategy for community disaster preparedness will be submitted to the AEMC soon after.

The Emergency Services Infrastructure Assurance Advisory Group, chaired by EMA, analyses the role of the emergency services sector as a part of Australia’s critical infrastructure. The Group provides a strong link to other infrastructure sectors such as food, communications, energy and finance to inform service provision to the community in a disaster.

The National Forum on Emergency Warnings to the Community addressed technology-based emergency warning systems and access to the Integrated Public Number Database, and ensured national consistency in the provision of emergency warning systems.

Developing community capacity and resilience

The Working Together to Manage Emergencies (WTTME) initiative was implemented to develop self-reliance at both the community and the local government level to enhance community safety and resilience. It is managed jointly by the Australian Government, State Governments, local authorities and volunteer emergency services representatives. The initiative, comprising the National Emergency Volunteer Support Fund and the Local Grants Scheme, provides funding for projects that support the initiative’s objectives.

In 2007–08, 190 projects were approved under the National Emergency Volunteer Support Fund. The funding enabled first responder agencies to undertake recruitment campaigns at a time of declining volunteer numbers due to changing demographics in rural Australia and time pressures on people in urban areas. The funding has improved the ability of agencies to attract and retain volunteers. In addition, the funding has enabled the purchase of electronic training equipment, resulting in improvements to the quality of training provided to volunteers. The program also provided funding to develop community-based hazard awareness information specifically targeting local hazards.

In 2007–08, 233 projects were approved under the Local Grants Scheme. The funding enabled councils to develop emergency risk management plans to address all hazards likely to be faced in the local government area. In addition, funding is used to implement strategies to address and mitigate the consequences of hazards identified through emergency risk assessments. The scheme also provided funding to develop emergency risk awareness materials to provide information to vulnerable communities on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies in the local government area.

Developing emergency management capability

The ability to effectively respond to emergencies and disasters requires careful planning. Contingency plans are in place to meet State and Territory requests for Australian Government assistance arising from any type of disaster or emergency.

During 2007–08, a review was undertaken of the Commonwealth Government Reception Plan (COMRECEPLAN), which details procedures for the reception of Australian citizens evacuated from overseas. The review was completed and endorsed by AEMC and issued to stakeholders in February 2008.

Following the unscheduled re-entry of satellite US193, EMA commenced a review of the Australian Contingency Plan for Space Re-Entry Debris (AUSCONPLAN–SPRED). The review is expected to be completed by August 2008.

The review of the Commonwealth Government Disaster Response Plan (COMDISPLAN), which details the coordination arrangements for the provision of Australian Government assistance in the event of a disaster in Australia, has commenced. The review will involve significant stakeholder consultation and is scheduled to be finalised by November 2008.

National arrangements for urban search and rescue (USAR) operations were developed in consultation with jurisdictions, industry peak bodies and specialist groups. The arrangements were endorsed by the National Urban Search and Rescue Working Group and the AEMC in early 2008. In the next six months, the program to provide USAR technical support in the area of canine capability will be finalised, a major national USAR exercise will be conducted and the development and delivery of an executive training program will be undertaken.

Managing the consequences of disasters and emergencies

EMA is responsible to the Attorney-General for coordinating physical emergency and disaster assistance provided by the Australian Government. Such assistance results from formal requests from a State or Territory if government and commercial resources are unable to cope with an emergency or disaster. Further, we administer financial assistance to communities and businesses following a disaster (see Output 3.2).

During 2007–08, EMA responded to the following disasters and emergencies:

  • Victorian floods
  • stranded Emergency Management Queensland helicopter
  • missing man in Queensland
  • Queensland floods (coordination of Australian Government assistance)
  • US satellite re-entry, and
  • tropical cyclone threat to Christmas Island.

EMA also undertook operational contingency planning to deploy, if requested, a Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Task force to the People’s Republic of China after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Evaluations and reviews

Australian National Audit Office Audit Report No. 27 2007–08

The purpose of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) audit was to assess how well EMA is meeting its objective of providing national leadership in the development of measures to reduce risk to communities and manage the consequences of disasters. The ANAO made five recommendations focused on assisting EMA to achieve its strategic vision. As part of the wider review, the ANAO also audited the WTTME initiative. Further details can be found in the Management and Accountability section, under External Scrutiny. The report and EMA’s response are available on the ANAO website www.anao.gov.au

Education and training programs

EMA undertook a review of its education and training programs to ensure that courses met stakeholder needs and covered emerging sector issues. We met with all jurisdictions to discuss the role of the Emergency Management Australia Institute in meeting their needs. We discussed the range of courses and services offered and options for their delivery. We will submit an options paper addressing the role of the Institute in research and in supporting jurisdictions, the Australian Government, volunteers and the business sector to the AEMC for endorsement in 2008–09.

Education and training evaluation systems

The review of EMA education and training evaluation systems was deferred pending the release of the revised Public Safety Training package, now scheduled for 2009.


Resilience is a key to disaster risk reduction and EMA is committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure a disaster-resilient Australia. We will achieve this by:

  • developing community resilience
  • developing private sector resilience
  • enhancing national resilience
  • improving Australian Government coordination, and
  • improving regional resilience.

In 2008–09, we will continue to:

  • build on and strengthen our cooperative relationships with Australian, State and Territory Government agencies, particularly those with emergency management responsibility
  • address national security risks through a comprehensive and integrated approach, involving coordination at the Australian Government level and national partnerships with State and Territory Governments, local government, non-government organisations, communities and the private sector
  • engage internationally to ensure that emergency management alliances across nations are maintained and strengthened to allow sharing of experiences, intellectual resources and best practice
  • provide leadership and vision to refine emergency management arrangements nationally and regionally and to strengthen support for a whole-of-government approach to emergency management
  • provide national coordination of Australian Government assistance, on request from the States and Territories, in accordance with emergency management arrangements during and after emergencies and disasters, and
  • work towards building emergency management capacity and arrangements to ensure a disaster-resilient Australia through efficient, effective and consistent policies, programs and projects.

Performance indicators
Quantitative and qualitative

Output 2.4

Provide national leadership in the development of emergency management measures to reduce risk to communities and manage the consequences of disasters


Performance indicator


Policy advice provided to ministers Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Submissions to ministers 32 52
Cabinet submissions 0 1
Responses provided to ministerial correspondence* 86 213
Responses to questions on notice 1 3
Briefs 33 72
Speeches 18 14
Quality Advice to ministers provided within agreed timeframes Achieved
Extent of satisfaction of ministers as measured by periodic feedback from ministers and their offices Highly satisfied
Advice provided to other agencies Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Items of legal/policy/operational advice n/a 126
Quality Advice provided within agreed timelines Achieved
Advice provided is respected by client agencies, as measured by periodic feedback Achieved

Stakeholders indicated they were satisfied with the service level.

An example of comments provided is ‘EMA uses entirely appropriate leadership styles to manage the sometimes difficult relationship between the Commonwealth and States/Territories. The continued leadership of EMA is necessary to deliver key national emergency management outcomes.’
Contribution to the Australian Emergency Management Committee (AEMC) Quality 5 strategic issues facilitated through State and Territory agencies for presentation to the AEMC Achieved
Secretariat services provided to national Emergency Management Committees Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Meetings held 3 9
Quality Secretariat support provided to national Emergency Management Committees to enable all meetings to occur. Target 100% Achieved

Secretariat support provided to:

– AEMC Strategic Management Group (previously Strategic Advisory Group)

– AEMC Remote Indigenous Communities Advisory Committee

– AEMC National Community Safety Working Group

– Catastrophic Disasters Working Group

– jurisdictional scenario workshops.
Project management Quality Accurate and timely approval, payment and acquittal of grants and allocations Achieved

USAR Capability Development Program Grants approved and paid on time. Quality assurance (acquittal) is programmed for 2008–09.
National coordination of disaster support:
– Coordination of requests for assistance Quality Approvals for Australian Government assistance have been sought within 2 hours of receiving request Achieved
– Standing up of National Operations centre Incident Management Facility (formerly National Emergency Coordination Centre) is operational within 1 hour of event advice Achieved
– Post-event workshops facilitated ‘Lessons learned’ workshops are conducted post events Achieved

Post-activity workshops were conducted following exercises Nexus and Southern Rebound and the activation of AUSCONPLAN–SPRED for the unscheduled satellite re-entry of US193.
Emergency management—national capability development and capacity building:.
– Emergency management competency-based programs delivered and assessed Quality 600 attendees achieve competency in emergency management Achieved

734 nationally recognised statements of attainment for emergency management competencies have been issued since 1 July 2007.
– Business planning 95% level of compliance by States and Territories with their business plans submitted under the Directed Assistance Memorandum of Understanding Achieved

State and Territory business plans received and funds provided.
– Australian Tsunami Warning System established Australian Tsunami Warning System is delivered in accordance with the Cabinet Implementation Plan Achieved

Reporting against Implementation plan no longer required by Cabinet Implementation Unit. However, the Australian Tsunami Warning System is still being implemented in line with the original implementation plan.
– Disaster response plans are current and tested Quantity 2 Australian Government disaster response plans are reviewed annually Achieved

Review of COMRECEPLAN endorsed by AEMC. Reviews are currently being undertaken for AUSCONPLAN–SPRED and COMDISPLAN.
Quality Currency of all plans is maintained Achieved

All plans are current.

n/a not applicable

* The number of ministerials relates to the number of actions in relation to ministerial correspondence.

† Briefs include papers on current issues, possible parliamentary questions (new and updated) and meeting briefs.

‡ The number of advices provided by output have been derived from the Department’s annual workload survey and represent a snapshot obtained by aggregating data from four separate one-week periods—two from parliamentary sitting periods and two from non-sitting periods.

Performance information for Output 2.4—administered items

Administered Item

Performance indicator


National Emergency Volunteer Support Fund—increased preparedness of volunteer organisations Quality Benefit statements received for all projects Achieved

Final Report Packages submitted by recipients on completion of projects included an assessment of the outcomes of the project in achieving its objectives to enhance community safety and resilience.
Budget price: $6.702 million Actual price: $5.410 million
Local Grants Scheme—increased preparedness at the local government level Quality Benefit statements received for all projects Achieved

Final Report Packages submitted by recipients on completion of projects included an assessment of the outcomes of the project in achieving its objectives to enhance community safety and resilience.
Budget price: $11.503 million Actual price: $10.606 million
Urban search and rescue capability—increased national urban search and rescue (USAR) capability:
– State training activities undertaken as agreed Quantity Twice yearly reports received from jurisdictions through the National Urban Search and Research Working Group on training activities Achieved

All reports received on time and indicating training being delivered in line with USAR Capability Development Program performance measures.
– Strategic plan developed Report on national agreed USAR arrangements submitted to the AEMC Achieved

National arrangements submitted to, and endorsed by, AEMC.
– Executive training developed and USAR Exercise conducted 1 training activity undertaken Achieved

USAR is progressively being incorporated into training activity delivered by EMA.
USAR Exercise undertaken on endorsement of national USAR arrangement by AEMC Partially achieved

Planning for exercise has commenced with the endorsement of the national USAR arrangements. Exercise will be conducted in 2008–09.
– Review of National Emergency Manual for USAR Quality National Emergency Manual reviewed and published Not achieved

In the interests of ensuring currency of content, the review will take place upon completion of the USAR Capability Development Program.
Budget price: $9.806 million Actual price: $9.806 million

Our people

Reducing the effect of natural disasters on communities

Kevin Rheese, Disaster Mitigation Relief, Emergency Management Australia.

Kevin Rheese, Disaster Mitigation Relief,
Emergency Management Australia.

The response to incidents such as the Charleville floods highlights the diversity of work undertaken by the public service. Kevin Rheese, who has worked as Director of Disaster Mitigation and Relief since 2003, was involved in the early stages of lobbying for a permanent flood barrier— a levee in Charleville.

Charleville has a long history of flooding, and endured major floods in 1990 and 1997. The devastation both floods wrought on the community prompted the local Murweh Shire Council to investigate effective systems to mitigate future floods.

‘When the Council wrote to the federal minister at the time to seek funding for the levee I had the opportunity to review their application,’ Kevin said.

Murweh Shire Council began constructing the Charleville levee in 2004, with shared funding from the Commonwealth, Queensland and local governments.

However, construction was incomplete when the floods threatened the town in January 2008. This meant that EMA’s Incident Management Facility needed to move swiftly to coordinate the transport of temporary flood barriers from the New South Wales State Emergency Service to fill the gaps. It was the temporary flood barriers, originally funded through the Natural Disaster Mitigation Program, which prevented major flooding.

The Charleville levee was completed in May 2008 and is designed to provide future protection to more than 90 per cent of Charleville. It spans 6.2 kilometres consisting of three earthen and two concrete sections, with the construction provided by Murweh Shire Council and a private contractor. The levee is five metres high at its highest points, almost as high as the power lines.

‘This story highlights the importance of all levels of government working collaboratively to help reduce the toll that natural disasters impose on communities,’ Kevin added.