National Forum for the Prevention of Bushfire Arson
3 May 2010
Table of contents
Executive Summary …………………………………………………………………………………….. Page 3 Agenda …………………………………………………………………………………………………... Page 4 1. Opening Address of the National Forum for the Prevention of Bushfire Arson ……………............ Page 5 National Collaboration
2. A national approach to bushfire arson prevention: Towards greater collaboration ………………… Page 7
Ms Amanda Leck, Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council
3. The prevention of bushfire arson …………………………………………………………………… Page 7
Dr Janet Stanley, Monash Sustainability Institute 4. Development of the ‘Wildfire Arson Investigation Management Course ………………………….. Page 8
Mr Richard Woods, ACT Rural Fire Service 5. Improving multi-agency approaches to arson prevention ……………………………………... Page 8
Mr Chris Lewis, New South Wales Fire Brigades 6. Victoria Police Bushfire Arson Prevention and Detection Strategy ………………………………… Page 9
Mr Paul Hollowood, Victoria Police
Law Enforcement Responses
7. Successful bushfire arson prevention: A numbers game ……………………………………………. Page 9
Mr Warwick Jones, Australian Institute of Criminology 8. A centralised database to facilitate effective information sharing on known and …………………. Page 10
Ms Sarah Chidgey, Attorney-General’s Department, Mr Stuart Cross, CrimTrac
Community Education and Engagement
9. Best practice in juvenile firesetting intervention in Australia ……………………………………... Page 11
Ms Kate McDonald, Victoria University 10. Juvenile firesetter programs: The Tasmanian experience ……………………………………. Page 11
Mr Gavin Freeman, Tasmania Fire Service 11. Risk intervention: A Queensland approach to fire play, firesetting and arson …………………….. Page 12
Mr Steve Rothwell, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service 12. Community response and recovery in disaster …………………………………………………….. Page 12
Ms Lyn Gunter, Former Mayor, Murrindindi Shire Council 13. Launch of the Bushfire Arson Prevention Handbook ……………………………………………… Page 12
Dr Adam Tomison, Australian Institute of Criminology Appendices
Presenter biographies …………………………………………………………………………………... Page 13 Participants ……………………………………………………………………………………………... Page 17
The Victorian bushfires of February 2009 have been described as Australia's worst natural disaster since Federation. 173 people lost their lives and more than 2000 homes were destroyed. Amidst the catastrophic loss of life and extreme property damage, was the tragic fact that some of these bushfires had been deliberately lit.
The Commonwealth Attorney-General established the National Forum for the Prevention of Bushfire Arson in 2009, to promote more effective and collaborative means of preventing and deterring bushfire arson. The second annual Forum was attended by more than 40 police, fire agency officers, and arson specialists from around the country.
Arson is a major threat to the Australian community, with up to half of all bushfires being suspected of being deliberately lit or starting in suspicious circumstances. In addition to the massive human toll that fires can take, it is estimated that arson costs the Australian community about $1.6 billion each year. The key to reducing and preventing bushfire arson is maximising cooperation between fire agencies, police, social services, the criminal justice system and all levels of government.
To this end, the Forum considered a broad range of successful bushfire arson initiatives from across Australia. The agenda reflected three priority areas that are critical to delivering a more effective national approach to combating arson: better national collaboration; better law enforcement responses; and better community education and engagement. This summary report provides a brief overview of the presentations under each of these priority areas. Presentations are available upon request to the Attorney-General’s Department, with the
permission of presenters.
As part of the Forum, the Commonwealth announced a number of important and practical initiatives to promote national collaboration in combating bushfire arson, including:
； establishing a centralised national database of convicted and suspected arsonists to provide local
authorities with access to up-to-date information on arsonists;
； investing in the development of a ‘Bushfire Arson Investigation Course’ to build the expertise of
arson investigators across the country; and
； launching a ‘Bushfire Arson Prevention Handbook’, developed by the Australian Institute of
Criminology, to help local communities develop strategies to prevent bushfire arson. The Forum demonstrates the ongoing commitment of Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to work together to prevent and deter arson through a coordinated national approach.
National Forum for the Prevention of Bushfire Arson
10:30am – 4:00pm, Monday 3 May 2010
Canberra Room, Hyatt Hotel Canberra
Commonwealth Avenue, Yarralumla, ACT 2600
Item No. Sponsor
The Hon Robert McClelland MP Opening address 1. Attorney-General
Ms Amanda Leck A national approach to bushfire arson prevention: Towards Australasian Fire and Emergency 2. greater collaboration Service Authorities Council
Dr Janet Stanley The prevention of bushfire arson 3. Monash Sustainability Institute Development of the ‘Wildfire Arson Investigation Mr Richard Woods 4. Management Course’ ACT Rural Fire Service
Mr Chris Lewis Improving multi-agency approaches to arson prevention 5. New South Wales Fire Brigades
Mr Paul Hollowood Victoria Police Bushfire Arson Prevention and Detection Strategy 6. Victoria Police
Law Enforcement Responses
Mr Warwick Jones Successful bushfire arson prevention: A numbers game Australian Institute of 7.
Criminology A centralised database to facilitate effective information sharing Ms Sarah Chidgey 8. on known and suspected arsonists Commonwealth / CrimTrac
Community Education and Engagement
Ms Kate McDonald Best practice in juvenile firesetting intervention in Australia 9. Victoria University
Mr Gavin Freeman Juvenile firesetter programs: The Tasmanian experience 10. Tasmania Fire Service
Mr Steve Rothwell Risk intervention: A Queensland approach to fire play, firesetting Queensland Fire and Rescue 11. and arson Service
Ms Lyn Gunter Community response and recovery in disaster Former Mayor, Murrindindi Shire 12.
Dr Adam Tomison Launch of the Bushfire Arson Prevention Handbook Australian Institute of 13.
The Hon Robert McClelland MP Way forward 14. Attorney-General
Opening of the 2010 National Forum for the Prevention of Bushfire Arson 1.
The Hon. Robert McClelland MP, Commonwealth Attorney-General
First, may I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we meet on – and pay my respects to their elders,
both past and present. It’s a great pleasure to be here today.
Given that around half of all bushfires in Australia are suspected of being deliberately lit, it is critical that all levels of government, and all sectors of the community, do what we can to prevent bushfire arson. That’s why today is so important, and I thank you all for coming.
This is the second meeting of this forum which I established in 2009. Last year’s meeting was unprecedented as for the first time, stakeholders from all states and territories and different agencies got together at a national level to debate what works and what doesn’t and to discuss what needs to be done in the future with respect to the prevention of bushfire arson. The overriding message from last year’s meeting was that greater national coordination and cooperation is critical to successfully addressing bushfire arson. This requires better collaboration between agencies including police, emergency services, town planners, education and local government. They all have a part to play. Last year’s forum was a great success and provided the foundation
for what is now a nationally agreed policy setting framework to address bushfire arson in Australia. Today, we seek to build on this important work.
National Work Plan to Reduce Bushfire Arson
Those of you here at last year’s Forum will recall that we agreed a list of national priorities for action.
This list has directly informed the development of a National Work Plan to Reduce Bushfire Arson in Australia. This Work Plan was developed jointly by the Commonwealth, States and Territories to institute a more preventative and collaborative approach to reducing bushfire arson. It specifically focuses on activities that will benefit from a nationally consistent approach, and from sharing resources and expertise. The National Work Plan was endorsed in November last year at Ministerial Council meetings of both Emergency Management and Police Ministers. This clearly represents the ongoing commitment of the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments to work together to take substantive action on this issue. Today’s agenda reflects three priority areas that are critical to delivering a more effective national approach to combating bushfire arson: better national collaboration; better law enforcement responses; and better community education and engagement. I would like to touch briefly on each of these areas. Better National Collaboration
As I mentioned earlier, successfully addressing bushfire arson is beyond the capacity of any one agency.
We need to work better together both within and between jurisdictions. This will be the focus of the first session today. The important thing is that we now have a national framework to deliver on issues that should be pursued nationally. Together with my State and Territory colleagues, we have established a joint working group across jurisdictions to drive national priorities. The group, which will hold its first meeting later this month, is co-chaired by Mr Mike Norris, a senior officer from the Attorney-General’s Department, and Mr
Tony Leech from the Victorian Department of Justice. Obviously, the group will take a close interest in today’s discussions.
Better Law Enforcement Responses
A more coordinated and effective law enforcement response is one critical aspect in successfully tackling the problem of bushfire arson which will be discussed in our second session today. Together with the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Brendan O’Connor, I am today announcing that the Commonwealth is working to develop a centralised national database of convicted and suspected arsonists in the National Police Reference System. This resource will promote effective information sharing across jurisdictions, allowing local police access to national up-to-date information on arsonists.
The database could also be used by police as a tool to direct intervention strategies at times of high risk. Of course, any proposal to develop a national database must be subject to close consultation with the States and Territories. Following today’s Forum, Minister O’Connor and I will write to the CrimTrac Board of
Management and subsequently State and Territory Police Ministers seeking their endorsement to use the National Police Reference System as a mechanism for creating a national database of arsonists.
It is also my pleasure to announce today that the Commonwealth will provide additional funding for the development of a Bushfire Arson Investigation Course. This will build on a pilot course conducted by the ACT Rural Fire Service in October 2009, and we hope it can be available in the future to help build the expertise of arson investigators across the country.
While it is clearly preferable to seek to prevent arson in the first place, when it does occur, perpetrators deserve to face the full force of the law. That includes the possibility of murder charges if an arsonist deliberately lights a fire with reckless indifference to the safety of others. This is consistent with the recognition at last year’s forum of the need for stronger, more consistent bushfire arson offences. The
Commonwealth is encouraging jurisdictions to implement tough offences along the lines of the proposed model law drafted by the Commonwealth last year for bushfire arson causing death or serious harm. This appropriately reflects the serious nature of this crime and represents an important part of raising community awareness about bushfire arson and the damage it causes to families and communities each year. Better Community Education and Engagement
Detecting and prosecuting arsonists is important, but it does not represent a complete solution to the issue. Better community education and engagement is equally, if not more, important in preventing arson before it actually occurs. It is critical that fire and police services work hand in hand with schools, community groups and social services, to ensure that individuals at risk of engaging in arson can be deterred. In the third session later today, we will hear about a number of community education programs already underway at a State and Territory level. I hope we can develop ideas for developing these campaigns and sharing experiences nationally.
I am pleased to advise that a ‘Bushfire Arson Prevention Manual’ developed by the Australian Institute of
Criminology will be launched later today. The manual will help stakeholders at the local level develop arson prevention strategies to reduce the impact of deliberately lit fires in the Australian bush. It is hoped that the manual will become an important reference for use by a number of relevant local organisations, particularly fire agencies and the police, when developing community based bushfire arson prevention strategies. The announcements I have made today—for a national arsonist database, a Bushfire Arson Investigation
Course, and a Bushfire Arson Prevention Manual—deliver on key priorities agreed at last year’s Forum and
identified in the National Action Plan. It is clear that in the year since our inaugural meeting we have made significant progress— but there is much more to be done. The challenge before us is to turn these policies and strategies into positive real world outcomes. Today’s Forum represents a step toward achieving this goal.
Throughout today’s proceedings, I look forward to hearing about a number of successful initiatives from around the country. Ideas and outcomes from today will feed directly into implementing the national bushfire arson strategy.
I am pleased to declare this Forum officially open.
In most cases, no one agency has the sole responsibility for coordinating bushfire arson prevention. Responsibility for prevention measures cuts across traditional boundaries between national, state and local agencies.
Successfully addressing bushfire arson is beyond the capacity of any one agency in isolation. A cooperative nation-wide effort is required across portfolios at all levels of government. This includes better coordination between police, fire and emergency services to engage in targeted prevention programs and share information in investigating crimes.
The presentations under this priority area address the importance of a multi-agency and inter-disciplinary response.
Agenda Item 2
Title of presentation: A national approach to bushfire arson prevention: Towards greater
Presenter: Ms Amanda Leck, Manager Knowledge and Innovation
Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC).
Overview: This presentation highlighted the work AFAC has undertaken with its member
agencies in the areas of information sharing, nationally accredited training
programs, data collection and community education.
； AFAC is the peak fire and emergency services industry body, established by its 34 members to
collaborate on matters of international, national and regional importance.
； AFAC is working closely with the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre to adopt findings from
recent research in order to inform decision making of current and future practice. The need for a
multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach has been identified as key to addressing the issue of
bushfire arson in the areas of prevention, preparedness and response.
； AFAC plays a key role in facilitating two-way information sharing between agencies. For example,
the AFAC Knowledge Web brings together the broad spectrum of research, both within the Bushfire
Cooperative Research Centre and from researchers in other organisations, together with local
knowledge, and lessons learned.
Agenda Item 3
Title of presentation: The prevention of bushfire arson.
Presenter: Dr Janet Stanley, Chief Research Office, Monash Sustainability Institute. Overview: This presentation provided an overview of the Symposium Advancing
Bushfire Arson Prevention in Australia, held on 25-26 March 2010.
； The Symposium was a joint initiative of the Australian Bushfire Arson Prevention Initiative and the
Australian Institute of Criminology. It was hosted by the Monash Sustainability Institute.
； Bushfire arson is an intractable and costly problem for Australia. The symposium brought together a
wide range of stakeholders to identify gaps in current knowledge and responses to bushfire arson, and
determine priorities for addressing them.
； The Australian Bushfire Arson Prevention Initiative is working towards a 25% reduction in arson lit
fires in five years time, and will use the conclusions from the Symposium as the basis for setting goals
and structuring planning over the next five years.
； The Symposium report is available on the Monash Sustainability Institute website. Agenda Item 4
Title of presentation: Wildfire Arson Investigation Management Course – A way forward.
Presenter: Mr Richard Woods, Manager, Operations, ACT Rural Fire Service.
Overview: This presentation provided an overview of the course content and plans for its
further development for Australian use.
； The need for cross-agency investigation capability is critical to the successful investigation of bushfire
arson. Overseas experience has demonstrated that the skill sets of fire and police investigators can be
successfully combined to investigate these fire events.
； Originally developed in the United States and Canada, the Wildfire Arson Investigation Course is
designed to align police and fire services investigators skills to solve serial wildfire arsonists.
； In September 2009, a pilot Wildfire Investigation Case Development Course was hosted by the ACT
Rural Fire Service with students attending from across Australia and New Zealand. This pilot course
was held to gauge its application to the Australian and New Zealand context.
； As part of the Forum, the Commonwealth announced additional funding for the development of a
Bushfire Arson Investigation Course, building on the pilot course conducted by the ACT Rural Fire
Service in October 2009. This commitment delivers on actions identified in the National Work Plan
to Reduce Bushfire Arson in Australia
Agenda Item 5
Title of presentation: Improving multi-agency approaches to arson prevention.
Presenter: Superintendent Chris Lewis, Fire Investigation and Research Unit,
New South Wales Fire Brigades.
Overview: This presentation provided an overview of the multi-agency approach to
bushfire arson in New South Wales. In particular, Strikeforce TRONTO, the
Hunter Arson Reduction Taskforce, the Doonside Project and the work of the
Inter-Agency Arson Committee.
； New South Wales is looking at the strengths of these multi-agency approaches and what
improvements could be made in the future.
Agenda Item 6
Title of presentation: Victoria Police Bushfire Arson Prevention and Detection Strategy. Presenter: Detective Superintendent Paul Hollowood, Tasking and Coordination
Operations, Crime Department, Victoria Police.
Overview: This presentation provided an overview of Victoria’s Bushfire Arson
Prevention and Detection Strategy.
； The Victorian bushfires of February 2009 were the largest scale civilian disaster in Australia’s history,
causing a devastating effect upon life, community and the environment.
； Following this disaster, Victoria Police has gained unique insights into the issues associated with
bushfire arson, and also the gaps that exist in respect to capability.
； The Victoria Police Bushfire Arson Prevention and Detection Strategy is a unique state-wide
coordinated approach to combat bushfire arson more effectively.
Law Enforcement Responses
A more coordinated and effective law enforcement response is one critical aspect in successfully tackling the problem of bushfire arson. Fundamental to the development of more effective bushfire arson prevention strategies is better and more accessible data.
Statistical data collection systems in Australia have inconsistent classification schemes. Reliance on available data is complicated by a lack of distinction between urban arson and vegetation or bushfire arson attacks. Additionally, there is a lack of documented empirical data and local knowledge, as information tends to be anecdotal and passed informally.
Presentations under this priority area highlight the need for more work on understanding what data is needed, and how best to standardise, gather and present this information for both operational and knowledge development purposes.
Agenda Item 7
Title of presentation: Successful bushfire arson prevention: A numbers game.
Presenter: Mr Warwick Jones, Research Manager, Geographic Analysis,
Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).
Overview: This presentation used the AIC’s recent analysis of nearly three hundred
thousand bushfire ignition records from eighteen fire agencies in Australia. Summary points:
； The AIC is Australia’s national research and knowledge centre on crime and justice.
； The AIC’s findings identify that a key vulnerability of the perpetrators is the patterned nature of their
activities. These patterns can be discovered by good data systems, and then used to develop
appropriate bushfire arson prevention strategies.
Agenda Item 8
Title of presentation: A centralised database to facilitate effective information sharing on known
and suspected arsonists.
Presenters: Ms Sarah Chidgey, Assistant Secretary, Criminal Law and Law Enforcement
Branch, Attorney-General’s Department.
Mr Stewart Cross, National Manager, Law Enforcement Information Services,
Overview: This presentation provided an overview of how the proposed changes to the
CrimTrac National Police Reference System database will work, and what
will need to be done in order to ensure its effectiveness.
； At the 2009 Forum, it was agreed that a national arson database could be used as a tool to direct
intervention strategies at times of high risk, and that the Attorney-General’s Department would
investigate options for this proposal.
； The Attorney-General’s Department has examined a number of options and recommends adding a
new field of suspected and convicted arsonists to the CrimTrac National Police Reference System.
； As part of the Forum, the Commonwealth announced the proposed establishment of a centralised
national database of convicted and suspected arsonists to provide local police authorities with access
to up-to-date information on arsonists. The information may be used to direct intervention strategies
at times of high risk. This commitment delivers on actions identified in the National Work Plan for
the Prevention of Bushfire Arson.
； Following the presentation, the Attorney-General announced his intention to jointly write with
Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP, to State and Territory Police Ministers
seeking their support for the use of the National Police Reference System as a mechanism for creating
a national database of arsonists.