Adapting Australia’s Legal Frameworks for Future Fires

Australia is the most fire-prone continent on Earth.

Dry landscape of Flinders Ranges

While many Australian ecosystems evolved to flourish with fire, climate warming and drying trends weather is turning ecosystems across the country into fuel for bushfires that are becoming more frequent, longer lasting, and more damaging, and these changes are happening faster than expected. 

This research project examines whether Australian law-makers can learn lessons from recent research and law reform in the United States, to enhance the effectiveness and adaptiveness of Australia's bushfire mitigation and hazard reduction laws. The project is designed to support the development of more adaptive, future-oriented laws, policies and strategies for bushfire hazard reduction, including through changes to liability rules, authorising provisions in legislation for private land management and building capacity to increase cultural burning on private land. 

Project outputs

Project outputs include peer reviewed publications, a published paper in a conference proceedings and conference presentations, invited keynotes and political briefings, including the following:

  • Peer reviewed publication

    • McCormack, Miller and McDonald, ‘Prescribed burning on private land: Reflections on recent law reform in Australia and California’ International Journal of Wildland Fire (in review)
  • Conference paper

    • McCormack, Miller and McDonald, ‘Prescribed burning on private land: Trends in legal reform in Australia and California’, Proceedings for the Fire and Climate Conference, Pasadena and Melbourne, International Association of Wildland Fire (forthcoming)
  • Conference presentations

    • ‘Getting ready for future fires together: Legal reform for prescribed fire on private land’, IAWF Fire & Climate Conference, Pasadena (May 2022)
    • ‘What do we already know about climate-adaptive law reform? Opportunities to improve bushfire laws in Australia’, IAWF Fire & Climate Conference, Melbourne (June 2022)
    • ‘Future bushfire laws’, presentation to the Early Career Researchers’ Workshop, Natural Hazards Research Australia Research Forum (Oct 2022)
  • Invited keynotes and presentations

    • ‘Imagining and designing coherent, adaptation-oriented laws about wildfire’, California Science Exchange Monthly Seminar Series (Nov 2022)
    • Presentation to the Natural Hazards Research Australia Education and Training Committee (Nov 2022)
  • Political briefings and international meetings

    • Meeting with Dr Rebecca Miller, ‘The West on Fire Project’, Huntington-University of Southern California and the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University (May 2022)
    • Multiple briefings and meetings with the Tasmanian Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management and Chief of the Tasmanian Fire Service, Tasmanian Government (2022, 2023)