Australia — Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, and Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan OConnor, today announced new initiatives to combat deliberately lit fires as part of the second annual National Forum for the Prevention of Bushfire Arson.
The Attorney-General established the Forum in 2009 to promote more effective and collaborative means of preventing and deterring bushfire arson.
Todays meeting brought together 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 deliberately lit or starting in suspicious circumstances. In addition to the massive human toll that fires can take, it is estimated that arson in all its forms costs the Australian community approximately $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.
The Rudd Government today 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;
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 Manual, developed by the Australian Institute of Criminology, to help local communities develop strategies to prevent arson.
A centralised national database of arsonists will provide local authorities with access to up-to-date information on arsonists which may be used to direct intervention strategies at times of high risk.
The Bushfire Arson Prevention Manual will also become an important reference used by local organisations, fire agencies and the police, when developing community based bushfire and arson prevention strategies.
Todays Forum demonstrates the ongoing commitment of Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments to work together to prevent and deter arson through a coordinated and nationally agreed framework.