My bushfire meal changed the game: Nixon

My bushfire meal changed the game: Nixon

05 April 2013

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Australia — FORMER Victoria Police chief Christine Nixon says leaders will never again leave their post during a disaster out of fear they’ll be criticised like she was on Black Saturday.

Ms Nixon, who served as chief police commissioner for almost eight years, left for dinner at a pub only minutes after being told the state’s bushfires on February 7, 2009, could become a disaster and people would probably die.

A royal commission into the deaths of 173 people on that day later criticised her hands-off leadership style and called it inadequate.

She was also heavily criticised in the media for her decision to leave her post during the peak of the fires.

But Ms Nixon told the Nine Network program The Bottom Line, which airs on Saturday, that the incident had changed emergency management.

“I don’t think anybody will ever leave the scene of anything ever again, with the criticism that happened,” she said.

“Just in case something serious happens to them, they’ll be able to say, ‘Well, I was there.'”

Ms Nixon, who led bushfire recovery efforts after the disaster, said the criticism she faced was very harsh and she’s still not sure if her staying at the state control centre would have made a difference.

“I let some people down. Some people believed I did,” she said.

“Whether or not me being there or not would have made any difference to the fires is a whole other issue.”

Ms Nixon is considered a trailblazer for women in the force and she led police through a difficult corruption scandal and Melbourne’s gangland war.

But her pub dinner on Black Saturday has continued to dog her distinguished career.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in 2011 that Ms Nixon would have to reflect on that day for the rest of her life.

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