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Fire, Flood, Storm and Cyclone: applying science to the challenge

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The tragic and destructive bushfires of the 2019/20 Black Summer across south-eastern Australia pose a range of challenges for the nation’s scientists. In the face of the combined forces of nature, climate, demographics and limited resources, can science make a real difference? What sort of research do we need to do now to prepare for the natural hazard impacts of tomorrow?

The value of research in solving such problems is the focus of an annual oration next month, to be delivered in a live webinar by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, who will draw on his extensive experience to speak on how science and technology can make a meaningful difference.

Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC CEO, Dr Richard Thornton, said the perspective of the Chief Scientist will be a valuable contribution to the public discussion on how to respond to the recent fire season. “Science is only one of many aspects being considered by the many inquiries underway. We look forward to hearing from Dr Finkel on how science and research can be applied to address future impacts of natural hazards on Australian communities,” he said.

Dr Finkel this year took the role as Chair of the Expert Advisory Panel for the CSIRO Report on Climate and Disaster Resilience, which was commissioned by the Prime Minister following the tragic 2019/20 bushfire season in southern Australia.

Dr Finkel’s oration will be held in honour of the former Chairman of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, Dr Laurie Hammond, who passed away in 2018. Dr Finkel’s talk on the use of science to address the real-world issues in natural hazards is a fitting legacy to Dr Hammond’s belief in the importance of transferring science into practice.

The Laurie Hammond Oration was scheduled as a key part of the cancelled AFAC20 annual conference in Adelaide in August, the major knowledge and networking event in emergency management in Australia and New Zealand.