The Academy was delighted to provide evidence at a public hearing of the Senate’s Finance and Public Administration Committee inquiry into the “Lessons to be learned in relation to the Australian bushfire season 2019-20”.
Professor Stephen Duckett FASSA FAHMS appeared on behalf of AAHMS, alongside representatives from the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and the Public Health Association of Australia.
Professor Duckett highlighted the importance of research to enable a better understanding of the impacts of bushfires and the associated bushfire smoke on the physical and mental health of affected communities and the broader population. He highlighted that this research needs to be prioritised alongside other areas, especially in the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From the opening statement of the Academy:
“The extent and duration of the Black Summer bushfires had a major impact on physical and mental health in Australia – on an unprecedented scale. Clearly we need to address the ongoing impacts. We also need to prepare to mitigate and adapt in response to future events, given that the frequency and severity of such events is predicted to rise during the coming decades.
Our response and future preparedness depend on how well we understand these impacts. At present, we do not always have an accurate picture of the scale of these problems, the mechanisms through which they occur or the most effective strategies for managing them. It is important, therefore, to address these gaps in our knowledge – through research.”
You can download the full opening statement below. The Academy submitted its response to the inquiry in early April.
The senate inquiry was live-streamed and the video of the hearing can be accessed here.
Professor Duckett’s evidence was covered by the Canberra Times, in an article that emphasised the need for more detailed knowledge of how bushfire smoke impacts on respiratory health and for appropriate public health guidance in the event of air pollution from bushfire smoke.
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