It is impossible to encapsulate the many emotions evoked by the devastation caused by the bushfires for all Australians and the tragic consequences for our people, wildlife and country. Our deep concern lies with all the individuals and families affected and the communities whose lives have been torn apart.

It has never been more important to assemble evidence-based information on the health impacts of the changing climate. On a policy level, strategies are needed to prepare Australia for the impact of climate change on health and health systems, together with defining actions to alleviate these challenges. As a learned Academy, will continue to develop our role as an authoritative and independent source of expertise and advice – indeed, some of the Academy’s Fellows are already contributing to the response in this way. The Academy’s President has written to relevant Federal Ministers to offer support and we are liaising with our State Branches through their Branch Chairs.

In 2019, we initiated a project on the impact of climate change on health, which this year will explore implications for various diseases, issues such as health inequalities and the environmental impact of health systems. Recent events highlight the critical nature of this issue and the Academy will use its expertise and convening power to contribute to our nation’s plans for mitigation and adaptation moving forward, particularly in health. As part of that work, we will clearly need to consider both the physical and mental health impact of events such as bushfires, which are so relevant to the Australian context, and we have organised an initial roundtable to explore the existing evidence base around these impacts.

We will continue to speak and work with our various partners, including the Learned Academies, peak bodies, and other institutions both in Australia and internationally, some of whom are already active in these areas, to ensure that we take relevant opportunities to align and collaborate, especially given the interdisciplinary – and often global – nature of these challenges.

Fellows and Associate Members able to support this work are encouraged to contact the secretariat, through the CEO, Catherine Luckin: [email protected] 

The Academy has supported a consensus statements on the Australian Bushfires by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA), which was published on 13 February 2020.