Building Stronger Bushfire-Resilient Australian Homes

  • Article by: Sally Wood


The Master Builders Association (MBA) and the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) are collaborating to improve the resilience of Australian houses, property and local communities in the face of natural disasters, such as bushfires. Through several roundtable discussions, the industry associations are aiming to identify and propose key national priorities that will ensure Australian homes are more safe, secure and insurable.

This initiative has been inspired by the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, which was established in 2020 following the exceptionally uncontrollable and fierce bushfire season from June 2019 to February 2020 across Australia.

About The Royal Commission

On 12 January 2020, a proposal was outlined by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to establish a Royal Commission into the bushfires. The aim of the Royal Commission was to review operational aspects of the 2019-2020 bushfire season to ensure that our natural disaster coordination arrangements are the best they can be.

The Royal Commission presented its report on National Natural Disaster Arrangements to the Governor-General on 28 October 2020. A key finding was that 90% of the buildings in bushfire prone areas have not been built to meet bushfire planning regulations. The report highlighted just how important improved fire resilience and mitigation are, as well as better building standards and land-using planning.

It was recommended that there be mandatory consideration of natural disaster risk when building homes as well as the establishment of a federal body tasked with promoting and championing these aims.

bushfire resistant home
Source: Bushfire resistant straw house, Joost Bakker

The Building Stronger Homes Roundtable

The ICA and MBA have drawn upon the findings from the Royal Commission to help map the way forward. Denita Wawn (CEO of Master Builders Australia) stated that “the building and insurance sectors are committed to exploring practical and effective ways to deliver better building quality outcomes that enable industry to deliver more resilient buildings and give consumers confidence.” 

The ICA and MBA will host several roundtable discussions to help establish national policies that will enhance property resistance, building standards and land-use planning. The first of these talks will convene on 26 November 2020 in Canberra.

The Building Stronger Homes Roundtable will help builders and insurers work together, harnessing industry insights from both insurance data and building expertise. The goal is to establish actionable steps that can be taken to improve the security and insurability of both existing and future Australian homes.

The roundtables will be attended by senior representatives from the industry and invited government leaders. In addition, experts in areas such as finance, science and economics will also be invited to join the discussion. The focus of the roundtables will centre around:

  • Codes and the built environment
  • Significance and structure of land-use planning
  • Present and potential mitigation and hazard reduction investment priorities
  • Information systems and data

It is impossible to overvalue the long-term benefits of safer and stronger Australian homes, which means minimising vulnerability and the risk of loss in the face of extreme bushfires is imperative. The eagerly awaited final report from the Building Stronger Homes Roundtable is expected to be presented in mid-2021.

Published: 21/11/2020
Author: Sally Wood