A new $33.16 million bushfire management research and training facility was officially opened today by Premier Mark McGowan and Emergency Services Minister Francis Logan.
The Karla Katitjin facility in Nambeelup, in the Shire of Murray, marks a new era for bushfire management.
The new facility will be home to Western Australia’s Bushfire Centre of Excellence, which is part of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ Rural Fire Division. The centre of excellence provides enhanced training for bushfire management and response, and has been operating out of temporary offices since its inception in 2018.
In the new, purpose-built facility, the centre of excellence will be able to bring together volunteer and career firefighters, bushfire practitioners, traditional land owners, researchers and scientists to share their bushfire management knowledge, skills and practices.
Through a wide range of new and enhanced training programs, that knowledge will be passed on to volunteer and career firefighters across the State to help ongoing efforts at managing and trying to prevent bushfires. The local Bindjareb Noongar community were closely involved in the design and construction of the new building, which they named Karla Katitjin meaning ‘fire knowledge’.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ Traditional Fire Program, believed to be the first of its kind, will also be hosted at the centre and explores traditional indigenous fire management approaches.
The centre has specialist indoor and outdoor training facilities, collaboration spaces and an interpretive learning centre to help the community better understand bushfires.
Local companies Perkins Builders, Site Architecture Studio and Josh Byrne and Associates, as well as volunteer associations, the Shire of Murray and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions were also closely involved in the project. The project employed about 94 people with 55 per cent of the work carried out by regional contractors.
The $33.16 million investment into the Karla Katitjin facility and its ongoing operations is part of the McGowan Government’s record investment in bushfire management and prevention.
Following the creation of the Rural Fire Division, more than $35 million was allocated to DFES to lead bushfire mitigation across Unallocated Crown Land and Unmanaged Reserves.
An initial $15 million was invested for local governments to identify their bushfire risks and $15 million for eligible local governments to treat their bushfire risks.
Since 2017, the State Government has funded 43 local governments to carry out more than 3,000 mitigation activities, a contribution of well over $23 million in creating a safer State.
As stated by Premier Mark McGowan:
“Today marks an exciting new chapter for the management of bushfires in Western Australia following an unprecedented period of reform and investment over the past three years.
“With a State Government investment of over $33 million, the Bushfire Centre of Excellence will lead the nation in bushfire mitigation, research and management by drawing on the latest in technology, science, academic and traditional land practices.
“The state-of-the-art facility will become an important place to learn and share skills and knowledge to help us rise to the challenge of better preventing, preparing, responding to and recovering from bushfires across the State.
“The Bushfire Centre of Excellence sets a high standard for facilities in the Peel Business Park and signifies the Government’s commitment to the development of economic and job opportunities for regional communities.”
As stated by Emergency Services Minister Francis Logan:
“The Bushfire Centre of Excellence’s Noongar name Karla Katitjin reflects the way learning brings about knowledge and understanding, and this will be at the heart of its operations.
“The impact of the centre’s work will be felt both here in WA and across Australia, and I anticipate the Bushfire Centre of Excellence will become an internationally renowned hub for bushfire management learning and skills development.
“In a nod to traditional land owners, the building’s unique design reflects indigenous Australia with curved natural rammed earth walls and high raked ceilings resembling a river mouth and the roof representing a traditional humpy structure.
“The successful completion of the Bushfire Centre of Excellence is one of the final achievements of the extensive reform brought by the State Government following the Ferguson Inquiry in 2016 and represents our commitment to protecting WA from the threat of bushfires.”
As stated by Murray-Wellington MLA Robyn Clarke:
“The Bushfire Centre of Excellence has been a project with much anticipation from volunteer and professional firefighters, not only in Murray-Wellington but the entire State. Each time I meet with the volunteer fire brigades across Murray-Wellington, the excitement around the centre is well noted.
“Over the years Murray-Wellington has seen its fair share of fires. Over the weekend Dwellingup commemorated 60 years since the Dwellingup fires ravaged the town and a few weeks ago Yarloop remembered the devastation of five years ago.
“To have the Bushfire Centre of Excellence in Murray-Wellington not only shows that the McGowan Government is serious about future bushfire mitigation and training, it is a monument to all those who helped battle those blazes.
“It’s another commitment from the McGowan Government completed and another great investment in the regions.”
As stated by Mandurah MLA David Templeman:
“This is a great opportunity for our Peel region to not only host this facility but also benefit from the research and best practice it will gather.
“The skills and knowledge this facility will provide will help mitigate our bushfire risks and how best to respond to a bushfire when it does occur.”