Community Bushfire Connection

The 2018 Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference is on next week over the 21-22 May at The Star Gold Coast.

Mr Andy Gillham, Ranger in Charge Fire & Emergency Operations with Central Gippsland District joins us at the Conference to discuss ‘Community Bushfire Connection: Agencies and Community Collaborate to Deliver A Program Building Community Resilience in The Latrobe Valley’.


Mr Andy Gillham

The Latrobe Valley in Victoria has experienced a number of major fire events over the past 10 years, causing considerable community concern regarding a lack of knowledge and advice restricting their ability to act to protect themselves and their families. Community Bushfire Connection was a program initiated by a range of emergency service agencies, industry groups and community groups to work together to develop and deliver a program aimed at empowering residents and improving community resilience. The program which ran over a month had three stages.

The first stage involved a series of township information nights to share information and knowledge of fire experts, emergency service personnel and community leaders.

The second stage “Bushfire Bus Stops” involved a bus travelling around the valley manned by fire experts and using the latest technology, such as Phoenix Rapidfire, and allowing people to have one on one discussions with fire experts to help them understand the risk to their property and how to plan for it.

Lastly a series of Valley wide fire scenarios (Tomorrow when the fire began) were run and people were invited to attend and test their plans.

The hypothetical style format allowed sharing of experiences across a range of perspectives, valuing personal stories and learning’s equally with emergency service or fire expert opinions. 20 separate events were delivered in 9 locations across the valley during the program with over 700 attendees. Evaluation of the program indicated people felt more aware, better connected and applied the knowledge gained to develop or improve their fire plans. A powerful part of this program was the lead role of community members in developing the program and delivering it and the strong relationships, connections this helped foster in the valley community. This presentation will reflect on the program and key learnings.


Andy Gillham (AFSM) is a Parks Victoria Ranger in Charge for fire and emergency operations. Based in south eastern Australia Andy is responsible for the planning, coordination and delivery of a large fire and emergency management program across public land in Central Gippsland, including large interface areas of public/private land. Prior to joining the public service in 1989 Andy was employed as an engineering surveyor working on large scale construction and mining projects in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.

Andy has taken a keen interest and demonstrated a consistent involvement in emergency management since his work as a volunteer with the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Victorian State Emergency Service (SES) in the1980’s. This involvement became more dynamic over the last 29 years since Andy commenced work with Parks Victoria in February 1989. Andy is particularly interested in fire ecology and has a passion for working with communities in emergency management.

This interest has led to Andy’s involvement in many key Gippsland fire and emergency related community engagement initiatives including; Living with Bushfire Community Bushfires conferences in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and the 2017 Community Bushfire Connection project. Andy is currently an accredited Type 3 Incident Controller, Operations Officer, Planning Officer and Intelligence Officer under the AIIMS framework and has worked extensively in emergency management across Australia and North America. Andy played a pivotal role in management of the 2009 Victorian Black Saturday bushfires and subsequent Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. Andy was awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal in January 2015.

For more information on the 2018 Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference and to secure your spot, visit the conference website.