University of Tasmania
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Post-disaster royal commissions : lesson-learning and the implementation of recommendations

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posted on 2023-05-27, 10:42 authored by Whiley, HA
Australia's continued adoption of post-disaster inquiries, specifically royal commissions to investigate and evaluate preparedness, responses and the aftermath of catastrophic disasters suggests it is an appropriate tool for identifying lessons and learning opportunities that mitigate their future impacts. Critiques of the approach question the ability for post-disaster inquiries to create lessons that mitigate future impacts of disasters, and to improve responses, and preparedness through the implementation of their recommendations and findings. Three case studies are used to understand how post-disaster inquiries undertake their investigation: the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, the 2010-11 Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry, and the 2010-11 Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission. This thesis uses these cases to comparatively analyse and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of royal commissions as a tool for lesson-learning from a disaster. Throughout its analysis of these cases, this thesis focuses on decision-making throughout their establishment, investigation, and post-investigation stages. It looks at how the impacts of these decisions affect an inquiry's outcomes, notably through the implementation of its recommendations. This thesis concludes by reaffirming the continued usefulness of post-disaster royal commissions. It highlights that changes to the way we think about and undertake these will make them more effective, appropriate, and useful for ensuring implementation of lessons that mitigate the impact of future disasters. Key to this is considering the establishment, investigation, and post-investigation stages of a post-disaster inquiry as part of one process, where responsibility for the implementation, evaluation, and consideration of recommendations is made throughout. This thesis develops a series of recommendations to improve the effectiveness, operation, and outcomes of post-disaster royal commissions. It is argued that central to this is viewing post-disaster inquiries as part of a wider process of disaster policy development, where the focus is on the disaster type, rather than a specific event.


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