I was very disappointed to read this (among other disappointing things) in the 2014 Budget Papers (http://www.budget.gov.au/2014-15/content/bp2/html/bp2_expense-05.htm)

The Government will achieve savings of $0.9 million over four years by transitioning the Australian Emergency Management Institute (AEMI) into a ‘virtual’ institute.

The AEMI will continue to be a Centre of Excellence for knowledge and capability development in the national emergency management sector providing a range of education, training, professional development, information, research and community awareness services to the nation and our region. The transition will allow AEMI greater flexibility to deliver emergency management training.

Now I’m all for distance education but one of the great things of AEMI is that is has not been ‘virtual’ – rather it’s been a place to bring together people in the emergency services and emergency management, often volunteers, so they can meet those from other services and other states and build the connections and understanding that are so vital when a major response is required. The Senior officers have those connections but making them available to a broad range of people is essential for developing capacity in the emergency services, and now is something to be lost.

Presumably the iconic college, that has been part of the Civil Defence/Emergency Management industry since 1956, will be sold off and what is to happen to the staff? Residential staff will no doubt lose their work but what of the educators with all those years of experience both in the sector and in training the sector? Will they be retained to maintain the ‘Centre of Excellence’ but will that require a move to Melbourne or Canberra? Or will that training function be outsourced to the lowest bidder?

I see other relevant budget outcomes are
‘The AFP will cease recruitment of additional sworn officers at the end of the 2013‑14 financial year’;
‘The Government will provide up to $1.0 million for Personal Hardship Payments under a 50:50 cost‑sharing arrangement with the Victorian Government for those affected by the open cut coal mine fire that started on 9 February 2014. This is in addition to the $1.0 million in payments provided to victims of the September 2013 NSW bushfires through the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment Programme… The payment to Victoria will be made under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements. Provision for the NSW bushfires has been met from within existing resources of the Attorney‑General’s Department.’;
‘The Government will provide $15.0 million over three years from 2014‑15 to states and territories to implement long term bushfire mitigation strategies and better fuel reduction programmes. This will contribute to safer, more resilient communities, which are better able to prepare for, respond to and withstand the impacts and effects of bushfires.’

For further analysis of the budget see Australian Federal Budget: Bad News for Disasters by Casus Calamitas Consulting.