What tech leader Adrian Turner did next

James Riley
Editorial Director

Former Data61 chief executive Adrian Turner has pulled together an extensive coalition of banks, corporate giants and not-for-profit social service delivery organisations under Twiggy Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation to build national disaster resilience in the wake of the bushfires.

Mr Turner, who left the CSIRO’s Data61 early this year, has been appointed to lead Minderoo’s Wildfire Disaster and Resilience Program (WDRP) in order to create an evidence base that will be used to direct action to where it is most needed ahead of the expected August start of the 20-21 fire season.

The focus of the program is to use new data models to help deliver short-term interventions that would include across “enhanced prediction and response,” creating more resilient landscapes and communities.

Adrian Turner
Adrian Turner has turned his attention to ‘wildfires’ through Minderoo

Mr Turner, who had a direct and frightening interaction with the impact of bushfire in helping to fight a Kangaroo Valley fire that threatened the home of his brother, said the program’s work was vital as the increased weather volatility due to climate change and the prospect of an even worse fire season whilst still managing the COVID-19 impacts.

“Our experience of the past few months shows existing technology and systems leave us ill-equipped to deal with large-scale disasters like fire, flood and other unforeseen challenges,” Mr Turner said.

“We know further threats will come in the future, but we want to transform the shock and anxiety many of us are feeling into a movement for positive action. We will deploy evidence-based solutions to protect communities and the environment.

He said the WDRP would use a mission-based model to break down problems into smaller discrete units that could be addressed by partners.

“It is a process of collaboration that also builds on the excellent work many are already doing in this space,” he said.

Partners in the new program include the Business Council of Australia, the Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, Macquarie, NAB, Telstra, Optus, IAG, the Red Cross, Salvation Army and many others.

The Minderoo Foundation has committed $50 million to the program announced earlier this year and is targeting $500 million of direct and indirect commitments from its partners.

Immediate work to be started ahead of the bushfire season includes assessing the use of unmanned firefighting technologies and new situational awareness capabilities for Australia’s emergency services, as well as helping to build an evidence base for indigenous fuel load management.

The program includes research to improve to the release – and monitoring recovery – of wildlife as they return to their habitat and to also help lead the development of a “global resilience data collective as an open platform for lifting community resilience.”

Minderoo Foundation chairman Andrew Forrest said the WDRP would see Australia emerge as the global leader in climate-induced fire and flood resilience by 2030.

“Today I’m proud to announce the program has already formed partnerships with leading organisations and experts ready to quickly boost Australia’s preparedness for the kinds of challenges we’ve faced this year, as well as to collaborate on the development of a long-term Disaster Resilience Blueprint for lasting impact,” Mr Forrest said.

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