New $33m Bushfire Centre of Excellence facility officially opened

Cultural collaboration: Bushfires remembered as $33m centre opens

The weekend marked 60 years since the Dwellingup fires ravaged the town and a few weeks ago Yarloop remembered the devastation of five years ago.

The commemoration of those catastrophic events coincided with the opening of a new $33.16million bushfire management research and training facility in the Shire of Murray on Monday.

The Karla Katitjin facility in Nambeelup, will be home to WA's Bushfire Centre of Excellence, which is part of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services' Rural Fire Division.

The centre of excellence provides 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.

"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," Premier Mark McGowan said on opening the building.

"...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," he said.

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'.

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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.

"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," Emergency Services Minister Francis Logan said.

"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," he said.

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.