Home » Disaster Inquiries » Historical Disaster Inquires in Australia

Historical Disaster Inquires in Australia

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In a previous post, I’ve attempted to catalogue all the disaster related inquiries in Australia since the year 2000. In the course of collecting that list I naturally came across a range of lists and other information on disaster inquiries and commissions that pre-date that. I’m collating that information in this post.

I will continue to update it but because of the difficulty in searching for records of these it should not be considered anything close to a complete or exhaustive list. As online versions of most of these reports don’t exist I’ve only linked to a handful – if you’re interested, most should be able to be found in state and national libraries. I’ve also, in some cases, listed the source of the information or link to the list where I found the inquiry (those marked with trove refer the the National Library’s websearch service).

There has been some limited examination of past disaster inquiries, most often in the context of other disaster inquiries and particularly regarding bushfire:

New South Wales
South Australia
Northern Territory
Western Australia



  • 1979 – The Adequacy of Quarantine
  • 1984 – Bushfires and the Australian Environment
  • 1984 – The 1982/83 Bushfires: Implications for national cooperation and coordination based on direct State and Territory forest service experience – major conflagrations report
  • 1986 – Passenger coach safety
  • 1989 – Visits to Australia by Nuclear Powered or Armed Vessels: Contingency Planning for the Accidental Release of Ionising Radiation
  • 1994 – Disaster Management
  • 1998 – The Incidence and Management of the Ovine Johnes Disease in the Australian Sheep Flock
  • 1999 – Report 87: Loss of HMAS Sydney

Register of Senate Committee Reports (1970-2011)


Royal Commission

  • 1923 – Royal Commission on the circumstances attending the supposed loss at sea of the steamship “Sumatra”
  • 1964 – Royal Commission on Loss of H.M.A.S. Voyager


  • 1977 – Board of Inquiry into the Fire at the Naval Air Station, Nowra, New South Wales – trove
  • 1987 – Report of the committee of inquiry into a fire which occurred on 18 March 1987 in a radioisotope processing cell, Building 54 at the Lucas Heights Research Laboratories. – trove
  • 1998 – Board of Inquiry Into the Fire in HMAS Westralia – trove

New South Wales


  • 1989 – Coastal development in NSW: Public concerns and government processes
  • 1991 – Coastal planning and management in NSW: A framework for the future, Volume 1
  • 1992 – Coastal planning and management in NSW: The process for the future, Volume 2
  • 1994 – the report of the Select Committee on Bushfires – COAG Bushfire Inquiry

Register of Legislative Council committee reports & joint committee reports 1988-2011

Royal Commission

  • 1886 – Royal Commission on Collieries
  • 1887 – Royal Commission on the Bulli Colliery Accident
  • 1901 – Royal Commission to Inquire Into the Fatal Accident which Took Place at the Broken Hill South Mine, Broken Hill on the 24th May, 1901
  • 1903 – Royal Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Mount Kembla Colliery Disaster
  • 1903 – Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the cause of the fatal accident at the mine of the sulphide corporation company (limited), commonly known as the “Central Mine” Broken Hill, on the 8th October, 1902
  • 1926 – Report of Royal Commission on Coal and Shale Mines
  • 1927 – Royal Commission of Inquiry on Bush Fires in the State of New South Wales


  • 1957 – Report on the River Murray flood problem : (with particular reference to the 1956 flood) – trove
  • 1978 – Committee of Inquiry into the NSW Fire Brigades (Parkinson Committee) – NSW State Records



  • 1971 – Inter-Departmental Committee of Inquiry into Nepean-Hawkesbury Flood Problems – trove


  • 1996 – New South Wales Fire Brigades : fire prevention – trove
  • 1998 – The Coordination of Bushfire Fighting Activities


Royal Commission

  • 1922 – Royal Commission on Mount Mulligan Colliery Disaster
  • 1925 – Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Traveston railway accident
  • 1956 – Royal Commission Appointed to Enquire Into Certain Matters Relating to the State Coal Mine, Collinsville


  • 1989 – Commission of Review of Fire Services in Queensland – trove
  • 1993 – Review of the Bureau of Emergency Services
  • 1994 – Audit of bushfire strategies:Queensland Emergency Services – trove

Australian Capital Territory


  • 1986 – Committee of Enquiry into the A.C.T. Fire Brigade – Trove


  • 1988 – Purdue Report on management training
  • 1991 – Hannan Group review of the effectiveness of fire and emergency service organisations
  • 1992 – Purdon Report
  • 1993 – MacDonald review of emergency services
  • 1994 – McBeth review of bushfire hazard–reduction practices
  • 1995 – Glenn Bushfire Taskforce

Appendix G of the McLeod Report.



  • 1968 – Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board. Committee of Enquiry – trove
  • 1973 – Northern River flooding inquiry, 1973 : evidence presented to Victorian Parliamentary Public Works Committee – trove
  • 1994 – Inquiry into the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board – trove

Royal Commission

  • 1902 – Royal commission to investigate the subject of locomotive spark arresters as a means of preventing the occurrence of destructive fires in the working of the Victorian railways.
  • 1937 – Royal commission on certain matters relating to the state coal mine Wonthaggi.
  • 1939 – Royal commission to inquire into the causes of and measures taken to prevent the bush fires of January 1939 and to protect life and property and the measures to be taken to prevent bush fires in Victoria and to protect life and property in the event of future bush fires.
  • 1944 – Royal commission to inquire into the place of origin and the causes of the fires which commenced at Yallourn on the 14th day of February 1944; the adequacy of the measures which had been taken to prevent damage; and the measures to be taken to protect the undertaking and township at Yallourn.
  • 1971 – Royal commission into the failure of West Gate Bridge.
  • 1999 – Royal commission into the Esso Longford gas plant accident.


  • 1977 – Report of the Board of Inquiry into the occurrence of bush and grass fires in Victoria – Inquiries following 2002–2003 bushfires
  • 1984 – Report of the Bushfire Review Committee on bushfire preparedness in Victoria, Australia, following the Ash Wednesday fires 16 February 1983 – Inquiries following 2002–2003 bushfires


  • 1983 – Fire protection and fuel-reduction burning in Victoria : report to the Minister of Forests /​ by a task force of officers of the Forests Commission Victoria – trove


  • 1909 – Coroner’s enquiry into the Sunshine railway disaster – trove
  • 1997 – Inquest findings, comments and recommendations into fire and nine deaths at Kew Residential Services on 8 April 1996 – trove


Royal Commission

  • 1913 – Royal Commission on the North Mount Lyell Mining Disaster


  • 1967 – Fire Prevention and Suppression—Report of Committee appointed by His Excellency the Administrator-in-Council to make recommendations with respect to future measures in consequences of the Bush Fire Disaster of 7th February, 1967 – COAG Bushfire Enquiry Report
  • 1993 – Bushfire management in Tasmania’s forests : an audit of the fire management activities of the Forestry Commission
  • 1994 – Review of Vegetation-Based Fire in Tasmania – major conflagrations report

South Australia


  • 1979 – Committee of Inquiry into South Australian Fire Services – trove


  • 1983 – Report of the Review Team on the South Australian bushfires
  • 1985 – Review of electricity distribution policies in bushfire prone and environmentally sensitive areas – trove


  • 1983 – Final report and recommendations of the State Disaster Plan (Welfare) Review Committee – trove

Northern Territory

(includes relevant inquiries prior to NT achieving self government in 1978)


  • 1974 – A report arising from an enquiry into the Northern Territory fire service : commissioned by the Minister for the Northern Territory

Western Australia

Royal Commission


  • 1985 – Review of emergency services
  • 1994 – Report of the Fire Review Panel Conducting a Review of the Department of Conservation and Land Management’s (CALM) prescribed burning policy and practices and ‘Wildfire Threat Analysis – major conflagrations report

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