School’s Legal Obligations Regarding Bushfires

Cecelia Irvine-SoAs bushfires continue to ravage Australian land, Cecelia Irvine-So, Practice Leader at Moores, summarises the guidelines schools should follow to ensure their bushfire management plans and policies are up to date and compliant. To understand what is needed to ensure a school is legally compliant, Cecelia will be discussing the legal issues in managing key relationships between the Principal, the Board and the Business Manager at the upcoming School Law for New and Aspiring School Leaders in March.

All registered schools must have a Bushfire Preparedness Plan which complies with the minimum standards.

The VRQA prompted schools to review these last October. We recommend they be reviewed now in light of the devastating bushfires, with particular regard to:

  • Camp sites, whether owned by the School or not;
  • Travel routes to and from School (including review of school bus routes);
  • Excursions and camps; and
  • Community and personal development trips such as visits to remote communities.

Schools on the Bushfire At Risk Register are required to close on days which are declared Code Red. The Register is available online at the Victorian Department of Education website. Many schools, even those which are not considered “bushy” and which are in the middle of suburbs, are on the register, in addition to regional schools.

Schools should review the Victorian Department of Education’s Air Quality and activity guide, noting that bushfire smoke may require cancellation of all outdoor activities and re-calibration of air-conditioning systems. Staff should also be reminded on imminent PD days of students who have an asthma management plan.

If your school is looking to kick off the year with a bushfire fundraiser, non-government schools in NSW must comply with the Department’s Not for Profit guidelines, including the requirement that any fundraising must benefit students at the school and therefore be connected to curriculum.


How Moores can help

Moores can assist Schools with ensuring their bushfire management plans are up to date and all policies compliant. We can also assist with any specific queries about the extent of regulatory compliance and duty of care, as well as critical incident plans and responses.

For further information, please contact Moores’ Practice Leader and education expert, Cecelia Irvine-So on (03) 9843 2100.


This article was originally published on Moores.

Practice Leader Cecelia Irvine-So is a commercial lawyer specialising in privacy, regulatory compliance and education law. Cecelia is in demand not only from clients, but also from industry bodies seeking her expertise for speaking engagements, training and contributions to boards and advisory groups. As well as being editor in chief of Portner Press’ Data Privacy Report, Cecelia holds two specialist accreditations. You may connect with Cecelia via email or through LinkedIn.