Following the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December 2004, the Australian Government committed funding of $68.9 million over four years in the 2005-2006 Federal Budget to upgrade the Australian Tsunami Alert System (ATAS) to an operational, early warning system—the Australian Tsunami Warning System (ATWS). The ATWS project was jointly managed by Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Attorney-General's Department.
The Australian Government’s funding was utilised to:
- establish the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre with 24/7 monitoring and analysis capacity for the nation
- upgrade and expand sea-level and seismic monitoring networks around Australia
- implement national tsunami education and training programs
- assist the inter-governmental Oceanographic Commission to develop the existing Pacific Tsunami Warning System and establish the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System, and
- provide technical assistance to help build the capacity of scientists, technicians, and emergency managers in the South West Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The Department was mandated to build capacity and raise community awareness within relevant industry, education, volunteer and community sectors through education programs, activities and training. The Department undertook significant consultation and research to review and examine current practice, identify potential gaps and areas for improvement, and developed and implemented a suite of public awareness and capacity development programs and activities relating to tsunami throughout the Australian States and Territories.
Significant results are:
- funding and coordination of a national exercise to test the ATWS and Australia’s tsunami warning capability (Exercise Ausnami 2009).
- development of a suite of four tsunami awareness brochures, including information for recreational marine users and recreational boaters
- development of an educational interactive tool on tsunami for Surf Life Saving Australia employees and volunteers
- development and delivery of a series of in-service tsunami education workshops and presentations for emergency managers which have been conducted throughout Australian States and Territories
- development of a suite of tsunami educational tools and programs aimed at culturally and linguistically diverse communities and indigenous communities
- tsunami community resilience research
- a partnership with Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre in Canberra, which includes the implementation of a Tsunami Awareness Show for children and the general public, the production of an associated Tsunami Awareness Presentation DVD, production of an interactive tsunami education game and development of a suite of children’s tsunami education activity sheets, and
- a partnership with Australian States and Territories to provide tsunami awareness and capacity building activities throughout Australia.
ATWS project achievement:
The ATWS project received a Highly Commended Award in the Risk Initiative Category of the 2008 Comcover Awards for excellence in risk management.