New framework to provide more heat and smoke refuges during emergencies


Community clubs will be able to open their doors as refuges to keep Canberrans safe during extreme heat and smoke events under a new law passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly today.

Under the new law, during an emergency or other hazard, suitable clubs can be declared as refuges, where community members can find respite and relief during emergencies, such as a big bushfire.

“We’re living through a climate change emergency, and it is critical that we make refuges available for the community during extreme events such as heat waves and bushfires. It’s especially important for vulnerable Canberrans who may be at a greater risk of heat stress or breathing difficulties,” Minister Rattenbury said.

“These venues provide our community with access to climate-controlled spaces that aren’t always available in homes. By allowing community clubs to become heat and smoke refuges,  Canberrans will have access to nearby respite, no matter which side of the lake they live on.”

Under the new program, clubs in use as refuges will be required to have an area separate from both gaming machines and alcohol, so that they are suitable to be used as a refuge for all members of the community. 

In addition, the clubs must let people know of alternative refuge venues, such as libraries, that can be used during the emergency.

While the declaration is in force, clubs will be entitled to claim some expenses arising from their use as a refuge as community purpose contributions. 

Members of the Heat and Smoke Refuge Working Group, which involve two gambling harm reduction experts and two club representatives from the Community Clubs Ministerial Advisory Council, will continue to assist the ACT Government’s implementation of the club refuge program.

The framework for clubs to operate as refuges will be in place for the 2023/24 bushfire season. 

This initiative delivers on a Government Parliamentary Agreement commitment to support clubs to become heat and smoke refuges for local communities.