The Biosecurity Incident National Communication Network (NCN) produces nationally consistent public information in response to pest and disease outbreaks (biosecurity incidents).
The network consists of communication managers from the Australian Government, state and territory agriculture departments, Plant Health Australia, Animal Health Australia, the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Australian Government Department of Health, and the Australian Local Government Association. Wildlife Health Australia and the National Farmers’ Federation are observers.
Communication essential during biosecurity incidents
Biosecurity incidents can impact on many people including affected producers/growers and their local communities, overseas trading partners, stakeholders such as exporters and supply chain service providers, the general public, and media.
The NCN facilitates the rapid and consistent dissemination of information that people need to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a pest or disease outbreak. Effective communication also supports pest and disease containment, control and eradication efforts.
Role of the NCN
The NCN’s role has expanded from its original focus on emergency animal diseases to include plant pests, diseases and weeds, as well as those that affect aquatic animals and the marine environment.
During a major biosecurity incident (in the ‘response’ phase), the NCN will:
- provide strategic communication advice to the relevant national Consultative Committee and National Management Group
- develop national talking points (key messages), and if required, a communication strategy
- operate in accordance with national biosecurity response arrangements including using emergency communication principles and procedures as described in the Biosecurity Incident Public Information Manual (BIPIM)
- explain policies, plans and practices in a response to all stakeholders clearly, consistently, openly and quickly
- facilitate the flow of public information between the jurisdictions
- provide experienced communication officers to other jurisdictions (where available and/or necessary)
- publish content to the national pest and disease Outbreak website (outbreak.gov.au).
During non-response times, the NCN:
- reports to the National Biosecurity Committee
- coordinates communication preparedness activities for biosecurity incidents including
- crisis communication training (including participating in emergency response exercises)
- preparation and updates of communication tools, operation manuals and guidelines, resources and arrangements
- shares communication plans, research outcomes, lessons learnt, resources and other relevant materials with other NCN members.
The NCN is chaired by the Senior Executive Service officer responsible for communication in the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
The NCN’s core membership comprises relevant communication managers from:
- the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
- state and territory agriculture/biosecurity agencies
- Animal Health Australia
- Plant Health Australia
- CSIRO/Australian Animal Health Laboratory
- the Australian Government Department of Health
- Australian Local Government Association.
Wildlife Heath Australia and the National Farmers’ Federation are observers.
During an incident, the NCN expands its membership by inviting communication managers from:
- industries affected by the incident (that are signatories to either the Emergency Plant Pest Deed, the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement or the National Environmental Response Agreement
- other relevant Commonwealth, state or territory government agencies
- non-government environment organisations
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand
- the Australian Food and Grocery Council
- the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
- other groups identified as critical to the response.
The NCN meets face-to-face twice a year and by teleconference when required. The hosting of NCN meetings is rotated between its core members.
Following its face-to-face meeting, the NCN issues a Communiqué that outlines its current work activities.
The NCN Secretariat sits within the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in Canberra and can be contacted by emailing NCN.