Mr Justin Leonard, Experimental Scientist, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems

Mr Justin Leonard is a project leader for bushfire research at CSIRO’s Sustainable Ecosystems.

Justin Leonard: Leading bushfire impact and vulnerability research

Justin Leonard’s research interests are in bushfire mechanism interaction with infrastructure and the context of bushfire losses including community behaviour and fire fighter safety.

  • 20 August 2009 | Updated 6 March 2014

In this article

  1. Overview
  2. Publishing History


Page 1 of 2

Current activities

Mr Justin Leonard heads CSIRO’s Bushfire Urban Design team, focusing on the detailed understanding of how infrastructure design and sitting influence it loss potential for various levels of fire arrival severity. Using this knowledge the team then also focuses on effective design and behavioural solutions to address these vulnerabilities.

The work is delivering risk assessment tools and urban design solutions for clients who include:

  • Bushfires Cooperative Research Centre (CRC)
  • Attorney Generals Department
  • Victorian fire services commissioner
  • New South Wales Rural Fire Service
  • Victorian Country Fire Service
  • Queensland Public Safety Business Agency
  • Melbourne University
  • Victorian Building Authority

Mr Leonard's experience with experimental science indicates that people living in bushfire prone areas need to first accept the natural occurrence of bushfires, then effectively assess the risk these bushfires present.


Mr Leonard joined CSIRO in 1993 and initially gained experience in the areas of materials flammability and fire test methods as well as combustion science and air quality.

A few years in his research focus moved to bushfire related infrastructure impact.

This has seen Mr Leonard managing:

People living in bushfire prone areas need to first accept the natural occurrence of bushfires and then effectively assess the risk that these bushfires present.

  • CSIRO’s bushfire building damage survey effort from 1995 to present, including the 2003 Canberra fires in the Australian Capital Territory, 2005 Eyre Peninsula fires in South Australia, and the 2009 Victorian Black Saturday fires.
  • The People and Property Protection research initiative in the Bushfire CRC
  • The attorney Generals department Life and house loss database initiative
  • The development of the current Queensland Bushfire state planning policy maps and guidelines
  • CSIRO’s contribution to the development and validation program for CFA’s fire fighting vehicle burnover protection systems
  • Various experimental programs assessing bushfire exposure on houses, fences, vehicles, water tanks, personal fire refuges and power poles.
  • Various risk assessment and design advice initiatives on community fire refuges.

As a member of the CSIRO Bushfire Taskforce, Mr Leonard was involved in defining and implementing a CSIRO-wide approach to bushfire research.

He has lectured on the performance of buildings in bushfires to a variety of audiences which include:

  • Country Fire Authority (CFA)
  • Municipal District Fire Wardens
  • Community Fire Guard Coordinators.

Academic qualifications

  • Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, University of Melbourne - 1992

Mr Leonard is now a senior research Fellow and course coordinator at Melbourne Universities School of Architecture and Planning.


Some of Mr Leonard's career highlights include:

  • CSIRO representative on the standards committee for the development of the Australian Standard AS3959, Building in Bushfire Prone Areas
  • research provider to the Polymer CRC in the development of ceramifiable polymers which formed the basis of a spin off company known as Ceram Polymerik
  • designed Controlled atmosphere Cone Calorimeter, a unique small-scale fire test apparatus which is able to operate within a controlled atmosphere, meeting standard operating requirements - the only apparatus in the world to achieve this outcome
  • contributed to the development of risk assessment tools with University of California Berkley, USA
  • international expert panel member for the European Union funded Fire Paradox Program
  • led the project for the development of a spray defence system to increase the potential for fire crews to survive if caught in an accidental burnover in their fire truck.
  • Played a major role as an appointed expert to the Teague Royal commission into the adequacy of building design standards.

Listen to Mr Leonard speak about Protecting your home from bushfire (Podcast 27 Sep 06).