The current debate should not be between disaster resilience and disaster recovery but about investing in community preparedness, which is woefully underfunded, argues Liz Mackinlay.
People are still living in caravans in bushfire affected areas 2 1/2 years after the black summer bushfires. Community members across NSW are still living in temporary and insecure accommodation. Flood relief and flood rebuilding efforts have been nowhere near adequate. The inquiries into the recent NSW flood disasters have provided a raft of recommendations that seek to address disaster response times, better recovery, community resilience and everything in between. The rush to fix recovery has seen the government lose focus on the set of future focussed actions that will help communities prepare and manage their experience of disasters, and this is both dangerous and extremely short sighted.
ABV has been working with communities on building their own disaster resilience. We have been walking alongside communities as they identify how to build back better after the successive disasters they’ve experienced. Universally, we have come across incredible people living in communities living with, and dealing with their own trauma, whilst standing up as volunteers to lead their community’s recovery Across towns in NSW and Victoria, community members we work with attest to the fact that prevention is significantly preferable to response. We know that our communities experience of disasters is that they are more catastrophic, more numerous and unrelenting than they have been in the past. This is even more reason to invest in community led resilience building, to mitigate the severity of disasters before they hit. We need to ensure that communities are engaged and involved and prepared prior to the disasters we know will come again.
The recent decision to disband Resilience NSW, the only government agency dedicated to building community resilience is short sighted, and dangerous for our community’s well-being. The headline action from the independent report into the NSW flood disaster focusses on bolstering the first 100 days post disaster. This will always be important and there are obviously shortcomings from our recent disaster response and immediate recovery that urgently need to be addressed. Disregarding the need and impact of community led preparedness only makes this new set of catastrophic disasters a worse lose-lose proposition for communities. Not properly funding community led preparedness and resilience and restricting it to one recommendation in the NSW independent flood report leaves NSW communities dangerously exposed to disasters being catastrophic as opposed to managed and mitigated through communities being empowered and prepared.
The people that are living with the poor recovery response and the lack of government responsiveness need to see action and future focused investment to support resilience building and response activities in their backyards and communities. We need the functions of Resilience NSW and other “build back better” agencies to be operating at full capacity and with laser like focus on community solutions, with the surety of knowing they will exist long into the future, exactly as communities need them to be.
Emma Lang, 0420 311 288
More on Australian Business Volunteers (ABV)
ABV builds on Australia’s long history of volunteering both across our region and at home in times of disaster and community need. We work at the intersection between business and community for resilience and community-led growth.
ABV is a team of several hundred Skilled Business Professionals (SBPs) enabled by a small salaried team. Together we source opportunities throughout Asia Pacific and in Australia to work in partnership with corporates and deliver impactful corporate social responsibility programs. We guarantee sustainable outcomes for communities, through strengthening small businesses and not for profits, leading to poverty alleviation. With 40 years’ experience across Australia, Asia and Pacific, ABV is focused on programs that produce outcomes, positive stories of change for the small businesses and not-for-profits that our Skilled Business Professionals and staff support through transferring Australian business know-how and experience.