Bushfire Anniversary Highlights Emergency Planning Shortfalls
7 February 2012 at 1:49 pm
The Victorian welfare umbrella organisation, VCOSS says it is concerned that community sector organisations that provide front-line care and support for Victorians affected in disasters are not included in planning arrangements in the same way that emergency services and local government are.
The claim comes on the 3rd anniversary of the devastating 2009 Victorian Bushfires which killed 173 people.
VCOSS says the anniversary is a painful reminder of the trauma and dislocation experienced by so many Victorians three years ago – and a timely alert that many individuals and communities still need ongoing help with recovery.
The CEO of VCOSS, Cath Smith, says Victoria does not receive the same funding security as agencies in other jurisdictions such as Queensland.
As a result, she says some Victorian organisations have had to negotiate overdrafts with their banks to fund emergency housing, health and family care in the immediate aftermath of an emergency, while waiting for the State Government to finalise funding arrangements.
“Community service organisations are also often personally affected by a local disaster or emergency," said Jill Miller, CEO of Grampians Community Health.
“As with emergency service personnel, our staff may be protecting their own homes and experiencing their own grief and trauma while, at the same time, providing emergency care and support.
“This means that people can often go without getting appropriate support for themselves which adds to the strain of trying to rebuild a community and help people recover.
"Often it is not until long after the event that the full impact is understood and governments and the wider community need to ensure that they support the workers, volunteers and organisations that support others," Miller said.
VCOSS says Victoria’s current emergency management arrangements tend to assume a return to ‘normal’ capacity – for individuals and communities – in relatively short timeframes.
"Replacing physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges and buildings can be easier to make happen than the equally critical social recovery work that rebuilds people’s lives and communities – yet governments, at all levels, need to understand the importance of doing so and accept examples of identified need," Cath Smith said.
“Organisations who work directly with people in affected communities know that it can take time for people who are struggling to realise they need help or to be prepared to seek it out.
"The trauma of emergency events can also exacerbate other issues experienced by families, such as mental health, drug and alcohol or family violence issues," she said.
VCOSS recently published an Emergency Management edition of Insight featuring stories from communities and individuals on resilience and recovery following disasters.
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