Disaster Preparedness Project

Disaster Preparedness Project

The DPP is a community-led initiative bringing together community members, community groups, emergency services and response agencies, community services, and state, federal and local government in the co-design of a Disaster Preparedness, Response and Resilience strategic plan for Eden and surrounding villages. The goal is to build a strong and resilient community through preparation and skills building and a practical structure the community can rely on for leading disaster management for years to come.

WHAT CHALLENGES WILL THE PROJECT ADDRESS?

This project aims to build the foundations for Eden and surrounding villages to stand together, united to face and respond to disasters and the challenges of the future. The need for a coordinated approach was identified by the Eden Community Access Centre following the bushfires of 2019-2020.

The Disaster Preparedness Project is focused on making sure the community is prepared for potential disaster, by drawing on the strengths of local knowledge and working with agencies to fill gaps in our resources. This project intersects with other Access Centre and Eden Recovery and Resilience Alliance (ERRA) projects designed to build Eden’s self-reliance, strength and adaptability. These include the development of a Community Hub, Rural Support Workers and the Community Battery project.

Project coordinator, Jodie Stewart and the project team – Deb Austen (Project Support Officer) and Sharon Wellard (Community Engagement Working Group Chair) – are coordinating discussions to build what the community agrees is needed for Eden and surrounds to prepare for and recover from disaster events and to build greater community resilience.

There are many interesting and innovative models for preparedness and recovery already underway across Australia and the rest of the world. Our Resilient Eden Community Workshops in November 2022 will bring the community together to review and assess these models, tools and techniques to determine what will work for Eden’s needs. Surrounding communities including Wyndham and Rocky Hall are moving ahead with information sessions about the Red Cross’ Community-led Resilience Teams and how this model can be applied to their needs. In October residents of Eden Cove estate at the northern end of Eden also came together for an information session about Community-led Resilience Teams.

Existing models combined with local knowledge and strengths are the keys to disaster preparedness and recovery. This region is rich with people who have years of experience and understanding of the landscape and of the community. They are wise about the factors that should be considered on the topic of disasters and how to minimise their impacts.

We know that capable, resourceful, and independent communities bounce back from disaster, so focusing on creating the conditions for strength, security and independence is a focus for this project

   

  

  

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THE PROJECT SO FAR

The project has brought together community members, emergency services, government agencies, not for profit groups in a project committee and the entire community has been able to share its insights and ideas through this group. An expression of interest process for community members to join the committee was run in August 2021.

From May to November 2022, a series of more than 16 structured conversations, called Community Table Talks, were held in Eden and surrounding communities. People came together to respond to three ‘calling’ questions: What has helped you manage through a disaster? What would make you better prepared for future disasters? What could we do together as a community to be better prepared for future disasters?

Consistent themes have emerged from the Community Table Talk series. They are:

  • education, information and training are critical to empowering people to be at their best in times of disaster.
  • Effective communication with neighbours and two-way communication between the community and authorities is essential and
  • social connection is vital to being a well-prepared community.

Our aim is to share expertise and knowledge, build better disaster preparation plans that draw on the unique needs and strengths of Eden and surrounding villages and enable collaboration and coordination in planning for and recovering from disasters and emergencies.

 

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FUNDING

Resilience NSW – $300,000 for a Disaster Preparedness, Recovery and Resilience Strategic Plan (DPRRSP)

CONNECTION TO ECAC’s MISSION STATEMENT

The Disaster Preparedness Project connects to the following ECAC objectives:

  • An inclusive environment encouraging participation from all groups and fostering positive relations
  • Build community social and economic capacity
  • Develop local solutions to local problems
  • Raise the aspirations of individuals and unlock the potential of community

FAQS

Resilient communities:

  • function reliably and well under stress
  • successfully adapt
  • are self-reliant
  • have high levels of social support, social cohesion, and social capacity.

Co-designing local initiatives involves the community and government joining up to design and deliver a program. It is more than just improving community consultation. The core of disaster resilience building is to let local communities develop approaches based on their own understanding of the risks they live with.

A community disaster is any event or circumstance that impacts a community beyond its control and on a scale that negatively disrupts the normal patterns of life. Disaster events include bushfires, economic and social setbacks from external forces such as COVID and the impact of climate change. This includes events such as:

  1. Flood
  2. Fire
  3. Heatwave
  4. Snow
  5. Storms or cyclones
  6. Pandemic

Disaster preparedness is the ability of a community to respond to any disaster it faces.

A top down approach driven by government agencies to preparing for disasters is limited in its effectiveness. Communities know themselves better than agencies do and local knowledge and ownership is essential to preparing for and recovering and rebuilding after disaster.

Disaster preparedness is about recognising a community’s existing knowledge, trust, skills, structures, relationships and networks, and using them to co-design programs and projects that will place a community in the best possible position to withstand and tolerate disaster.
Community owned and driven disaster preparedness means working with agencies to co-create plans based on a community’s strengths and weaknesses and reflecting local context and culture. For example Eden’s circumstances – its location, landscape, demographics and resources – are different to a larger, less physically isolated community.

This might include protecting water supply, bolstering food security, building on social initiatives like the Eden Community Pantry [etc] and ensuring the community has access to clothing and basic every day needs.

With community input we will design an approach that will give us the best chance of minimising the impacts of future disasters, including bushfires. We will identify the priorities and work with agencies such as the Rural Fire Service to plan a program that targets our vulnerabilities as a community.

We will also use a strength-based approach to identify what the community and individuals do well. We will draw on these strengths to devise a plan that will greatly increase our chances of withstanding and bouncing back from the next disaster event.

The community will own the disaster preparedness, recovery and resilience strategic plan. The plan will be a living document that can be reviewed and revised as circumstances and the environment changes. The role of the project coordinator and the committee is to ensure the project continues beyond the two year grant funding cycle.

We need to operate in a structured way so that we manage and document decision-making fairly and transparently. This is the most practical way of creating an approach that can be shared and understood by the community. It will allow as many people as possible to contribute and to have a sense of ownership.

 

WHO TO TALK TO - MEET JODIE STEWART

You can email Jodie at Jodie.accesscentre@gmail.com or phone 0488 079 853.

You might remember Jodie as the Eden Magnet journalist in 2018.

Jodie was raised in Bega but has family roots in South Pambula where her father Robert grew up. She has a love of 19th century Australian history and, in particular, Aboriginal and settler histories.

In 2019 Jodie completed a PhD on the Bundian Way and has spent several years researching in Eden. She documented the development of the Bundian Way project as an important and “potentially recuperative public history initiative”.

Jodie Stewart

Project Coordinator: July 2021 – July 2023

“I have a deep and abiding love for the Far South Coast and feel privileged to be working with a vibrant and diverse community “– she told readers of the Magnet in 2018.

Jodie has extensive experience in project management and has managed small and large community projects. In 2019, she supported over 52 young people through the Youth Frontiers program to develop 15 community projects. In 2021, she worked closely with the Eden Community Access Centre to develop the Eden Hospitality Training Hub.

Jodie is a self-confessed people person who loves having a chat. She is also a skilled public speaker and has spoken at community events, seminars and university lecture halls. Jodie has a wealth of experience with community committees and is the current Chair of the Spring Fashion Show committee, a partnership between The Disability Trust and The Sapphire Coast Anglican College.

Header photo credit: Phill Small Photography