Critical community-led disaster risk reduction program, Capable Communities, has been given the green light to be rolled out across New South Wales' Southeast communities with the February 17th funding announcement by the New South Wales and Australian governments under the National Partnership Agreement for Disaster Risk Reduction through the NSW Reconstruction Authority administered Disaster Risk Reduction Fund.
Led by Australian Business Volunteers (ABV) in partnership with Disaster Relief Australia and Arup, the regional program draws on much needed local and external expertise to prepare or revise disaster risk reduction plans that truly reflect the needs and wishes of individual communities and provides tailored place-based solutions and skills to action them.
ABV CEO Liz Mackinlay said the program had been much called for by the local communities and was shovel-ready to take effect from October 2022 when funding was received. "We know that disaster risk reduction, resilience and preparedness can only truly occur when our communities are directing and leading these efforts," Mackinlay said.
"The time for listening and undertaking consultations with flood affected and at-risk communities is done and dusted. It's time that our emergency and recovery bodies were walking hand in hand and alongside the communities at risk, and that means equipping and empowering communities to set the agenda and lead the plan of attack."
Michelle Cheah, Social Impact Leader at Arup said: "The climate crisis means communities are being affected by natural disasters of increasing severity and more frequently that results in multiple and compounding impacts. We know that being prepared in advance significantly improves the way communities can respond and recover to these events, which is why this program is so important."
Capable Communities will deliver specialist workshops over 18 months for active community leaders, groups, businesses and members across four at-risk LGAs in the region to walk away with robust disaster risk reduction plans and be supported in the implementation.
In these tailored workshops, designed by communities themselves, the focus will be on bringing in required disaster risk reduction and recovery experts, skilled volunteers and facilitators to collaboratively develop authentic plans which draw on local capacity and knowledge, ensuring their communities are well placed in the face of future floods and other hazards.
Mackinlay emphasised the need for a locally-tailored approach. “Each of the workshops are customised by the communities to the expertise they wish to involve and areas of focus that their plans wish to tackle. In essence, we're expecting to see the creation of new volunteer roles for locals and skilled volunteers to fill, as well as key activities required to bring these plans to fruition.”
Disaster Relief Australia Chief Executive Officer Geoff Evans explains, “a community that is heard and valued is a community that is more likely to take ownership of its own relief and recovery following a disaster event.”
"The Operational Big Map capability in particular sits at the heart of DRA’s Relief and Recovery operations. Through this exercise, the DRA team is able to increase the communities knowledge and helps strengthen its capability to provide relief and recovery when it’s truly required. We can all agree, this basis for a resilient community is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Following consultation with local council, chambers of commerce and community groups, the program has been selected to roll out across four priority areas including Snowy Valleys, Bega Valley Shire, Eurobodalla Shire and Queanbeyan-Palerang. The program draws on the expertise and skills of partnering organisations to bring about appropriate evidence-based results for the community.