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Hazelwood mine fire lessons must be heeded. . .

3 September 2014
Hazelwood mine fire lessons must be heeded

Victoria should heed the lessons of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry to ensure socially vulnerable people and communities are better protected and have their voices heard during disasters says the Victorian Council of Social Service.

“The inquiry found the local Morwell community went ‘above and beyond’ what was expected of them during the weeks over which the disaster rolled on,” said Emma King, CEO of VCOSS.

“Yet it is clear from the inquiry report that the people of Morwell were let down by communication responses that did not reflect international best practice for crisis communication and that Government departments and agencies did not engage to any significant extent in listening to, or partnering with local residents and community groups.”

As a result, the report found, the Hazelwood mine fire added further insult to an already vulnerable community.”

“There remain significant gaps in how we adequately prepare and plan for the needs of vulnerable people before, during and after emergencies. Emergency management must better account for and address the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable people and communities, to achieve improved emergency response, relief and recovery for all Victorians.”

“The VCOSS Submission to the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry found that the impacts of the Hazelwood Mine Fire were compounded by the fact that Morwell is one of the most disadvantaged towns in Victoria.”

“Morwell suffers from high rates of unemployment, low income earners, and high levels of disability. Morwell also has lower education levels, has a significant migrant and refugee population, and a large ageing population.”

“Morwell’s disadvantaged status meant it was more heavily impacted by the emergency. Research clearly shows that with less resources, social support, mobility and housing options at their disposal, disadvantaged and vulnerable people are at risk of being unable or less able, in the face of an emergency, to prepare for, and respond to, as well as recover from, the hazards and damages intrinsic to a disaster or emergency.”

“We also call on the Government to work closely with the community to implement recommendation 12 of the report which calls for the development of a community engagement model for emergency management to ensure all State agencies and local governments engage with communities and already identified trusted networks as an integral component of emergency management planning.”

“Victorians cannot afford to wait until the next major disaster to see improvement on these critical issues. It is time to put the needs of people and communities at the centre of emergency management.”

“VCOSS welcomes the findings and recommendations of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry that will contribute to improved policy and planning in emergency management and urge the Government to heed the lessons it contains to better protect our people and communities.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with Emma King with Emma King
please contact Ryan Sheales on 0418 127 153

Follow the conversation at www.twitter.com/vcoss

Level 8, 128 Exhibition Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
T: 03 9235 1000 F: 03 9654 5749 W: http://www.vcoss.org.au E: vcoss@vcoss.org.au