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Community groups hold the key to better disaster planning

Governments should begin harnessing the power of community organisations in disaster planning, according to a new report from the Victorian Council of Social Service.

With bushfires, heatwaves and floods on the rise, Building resilient communities declares it’s time official emergency management strategies embraced the experience and connections of community organisations.

“Community organisations help Victorians get ready for disasters and then get back on their feet,” VCOSS CEO Emma King said.

“With community connections, frontline experience and specialist skills, they must be brought more closely into emergency management planning.”

“Governments disregard the value of the community sector at their peril,” she said.

Using the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires as an example, the report details how community organisations:

  • Build resilience in communities, helping people cope with stress and shock
  • Have far-reaching networks and relationships built on trust
  • Have specialist skills in helping people better prepare for and respond to disasters
  • Play crucial roles in emergencies, particularly during recovery

“For too long, the important role of community organisations in helping communities band together to face disasters and overcome them has been largely overlooked,” VCOSS CEO Emma King said.

“But community organisations are embedded in their local areas.

“They are connected with people, they are able to swing networks into action, and they are best-placed to provide frontline support.”

“This report outlines how governments can work more closely with community organisations to help people before and after disasters strike,” Ms King said.