Local Community Organisations in Australia and Their Role in Disaster Resilience

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Valerie INGHAM, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia
Rabiul Mir ISLAM, Charles Sturt University, Australia
John HICKS, Charles Sturt University, Australia
Oliver BURMEISTER, Charles Sturt University, Australia
Jennifer GREIG, Charles Sturt University, Australia
In general, Australia has excellent institutional response to disaster management, however at the local level community engagement with disaster preparation is relatively weak. Increasing resilience to disaster requires significantly greater community preparedness. Community preparedness in Australia is guided by the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience (NSDA 2011), which places a strong focus on ‘shared responsibility’ and directs local community and emergency organisations to cooperate in community disaster preparedness.

Local community organisations play a pivotal role in Australian communities. In particular, Neighbourhood Centres have a responsibility to build social capital and assist the most vulnerable. Recent disasters in Australia have demonstrated the importance of local community organisations in relation to knowing who and where vulnerable people are, organising disaster assistance, and delivering household disaster preparedness education in the lead up to the next fire or flood season. In a number of cases the work of local community organisations has gone largely unacknowledged by traditional response agencies and their communications have been marginalised by the official recovery authorities in the response and recovery phase.

Our presentation will explore the existing and potential roles of local community organisations in targeted disaster preparedness activities through a case study approach of NSW rural, regional and urban communities which have, and have not, experienced a recent disaster. We propose the strength of organisational connectedness as a measure of a community’s disaster resilience, and that the strength of community organisation connectedness is a function of experiencing recent disaster. We argue that rather than measuring a community’s resilience through a household by household, or postcode basis, the strength of a community’s resilience could be measured by determining the strength of local community organisational connectedness.