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Chapter 21: Coordinating relief and recovery


21.1 The recovery process seeks to address the diverse needs of individuals and communities following a disaster. It often commences during the response phase and will continue for years after. Recovery is more than simply rebuilding and providing financial assistance. It is a complex and multilayered social and developmental process. When conducted well, the recovery process provides hope, a sense of future, and opportunity for healing. However, recovery can also be complex and frustrating to navigate.

21.2 The recovery process should draw governments, non‑government organisations, businesses, communities and individuals together. It is well recognised that recovery works best when communities are placed at the centre of the process. As the closest level of government to communities, local governments are best placed to deliver locally-led recovery. However, there is scope for this level of government to be better supported in fulfilling its recovery responsibilities – this is a key responsibility of the state and territory governments.

21.3 Given the complexities of the recovery process, pre‑planning and coordination is essential. Standing recovery plans must focus on known recovery needs, clearly identify the organisations responsible, and be supported by appropriate and pre‑established arrangements. This is not solely the responsibility of Australian governments. Non‑government action should likewise be planned and integrated within broader government recovery arrangements.

21.4 The 2019‑2020 bushfires highlighted the willingness and capacity of individuals and businesses to volunteer their time and resources to assist disaster-affected communities. Problems, however, can occur when this embodiment of the ‘Australian spirit’ is not harnessed in a planned and coordinated way. There is also scope to improve community education and awareness on the most effective ways to help disaster-affected communities recover and address any systemic barriers in harnessing this support.

21.5 To enable locally‑led recovery, it is essential that the impacts on communities are understood. However, it has been difficult to develop a clear national picture of the impact of the 2019‑2020 bushfires across the nation. The limited availability of data and inconsistency of processes have hampered this effort. There is scope to improve the consistency, collection and sharing of impact data.

21.6 In addition, improving the sharing of recovery resources between jurisdictions, building the competencies and capabilities of Australia’s recovery workforce, and enhancing recovery training and exercising will improve recovery processes for, and resilience to, future disasters.

21.7 The 2019‑2020 bushfires highlighted scope to improve national recovery policy arrangements and coordination. Building a national strategic framework for recovery will allow for the national discourse on recovery to move beyond simply talking about the provision of funding, to developing concrete steps to strengthen the resilience of communities and ensure the recovery process can improve the lives of individuals affected by natural disasters.

Objectives and priorities of recovery

21.8 Recovery often commences as a disaster is unfolding, continues for years after the disaster has passed and can occur concurrently with other disasters. For many of the communities affected by the 2019‑2020 bushfires, the process of recovery remains in its early stages.

…everything you’ve done over the years is just totally ruined. [I know it] just sounds trivial but it’s not…to us it’s a lot. [2210]

21.9 A natural disaster can profoundly change a person’s life. Natural disasters can destroy homes and livelihoods, which may have taken a lifetime to build. They can be source of significant financial stress and can leave an individual with long‑term health impacts. Economic disruption and social issues are common and can lead to significant trauma, stress and anxiety in the aftermath of a disaster. [2211]

…we’re pretty lucky in Mallacoota, we’re a small community and we’re all friends, we all know each other, and when it comes down to it we’re all going to help each other out really…You just make sure that everyone’s okay. [2212]

21.10 Recovery is complex and personal. It not only deals with the financial impacts of a disaster, but also multilayered social and developmental processes. The concept of recovery seeks to address the diverse needs of individuals and communities. [2213] It can also provide hope, support and a sense of future – an invaluable opportunity to prepare for, and build resilience to, future disasters.

21.11 We have observed numerous instances of well planned, coordinated and effective recovery following the 2019‑2020 bushfires. These instances highlight an intricate interaction of individuals; Australian, state and territory and local governments; insurers; and charities and non‑government organisations.

The recovery centre establishment was a pivotal and positive response mechanism. The immediate cash benefits of $700 per family unit were fast and easy…Once the Defence Forces were allowed in and other larger scale response services such as Blaze Aid and Rubicon had a starting point, the bigger response started to work well. Once [I] saw the arrival of ‘army boots’ on my property, I felt there was a commensurate level of help now available to address the immense challenge now facing us. [2214]

21.12 When conducted well, the recovery process provides an important opportunity for healing. It allows individuals to deal with one of the most traumatic and disruptive experiences of their lives. However, the processes that people need to navigate can be complex. We observed frustration, fatigue, confusion and trauma within communities, caused by navigating recovery processes. [2215] We also heard of delays in the timely provision of recovery support.

Recovery process

21.13 We have observed that successful recovery processes are predicated on a number of elements. It is important to:

  • understand the context of the community
  • recognise the complex and dynamic nature of natural disasters and the communities that they have impacted
  • use community-led approaches that are responsive and flexible, and that engage communities and empower them to move forward
  • ensure a planned, coordinated and adaptive approach is used, based on continuing assessment of impacts and needs
  • ensure effective communication with affected communities and other stakeholders, and
  • recognise, support and build on community, individual and organisational capacity.

21.14 The importance of these elements is reflected in the National Principles for Disaster Recovery (National Principles). The National Principles guide recovery planning and delivery processes and encourage the adoption of best practice in addressing the impacts on affected communities. [2216] These impacts can be categorised across four environmental ‘domains’: built, social, economic and natural – see Figure 76. Addressing the impacts on all four domains is essential for the successful recovery of a community.

Four domains of community recovery

Figure 76: Four domains of community recovery [2217]

21.15 Australia’s experience with natural disasters shows that recovery does not occur in a linear or staged process. The different phases of recovery can overlap, even within a single community. However, it is useful to consider recovery as a four stage cycle – see Figure 77.

Ongoing preparedness and recovery planning: the development of a whole‑of-community approach to mitigate the effects and manage the consequences of an emergency or disaster. Recovery planning covers both planning as part of ongoing preparedness for events and also event specific recovery plan(s) to facilitate recovery from disasters.

Relief and short-term recovery: the period during and immediately after an event (hours to weeks), including: rapid impact assessment, early relief and emergency assistance, recovery needs assessment, and short-term planning. This phase may occur in parallel to the response to a disaster.

Long-term recovery: medium to long-term recovery efforts, ranging from several months to many years. This phase includes community engagement, rebuilding, and renewal programs and projects. Some elements of this phase will continue until well after the affected community is able to manage on its own.

Transition: the progressive handover to ‘business as usual’. The transition stage identifies lessons and implements improvements to increase resilience as part of recovery processes and planning moving forward.

The recovery cycle, adapted from the Australian Disaster Resilience Handbook 2: Community Recovery

Ongoing preparedness and recovery planning: the development of a whole-of-community approach to mitigate the effects and manage the consequences of an emergency or disaster. Recovery planning covers both planning as part of ongoing preparedness for events and also event specific recovery plan(s) to facilitate recovery from disasters.

Relief and short-term recovery: the period during and immediately after an event (hours to weeks), including: rapid impact assessment, early relief and emergency assistance, recovery needs assessment, and short-term planning. This phase may occur in parallel to the response to a disaster.

Long-term recovery: medium to long-term recovery efforts, ranging from several months to many years. This phase includes community engagement, rebuilding, and renewal programs and projects. Some elements of this phase will continue until well after the affected community is able to manage on its own.

Transition: the progressive handover to ‘business as usual’. The transition stage identifies lessons and implements improvements to increase resilience as part of recovery processes and planning moving forward.

Figure 77: The recovery cycle, adapted from the Australian Disaster Resilience Handbook 2: Community Recovery [2218]

21.16 Effective recovery requires thorough planning and coordination across all levels of government, charities, non‑government organisations, insurers, volunteers, businesses, households and community groups.

Locally-led recovery

21.17 State and territory governments have primary responsibility for the recovery of communities affected by natural disasters. [2219] Consistent with the principle of subsidiarity, and the National Principles, all state and territory governments have developed arrangements to facilitate a locally‑led approach to recovery. A key part of these arrangements is that all states and the NT have transferred or delegated some recovery responsibilities to their local councils and shires [2220] (the ACT functions as both territory and local government).

21.18 The role of local governments in recovery recognises that successful recovery must be based on local considerations and needs. As the closest level of government to communities, local governments are best placed to deliver locally-led recovery. [2221]

21.19 There is broad acceptance across all levels of government and communities of the importance of locally‑led recovery. The role of local governments in facilitating locally‑led recovery processes will vary, depending on jurisdictional legislation and emergency arrangements. Generally, it involves local level planning and delivery of a broad range of services to communities. [2222]

21.20 Local governments will generally provide relief services and recovery information to communities, remove debris and support clean‑up, coordinate local relief funds for those directly affected by disasters and conduct damage assessments. [2223] They also manage the replacement and repair of their own assets. Local governments coordinate recovery efforts by appointing recovery coordinators, establishing local recovery committees, and leading the development of local recovery plans – capturing the needs and aspirations of their communities. [2224]

Bushfires and then flooding in Towong Shire, Victoria

(Left) Bushfire burning through a family farm in Walwa, Towong Shire (Victoria) on 30 December 2019.

(Right) Localised flooding in Towong Shire (Victoria) on 8 March 2020.

It is common for localised flooding and landslides to occur following a bushfire. This is caused by the inability of the ground to absorb any excess rain, due in part to the loss of vegetation.

Figure 78: Bushfires and then flooding in Towong Shire, Victoria. [2225]

Box 21.1 Eurobodalla Youth in Recovery Forums [2226]

By February 2020, the 2019‑2020 bushfires had resulted in more than 271,000 hectares (or approximately 79 per cent) of the Eurobodalla Shire Council area being directly impacted. In that same month, Eurobodalla also received heavy rain resulting in localised flooding.

Firefront in Bingie, Eurobodalla, January 2020

Figure 79: Firefront in Bingie, Eurobodalla, January 2020 [2227]

The Eurobodalla Shire Council was aware that the effects of the disasters would have a significant impact on the region’s young people. It considered there was a need for youth service providers and for young people to be provided with an opportunity to talk about how the fires had impacted them. This was based on discussions with people in the community and observations within evacuation centres and recovery centres.

To support the recovery for young people in Eurobodalla, the Council hosted three forums. These forums provided an opportunity for the young people of Eurobodalla to voice their concerns and brainstorm ideas. Recovery projects were subsequently co‑designed, based on the needs directly identified by the young people of Eurobodalla. The forums also allowed for youth service providers in Eurobodalla to collaborate and avoid duplication of recovery programs.

The forums provided an opportunity to uncover young leaders and created opportunities to further build their skills and leadership potential. A survey conducted after the forums found that 89 per cent of young participants felt more empowered to support their communities and 44 per cent had been actively involved in community projects.

It was evident young people need to be consulted prior to future planning sessions, with a commitment to co-design principles in planning actions. [2228]

Eurobodalla youth in recovery

Figure 80: Eurobodalla youth in recovery [2229]

Recovery roles

State and territory arrangements

21.21 State and territory governments have arrangements in place to provide additional resourcing and support where local government capacity is exceeded. [2230] Although there are variations between jurisdictions, in general, these arrangements describe broad roles and responsibilities, relevant stakeholders, capabilities and resources available, processes for escalating requests depending on the severity of the event and governance arrangements.

21.22 State and territory governments also provide dedicated recovery programs and funding to support recovery efforts following a natural disaster – see Chapter 22: Delivery of recovery services and financial assistance.

Australian Government support

21.23 The Australian Government has an important supporting role in relation to recovery. [2231] The main forms of recovery support provided by the Australian Government include:

  • financial assistance to state and territory governments through the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements – see Chapter 22: Delivery of recovery services and financial assistance
  • financial assistance to disaster-affected individuals, through the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance and associated ex‑gratia assistance – see Chapter 22: Delivery of recovery services and financial assistance and
  • Australian Defence Force assistance, following a request from state or territory governments – see Chapter 7: Role of the Australian Defence Force.

21.24 The Australian Government also has dedicated funding pools for recovery. During the 2019‑2020 bushfires, the Australian Government committed $2 billion, through the National Bushfire Recovery Fund, to support the recovery of affected communities –see Appendix 24: Recovery Supports. In addition, the Emergency Response Fund (ERF) allows the Australian Government to draw up to $150 million each financial year to fund recovery and up to $50 million each financial year for resilience and preparation activities. [2232] The ERF is intended to be a last resort program, only to be drawn upon where existing programs are insufficient to meet the needs of communities. [2233] The ERF has not been used to date. [2234]

21.25 These dedicated funding pools support whole‑of‑government prioritisation of recovery measures, and facilitate Australian Government departments to think innovatively about how to support recovery without necessarily being constrained by normal funding considerations or cost-sharing arrangements. [2235]

Non-government organisations and charities

21.26 Non-government organisations and charities play a vital role in supporting the recovery of disaster-affected communities. They provide support and services to people and communities during and after a disaster. They can be both complementary to, and partners of, government in community recovery. Charities such as the Australian Red Cross, St Vincent de Paul Society and The Salvation Army, are often embedded in formal recovery arrangements and provide a range of support, including emergency relief, financial assistance and psychosocial assistance. Other organisations may focus on supporting recovery in specific areas, such as wildlife rescue (for example, the NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and legal assistance services.

21.27 During the 2019‑2020 bushfires, the non‑government organisations and businesses provided valuable support directly to affected individuals, small businesses and primary producers. Charities and non‑government organisations delivered a range of urgent relief services, such as psychological first aid and emergency meals. [2236] Charities also provided financial assistance directly to disaster-affected individuals and communities. The Business Council of Australia also coordinated the provision of $70 million in financial and in-kind assistance from the business community. [2237]

Australian Red Cross volunteer outside the Bairnsdale relief centre, Victoria

Figure 81: Australian Red Cross volunteer outside the Bairnsdale relief centre, Victoria [2238]

Box 21.2 Business Council of Australia - BizRebuild [2239]

In response to the 2019‑2020 bushfires, the Business Council of Australia launched their Community Rebuilding Initiative, known as BizRebuild. It is a five year business‑led initiative which provides practical and targeted assistance to bushfire-affected local businesses. BizRebuild work is ‘focused on directing assistance to small and local businesses to restore jobs, create new ones and help rebuild economies and communities’.

Business Council of Australia members, which include companies from all around Australia, supported BizRebuild through funding donations, provision of goods and services, in‑kind assistance and organised secondments of senior staff to BizRebuild. BizRebuild has worked closely with the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, providing advice to it on the issues faced by businesses in the recovery process.

BizRebuild has provided a range of services, including cash vouchers for retooling and recovery needs, in‑kind assistance, including business recovery, financial, mental health and other experts, business‑to‑small business support and organising business forums and roundtables.

BizRebuild has also supported community‑based projects, such as a ‘pop‑up mall’ in Mogo, NSW. This initiative was developed with the Mogo Village Business Chamber and the Eurobodalla Shire Council and turned 13 donated demountable buildings into a temporary pop-up mall. The pop-up mall provided temporary premises for local businesses and new accommodation for the Mogo Local Aboriginal Land Council – all of which were destroyed during the 2019‑2020 bushfires.

Based on its experience, BizRebuild has shared a number of lessons, including: the significant effect of indirect impacts of natural disasters on businesses; the importance of re‑establishing cash‑flow as soon as possible; the need for a personal approach and in‑kind assistance; and the importance of a community‑led approach.

Pop-up mall in Mogo, NSW provided a temporary location for local businesses to operate in the aftermath of the 2019-2020 bushfires

Figure 82: Pop‑up mall in Mogo, NSW provided a temporary location for local businesses to operate in the aftermath of the 2019‑2020 bushfires [2240]

Capacity to undertake locally-led recovery

21.28 Despite the support that is provided to local governments, we have observed capacity constraints which have limited the delivery of locally‑led recovery. Many local governments appear to have limited capacity to coordinate and undertake recovery activities on a significant scale. [2241] This was particularly the case for small, regional and rural councils affected by the 2019‑2020 bushfires. [2242] Local governments often have limited budgets, requiring them to balance their recovery roles with other full-time local government responsibilities. [2243] In addition, some individuals embedded in local recovery arrangements may be directly affected by the disaster themselves and have reduced or no capacity to undertake their government roles. The effect of this can be compounded by limited training and guidance on recovery from higher levels of government. [2244]

21.29 Recovery responsibilities are a core responsibility for local governments. Local governments should be supported to undertake these functions by state and territory governments, including through the provision of training and guidance.

21.30 During the 2019‑2020 bushfires we heard of local governments supporting each other by sharing resources within a region or further afield when local capacity was overwhelmed. [2245] Quite often, the sharing of recovery resources and support between councils and shires occurred on an ad‑hoc basis and relied on the goodwill between local governments and existing relationships. [2246] We heard of larger councils supporting smaller councils which were significantly impacted by the 2019‑2020 bushfires, [2247] and the valuable coordination and advocacy role provided by local government associations. [2248] There is scope for state and territory governments to better support local governments in the recovery process, if necessary, particularly in monitoring and evaluating the capacity of local governments – see Chapter 11: Emergency planning.

21.31 State and territory governments have a responsibility to ensure that local governments have the capacity to undertake recovery planning and delivery responsibilities. This should include monitoring, evaluation and coordination before, during and after a natural disaster.

Recovery coordination and planning

Recovery coordination

21.32 There are a number of entities involved in the recovery processes. Recovery, therefore, needs to be coordinated to ensure services are delivered effectively and efficiently and address the broad range of impacts of a natural disaster. At the local, state and territory government levels, recovery is coordinated through a number of structures. [2249] While labels may vary between jurisdictions, these are centred on:

  • a recovery coordinator (an individual who is responsible for coordination and strategic advice or decision-making)
  • a recovery committee (a decision-making body responsible for recovery operations), and
  • functional recovery groups (bodies which provide specific expertise and lead planning for a particular recovery domain or a component of that domain).

21.33 The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Committee (AGDRC) is intended to support recovery planning and whole‑of‑government coordination at the Australian Government level. [2250] However, the AGDRC was not convened during the 2019‑2020 bushfires and was last activated in 2017, following Tropical Cyclone Debbie in Queensland. [2251] The creation of new post‑event recovery agencies has superseded the need to convene the AGDRC, [2252] and highlights a shift to a more active recovery role for the Australian Government. [2253] We have recommended the need for a standing and scalable national resilience and recovery agency to reflect this shift and to avoid the need to stand up separate recovery agencies during the course of a disaster – see Chapter 3: National coordination arrangements.

Recovery planning

Planning for recovery can be a complex and demanding process …. Unfortunately, recovery planning can be seen as a low priority compared to more pressing or immediate issues. [2254]

21.34 A key part of supporting locally‑led recovery is planning. There are two types of recovery plans: standing recovery plans – which are established before a disaster and set the arrangements for delivering recovery when a disaster occurs; and community recovery plans – which are completed after the event and outline specific activities to address the impacts of a disaster. [2255] These plans are intended to guide the delivery of recovery services and provide an authoritative source of information to those involved in recovery processes.

21.35 Most state and territory governments have standing recovery plans which provide guidance on recovery arrangements within their jurisdictions – see Appendix 23: Recovery Arrangements. There is considerable variability in the level of detail included in these plans. For example, Queensland and the ACT identify specific charities and non‑government organisations which are responsible for particular recovery activities. [2256] Other jurisdictions do not identify specific organisations which will undertake recovery activities. [2257]

Recovery plans need to be clear and effectively implemented

21.36 A lack of clearly defined responsibilities and service coverage can result in inefficiency and duplication of support. This was apparent in the early stages of delivering emergency relief services in some locations during the 2019‑2020 bushfires.

In some areas where there were few services, the [St Vincent de Paul Society] was thrust into, or seen as, a first responder which is not its role. The lack of clarity between agencies as to who was responsible for what meant that all agencies seemed to be offering emergency relief at Recovery Centres from the outset which was confusing for those seeking assistance… [2258]

21.37 Problems also arise when establishing new arrangements for recovery services during a crisis. This was particularly apparent in the clean‑up process following the 2019‑2020 bushfires. In areas hardest hit we heard that the scale of the clean‑up was enormous, complex and costly. [2259] It required the identification and management of vast volumes of hazardous waste, particularly asbestos which had been used in the construction of homes and other structures. [2260] The time taken to finalise clean‑up arrangements resulted in uncertainty and delays in debris removal [2261] and added complexity to the resolution of insurance claims – see Chapter 20: Insurance. The delays in the removal of debris were compounded by perceptions of poor communication and unclear eligibility – points of significant frustration in affected communities. [2262]

21.38 The coordination of issues such as clean‑up would benefit from additional planning before a disaster. [2263] Standing recovery plans help relevant organisations understand roles, processes and thresholds in addressing particular recovery needs. These plans can also support the establishment of core features of a recovery program (such as eligibility and whether an ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’ process is used) before a disaster. [2264]

21.39 These arrangements could be supported by additional coordination tools and platforms. We have been told that there would be value in developing apps that can be used to match an identified need with offers of support and access to panels of pre‑identified suppliers of particular services [2265] (such as Victoria’s Clean-up Panel, which Victoria used to execute its state-coordinated clean-up program following the 2019‑2020 bushfires). [2266] In combination with standing plans, these additional supports can reduce the lag in responding to recovery needs in communities.

21.40 All levels of government should establish standing recovery plans before a disaster. These plans should focus on known recovery needs, such as clean‑up and debris removal, and clearly identify the entities responsible for addressing particular needs and outline their service coverage. Pre‑established and appropriate arrangements, such as supplier panels, could further support effective and coordinated recovery.

The presence of asbestos can add siginificant complications to clean‑up efforts

Figure 83: The presence of asbestos can add significant complications to clean‑up efforts [2267]

Standing recovery plans allow for an understanding of capabilities

21.41 The Australian Government does not have a standing recovery plan akin to those developed by state and territory governments. We have observed that during a crisis there is benefit in having a ‘single point of truth’, which outlines what Australian Government recovery capabilities are available, who is responsible for them and the relevance to, or implications for, communities.

21.42 For example, during the 2019‑2020 bushfires many stakeholders initially had a limited understanding of the purpose and potential utility of, and process to make, an emergency declaration under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) to facilitate information sharing, as the last emergency declaration prior to the 2019‑2020 bushfires was 2011 [2268] – see Chapter 22: Delivery of recovery services and financial assistance for further information on the emergency declaration.

21.43 Standing recovery plans would allow the Australian Government to provide faster recovery support in response to natural disasters. The Australian Government should develop a standing recovery plan in addition to any national, event‑specific recovery plans as part of a broader strategic framework for recovery. A standing recovery plan would, among other things, outline resources and assistance available at the national-level, responsible entities and the processes for activation.

Non‑government organisations and charities

Planning and coordination

21.44 Non‑government organisations and charities play a crucial role in recovery. Consistent with the National Principles, these organisations have close ties and trust with communities and are often already providing services to those communities. However, we heard that there is limited understanding of the value some of these organisations have in recovery. [2269] While larger non‑government organisations and charities are generally included in recovery arrangements and planning processes, many smaller non‑government organisations and charities are inconsistently included, particularly at the local government level. [2270]

21.45 We have observed the need to better incorporate the non‑government sector in recovery planning processes before a disaster occurs. [2271] Pre-planning supports rapid responses when disasters occur, prevents duplication of effort or unnecessary work in response to disasters, and ensures the efficient connection of all relevant parties.

21.46 The delivery of legal assistance services is a key example of non‑government recovery support which would benefit from greater planning. Following a natural disaster, numerous legal issues can arise, including in relation to insurance, family law and family violence, tenancy and housing and social security issues. [2272] During the 2019‑2020 bushfires, the legal assistance sector mobilised a response to support affected individuals. [2273] However, there were a number of issues that arose due to the absence of pre‑planning or strategic framework.

In NSW, there was no pre-agreed framework to activate regarding the legal sector’s response to disasters, which led to a longer period of confusion around roles and responsibilities in the response, and less clarity in public-facing communication in the initial periods of disaster response. [2274]

21.47 We are aware of efforts, at the local level, to develop planning arrangements for the delivery of legal assistance services during a natural disaster. For example, Townsville Community Law, a community legal centre in Queensland, is undertaking the Disaster Readiness for the Legal Assistance Sector project. This project has been funded through the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements and will develop an operational model and disaster legal assistance plan which could be integrated within Queensland’s disaster management arrangements. [2275] There is merit in considering whether similar processes could be replicated nationally.

21.48 Establishing pre-planned disaster responses for non‑government sectors allows for the timely delivery of services. We recognise that any planning for these sectors must also be sufficiently flexible to support a local, on-the-ground recovery response that reflects the nature of the disaster and its impacts on existing services. [2276]

21.49 Non-government organisations should be included in recovery planning processes at the local, regional, jurisdictional and national levels as appropriate. Non‑government sectors involved in response and recovery should establish their own strategies and plans to address the recovery needs that follow natural disasters.

Donated goods

An influx of unsolicited donations can quickly overwhelm storage capacity

Figure 84: An influx of unsolicited donations can quickly overwhelm storage capacity [2277]

21.50 The donation of physical goods, including food and material, by the community and charities plays a significant role in individual and community recovery. However, despite the best intentions, this often results in unsolicited donations of goods, which may be inappropriate or do not meet the specific needs of the community. [2278]

21.51 Responding to significant unsolicited donations of goods also requires the development of arrangements to transport, store, sort and distribute donations as well as to dispose of unneeded or inappropriate goods – diverting efforts from other aspects of recovery. [2279]

21.52 The National Guidelines for Managing Donated Goods emphasises that financial donations are preferred in supporting recovery efforts. Financial donations provide choice, empower people by promoting personal decision-making, are more flexible and support local economies by encouraging local buying. [2280] Donated goods, instead of financial donations, means that there is delay before local businesses have customers return to replenish essential items. [2281]

21.53 During the 2019‑2020 bushfires, local governments and community organisations received an influx in unsolicited donations of goods. This represented a significant logistical challenge for local communities and organisations involved in recovery. The NSW [2282] and Victorian [2283] Governments requested the public stop donating physical goods. Unsolicited donations of food also presented issues of food safety – for example, the need for refrigeration, which can be problematic after disaster as communities can experience lengthy periods without reliable power. [2284]

21.54 The National Guidelines for Managing Donated Goods, and experience during the 2019‑2020 bushfire season, highlight the importance of incorporating the management of donated goods within recovery planning processes, establishing donation arrangements before a disaster, and providing clear communications to inform the public of how to best support affected communities. [2285] During the 2019‑2020 bushfires, arrangements to manage donated goods in NSW and Victoria, were not established until mid‑late January 2020. [2286] In addition, there appears to be limited public awareness of the National Guidelines for Managing Donated Goods.

21.55 Solicited donations of physical goods can support the effective recovery of disaster‑affected communities, particularly when those goods are specifically requested or based on an assessment of need. [2287] Organisations such as GIVIT and Foodbank can act as a valuable broker. They can purchase needed items and match offers of support from individuals and the private sector to disaster-affected communities who need specific items. [2288] These organisations also alleviate the need for local communities to transport, store and sort donations and dispose of inappropriate goods. [2289]

21.56 Some state and territory governments have incorporated these organisations into their recovery arrangements to manage donated physical goods and provision of food relief. For example, the ACT [2290] and Queensland [2291] Governments have standing arrangements for GIVIT to manage donations during the recovery phase of a disaster. Similarly, the SA Government has a standing arrangement with St Vincent de Paul. [2292] Having pre‑established arrangements allows these organisations to develop partnerships and networks with local groups and pre‑plan relevant logistics and communications – both critical for the management of donated goods. [2293]

Recommendation 21.1 Arrangements for donated goods

State and territory governments should develop and implement efficient and effective arrangements to:

  1. educate the public about the challenges associated with donated goods, for example, the storage and distribution of donated goods, and
  2. manage and coordinate donated goods to ensure offers of support are matched with need.

Fundraising and distribution of donated funds

21.57 The Australian community has long come to the aid of people affected by disasters. Throughout and following the 2019‑2020 bushfires, Australian individuals, families, communities and businesses gave generously to support community recovery – the Australian Red Cross received over $227 million; [2294] the NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service received $91 million; [2295] donors contributed over $44 million to The Salvation Army’s Disaster Appeal; [2296] and St Vincent de Paul Society raised over $22 million. [2297] The Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul also received funding from the Australian Government for the provision emergency relief, including to bushfire-affected individuals. [2298]

21.58 During and after the 2019‑2020 bushfires, there was intense public scrutiny of charities and non‑government organisations and adverse reflections on the timeliness of the distribution of donated funds. [2299] Much of the criticism seems to have been based on an expectation that funds would be provided to affected communities in the immediate aftermath.

21.59 However, recovery is a protracted process and recovery needs can continue for years after an event. As such, individuals may react differently and require support at different points in time before they are able to get ‘back on their feet’.

Homes detroyed in NSW by the 2019‑2020 bushfires

Figure 85: Homes destroyed in NSW by the 2019‑2020 bushfires [2300]

21.60 We heard from major charities that the distribution of donated funds must be balanced between the provision of immediate assistance, while ensuring that sufficient funding is available to support people across their longer-term recovery. [2301] They noted that it was common for individuals to only seek support weeks or months after a disaster, rather than immediately after the disaster. Distributing all funding as quickly as possible would mean that individuals could miss out on needed recovery assistance or that there is insufficient funding to meet the needs of a broader community as it rebuilds.

It took us two months to decide to go to the Bushfire Recovery Centre. Initially we felt that we shouldn’t go because ‘other people needed it more’ - after all we still had a house. But as time passed, we realised that there were things we did need help with, so we asked… [2302]

The recovery trajectory for communities

Figure 86: The recovery trajectory for communities [2303]

21.61 Charities must also contend with the unfortunate reality that some individuals will seek to exploit the recovery assistance that is provided following a natural disaster. For instance, during the 2019‑2020 bushfires, the Australian Red Cross had over 900 suspicious claims lodged electronically. [2304] Charities need time to verify individual claims to ensure that financial assistance is provided to people in genuine need – this can slow the distribution of funds. [2305]

21.62 The distribution of donated funds over an extended period is consistent with the long-term nature of recovery. Governments could also play a role in helping to educate the public about the protracted nature of recovery processes and the need for charities to act judiciously with donated funds.

21.63 More frequent and transparent communication to donors and the wider public about the collection of donated funds, the nature of the assistance being provided, the administrative costs, how much has been distributed and the timeframes for distribution would support a greater understanding of the recovery process.

Regulation of charities and fundraising

21.64 The Australian Charities and Not‑for-profits Commission (ACNC) is the national regulator of charities, but fundraising is regulated by state and territory governments [2306] – see Appendix 23: Recovery Arrangements. This leads to complexity, both when attempting to raise funds nationally following a natural disaster and the distribution of funding to communities. A charity that conducts a national campaign will likely need to be registered to fundraise in each state and territory and comply with several distinct regulatory schemes. [2307]

21.65 In addition, social media and digital platforms are creating new opportunities for fundraising. The emergence of modes of raising funds, such as crowd funding, has changed the fundraising landscape and presents new challenges for regulators and ensuring the integrity of fundraising efforts. [2308]

21.66 Charities may also be bound by organisational constitutions, limits on the objects of donated funds and trust deeds. This will also affect the ability to raise and distribute funds. [2309] These complexities are difficult to navigate both for those seeking to raise funds, and prospective donors. A high profile example that highlights the intersection of these issues was the spontaneous fundraising campaign for the Trust of the Rural Fire Service of NSW. [2310]

21.67 We acknowledge that our Letters Patent are limited to natural disasters, and the regulation of fundraising is a matter that extends beyond natural disasters. However, significant fundraising events regularly occur during and after natural disasters and they are an important contribution to recovery efforts. We therefore should consider, consistent with our Letters Patent, what can be done to improve these arrangements.

Fundraising regulation

21.68 Fundraising during natural disasters is often significant, as donations are generally made as an emotional outlet in the face of the impacts of a disaster. It is important that the community understands the legal framework for fundraising and the various limitations which may apply to the dispersal of donated funds.

21.69 We heard from some charities about the importance of harmonising the regulation of charities across state and territory governments. [2311] Australian, state and territory governments are in the process of developing a cross‑border recognition model that would ease the registration and reporting burden on charities who raise funds in multiple, participating jurisdictions. This model is expected to be finalised by the end of October 2020. [2312]

21.70 The ACNC is also working with its counterparts in state and territory governments to streamline reporting and compliance requirements. For example, as a result of ongoing dialogue with the ACNC, the WA Government recently announced changes to its Charitable Collections Act 1946 (WA), which simplify the application process for fundraising activities, facilitate data sharing and will mean that most WA charities registered with the ACNC will no longer need to submit financial statements to the state regulator (as this information would be shared by the ACNC). [2313] The Australian Government is also developing a common definition of a charity, in order to simplify reporting and compliance requirements. [2314]

21.71 We heard that it can often be difficult for donors to have confidence in statements and representations made when being asked to donate funds. Likewise, it may be unrealistic to expect donors to be able to thoroughly investigate the credentials of a charity or a fundraiser.

21.72 The legal framework for fundraising could be more effective if there was a single regulator and scheme governing fundraising. For example, the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Red Cross and Justice Connect have all suggested that rather than harmonisation of the state and territory fundraising laws, these laws should be repealed and replaced by an amendment of the Australian Consumer Law (which is part of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)) to clarify its application to charitable and not-for-profit fundraising. [2315] This would be consistent with the recommendations in the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Legislation Review 2018, which also recommended the creation of a single national scheme for fundraising. [2316]

21.73 The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Legislation Review 2018 provides a useful starting point for the creation of a national scheme for the regulation of fundraising. A national scheme could provide greater community confidence in the management of financial donations following a natural disaster.

Digital fundraising

21.74 The growth of fundraising through social media and online channels also raises regulatory compliance issues, particularly for individuals and small organisations which may not be aware that they need to apply for a licence or register. The vast majority of fundraising activities during the 2019‑2020 bushfires were through online and digital mechanisms. [2317]

21.75 Online fundraising platforms can be exploited by fraudulent fundraising campaigns and scams. [2318] During the 2019‑2020 bushfires, over 500 related scams were reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission [2319] – which, regrettably, is consistent with what was reported for previous disasters. [2320] Additional enforcement or regulatory action have been suggested to address these risks. For example, the Fundraising Institute of Australia has suggested providing the Australian Communication and Media Authority with powers to disable fraudulent fundraising websites, similar to its powers to regulate illegal online gambling that were introduced by the 2017 amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (Cth). [2321]

21.76 The Australian Government should consider whether additional regulatory responses are required to address the risk of fraud associated with digitally enabled fundraising campaigns.

Community education and guidance

21.77 It appears that, during the 2019‑2020 bushfires, there was a lack of public awareness on the need to register or get authorisation, in line with various fundraising laws. We have received evidence of the need for greater community education and guidance materials, such as dedicated handbooks, on the legal requirements and best practice of fundraising. This would support consistent approaches and practices in setting up fundraising appeals.

21.78 Some localised fundraising efforts following the 2019‑2020 bushfires appeared to lack an understanding of relevant legal frameworks, best practice on raising funds and limitations on the dispersal of funds. [2322] Guidance, such as template terms of reference for funds, information collection and sharing best practices, model communications to donors, licensing and registration requirements and reporting tools, could provide individuals, organisations and local governments better clarity when contemplating fundraising efforts. [2323]

21.79 Work in this area has already commenced – the Fundraising Institute of Australia is developing the Practice Note for National Disasters, which will provide guidance for best-practice ethical fundraising for fundraising in response to natural disasters in Australia. [2324]

21.80 There is scope to improve community awareness and education of fundraising requirements and for charities and fundraising platforms to more transparently communicate the limitations on how donated funds can be used. This could be achieved by additional guidance, such as the development of specific handbook on fundraising by Australian state and territory governments.

Recommendation 21.2 Reform fundraising laws

Australian, state and territory governments should create a single national scheme for the regulation of charitable fundraising.

Recovery volunteerism

21.81 Following a natural disaster significant numbers of volunteers offer their time and effort to support the recovery of affected communities. This often includes individual volunteers, emergent organisations and established volunteer organisations. [2325] During the 2019‑2020 bushfires, recovery volunteers were applauded for embodying the ‘Australian spirit’ and provided significant support, particularly in the immediate recovery efforts. [2326]

Local residents volunteering in Quaama, NSW

Figure 87: Local residents volunteering in Quaama, NSW [2327]

Volunteer coordination

21.82 State and territory governments vary in how they draw on volunteerism in recovery. In 2015, the Australia-New Zealand Emergency Management Committee (ANZEMC) published the Spontaneous Volunteer Strategy (2015), [2328] a limited national strategy for the engagement of spontaneous volunteers during natural disasters. This strategy outlines key principles, policy considerations and suggested actions for the inclusion of volunteers in the emergency management context. Some state and territory governments have developed specific guidelines and strategies which align with these principles and suggested actions. For example, NSW has the Community Recovery Toolkit: Planning for Spontaneous Volunteers [2329] and SA has its Guidelines for Managing Spontaneous Volunteers. [2330]

21.83 Australian, state and territory governments should refresh the Spontaneous Volunteer Strategy and develop specific action plans and guidelines.

21.84 During a natural disaster, it is common for individual volunteers to converge on a location in order to provide support and assistance. This often occurs in areas which have featured prominently in the media, are easily accessible or are close. Local communities can face significant pressure to respond to the offers of support. Health and safety and legal liability questions can also arise, which the community may not be well placed to assess. These challenges can lead to uncoordinated approaches to using volunteers and volunteers may even place themselves at risk – as was the case in some communities during the 2019‑2020 bushfires.

[During the 2019‑2020 bushfires] there were many examples of people, church groups informing communities they were arriving to ‘clean up’ things. This was without any: volunteer management practices in place, prior knowledge of contamination or risks, no understanding of what the bushfire affected community wanted, or guidance or support. [2331]

21.85 Further, the cost and timeliness of security checks on volunteers (such as national police checks or working with vulnerable people checks) can be a significant barrier to the use of volunteers. [2332]

21.86 State and territory governments adopted a range of approaches for the registration and referral of volunteers, with a variety of systems and platforms being used. For example, Volunteering Queensland operates EV CREW, a platform used for volunteer recruitment and referral, which is used in Queensland, the ACT and Tasmania. [2333]

21.87 A model that encourages a consistent approach to the registration and referral of volunteers is desirable as it would allow for greater interoperability between jurisdictions and more effectively leverage the capabilities of volunteers in recovery arrangements.

21.88 Greater consistency in the processes used to register and refer volunteers would support greater interoperability between state and territory governments. These processes should be supported by robust vetting and training mechanisms, and interoperable platforms.

21.89 In response to a need for greater coordination, state and territory governments established specific forums and groups during the 2019‑2020 bushfires. For example, NSW created a Volunteer Working Group to provide a point of contact between recovery coordinators, committees and the volunteer sector. [2334]

21.90 However, it is not possible for these types of groups to represent the full diversity of volunteer groups that may operate after a disaster. These groups also have limited ability to track, coordinate and position all volunteers and volunteer organisations to ensure recovery needs are appropriately addressed. [2335] Several non-government organisations with significant roles in recovery suggested that there would be value in a coordinator to address these difficulties. [2336]

21.91 In considering improvements to volunteer coordination, several lessons can be taken from Australia’s mobilisation and international deployment of volunteers. For example, under the Australia Assist Program, RedR Australia [2337] trains, recruits and deploys technical expertise in response to Australian Government crisis priorities. RedR Australia’s capabilities include: vetting and rapid deployment, accredited training of all volunteers, use of digital platforms to link the needs of RedR Australia’s partners with volunteers, embedding local decision-making in-line with need, and effective civil‑military coordination to operationalise a response plan. [2338]

21.92 State and territory governments should incorporate a volunteer coordination mechanism within their disaster recovery arrangements. This mechanism, such as a coordinator, could work closely with local communities and governments and would be responsible for building capacity to manage volunteers and coordinating volunteers and volunteer groups. Any coordination mechanism would need to foster cooperation and include a wide range of volunteer groups, which may only emerge in the aftermath of a disaster.

Volunteer capacities

21.93 We have been told of a number of issues that affect the capacity of volunteers to contribute to recovery. While there is often a surge in volunteers during and after a natural disaster, volunteering peak bodies have noted that medium‑term trends suggest a decline in volunteering. [2339] It is worth noting that volunteers are donating their time, effort and resources to support the recovery of disaster-affected communities. However, we heard that there is scope for improvement in preparing volunteers before disasters. If not sufficiently prepared and trained, volunteers may hamper recovery efforts. [2340]

21.94 Financial constraints – such as transport, volunteers’ out‑of‑pocket expenses, insurance, volunteer camp facilities, and materials – also affect the ability to deploy volunteers. [2341] Some state and territory governments cover the operational costs of volunteers – however, this not consistent across Australia. For example, NSW provides limited funding to cover the costs of establishing ‘volunteer base camps’. [2342] More mature guidance, training and community education about volunteer management is needed. [2343] In addition, we heard that an examination of broader volunteer issues, including protections, liabilities and insurance arrangements, is needed and merits consideration. [2344]

21.95 One approach, suggested by Volunteering Queensland, to support the capacity and coordination of volunteers, is to adapt the United States’ national Volunteer Organisations Active in Disasters model. [2345] This model consists of an association of volunteer organisations, with agreed minimum standards, training and guidance to assist in volunteer management, including spontaneous and emergent organisations. [2346] International models, such as the Volunteer Organisations Active in Disaster, merit consideration.

National recovery management

Governance arrangements

21.96 At a national-level, recovery policy and strategic decision-making is facilitated through the Community Outcomes and Recovery Subcommittee (CORS) of the ANZEMC. CORS supports ANZEMC by undertaking a range of recovery projects and develops policies that aim to enhance Australia’s capacity to recover from natural disasters. [2347]

21.97 CORS is advised by an independent group called the Social Recovery Reference Group (SRRG). [2348] The SRRG is a national functional reference group that is focused on the social domain of recovery (Figure 76). It is an expert body that supports the development of national recovery policy and planning relating to the human and social consequences of a disaster. [2349] The SRRG is the only national functional reference group. CORS is currently in the process of developing similar national functional reference groups for the other recovery domains (social, economic, built and natural). [2350]

21.98 The development of national functional reference groups across all four recovery domains will allow for more comprehensive expert policy advice to be provided to CORS. Expert policy advice across each of the recovery domains would enhance national recovery capabilities and interoperability across jurisdictions. It would also enhance understanding of the links between the social, economic, built and natural recovery domains. [2351]

National coordination groups

21.99 Before the 2019‑2020 bushfires, there were no standing national mechanisms to coordinate recovery efforts delivered by non‑government organisations. In response to this gap, the National Bushfire Recovery Agency created the National Charities Bushfire Recovery Coordinators Forum and National Peak Bodies Bushfire Recovery Coordinators Forum. These forums comprised representatives from a broad cross‑section of relevant national charities (such as the Australian Red Cross, Foodbank and Islamic Relief Australia) [2352] and peak bodies (such as the Planning Institute of Australia and the Business Council of Australia). [2353]

21.100 The National Charities Bushfire Recovery Coordinators Forum and National Peak Bodies Bushfire Recovery Coordinators Forum coordinated the delivery of recovery support to communities during and after the 2019‑2020 bushfires. [2354] These forums played a valuable role in identifying issues of national significance, optimising recovery efforts, sharing data, and identifying any gaps or potential duplication of effort. [2355] We have been informed that these forums complemented existing jurisdictional level forums and arrangements. [2356] There would value in these forums continuing, and there is merit in expanding their membership to include volunteer groups. [2357]

21.101 National coordination forums provide an opportunity to collaborate on the development of national strategies to improve the delivery of recovery services to disaster-affected communities and address issues of national significance, before, during and after a natural disaster. [2358] It is important that these national groups complement any existing mechanisms at the state and territory and local level.

Recommendation 21.3 National coordination forums

The Australian Government, through the mechanism of the proposed standing national recovery and resilience agency, should convene regular and ongoing national forums for charities, non‑government organisations and volunteer groups, with a role in natural disaster recovery, with a view to continuous improvement of coordination of recovery support.

National frameworks

21.102 As explored earlier in this report, Australian governments have developed national frameworks to support disaster risk reduction and preparedness and response (the National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework, [2359] the Australian Disaster Preparedness Framework [2360] and the Australian Government Crisis Management Framework). [2361] These frameworks support the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience [2362] and describe Australia’s disaster risk reduction and preparedness doctrine, including national capabilities and maturity levels, guiding principles, national priorities and strategies for action and outcome‑based measures of success.

21.103 National frameworks provide guidance to all levels of government and incorporate current thinking and common approaches. Frameworks are only effective when they are understood, effectively implemented and supported by strong mechanisms of assurance – see Chapter 24: Assurance and accountabilityfor further information on the importance of accountability in national strategies and frameworks for disasters.

21.104 There is currently no national framework for recovery in Australia. The absence of such a national framework results in an over reliance on funding mechanisms, particularly the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, to drive national recovery decisions and the broader narrative of assistance. This narrows national discourse on recovery to the provision of funding, rather than improving outcomes for communities and strengthening resilience. [2363] Other countries have established national recovery frameworks. For example, the United States has the National Disaster Recovery Framework, which outlines the strategy and doctrine for how communities and all levels of government develop, sustain, and coordinate the delivery of core recovery capabilities. [2364]

21.105 Australian, state and territory governments, through CORS, are in the process of developing a national recovery framework. The proposed framework is intended to provide an overarching strategy and guidance for all levels of government to coordinate and deliver an inclusive set of recovery interventions. It is intended to be an all-hazards framework and will outline the roles and responsibilities during an event of national consequence and significance. [2365]

21.106 A national recovery framework could support an integrated approach to recovery, promote interoperability between jurisdictions and provide clarity in the role different entities have in recovery. Such a framework should describe the approach that all levels of government would take to community-led recovery, including governing principles, outlining national coordination roles, responsibilities and capabilities, and including key recovery outcomes in order to set a collective measure of success. A national recovery framework should also outline areas where collaboration and standardisation between jurisdictions could improve recovery outcomes, including through a stronger role for resilience.

21.107 The creation of a national framework for recovery, however, must be effectively implemented; supported by clear lines of accountability, measurable outcomes, assurance, evaluation and continuous improvement.

Recovery workforce and resource sharing

21.108 Compared to Australia’s response capabilities, the national recovery workforce – people with dedicated expertise in recovery, such as community workers, administrators and government managers – is relatively limited and recovery capabilities are not mature. [2366] This has been recognised across all levels of government. [2367]

21.109 Resource sharing between state and territory governments has been one means to bolster the recovery capacity of jurisdictions affected by natural disasters. For example, following the 2019 North & Far North Queensland monsoon trough, a number of state and territory governments provided social and welfare recovery personnel to support Queensland’s recovery efforts. [2368]

21.110 The sharing of these resources was facilitated by the SRRG under the Guidelines for Interjurisdictional Assistance (Community Recovery). These Guidelines, however, have not been used consistently across Australia. The Guidelines are also limited to the sharing of community recovery workers, such as generalist workers supporting registrations at recovery centres and outreach teams. [2369] The Guidelines do not cover the sharing of other recovery resources, such as specialists and technical experts to support the built, economic and ecological recovery. [2370] The Guidelines are also reliant on an exchange of a memoranda of understanding, which can be a lengthy process. [2371]

21.111 There are other resource sharing arrangements which deal with specific issues and circumstances. For example, the Cross-Border Assistance Guidelines 2014 cover arrangements, and the sharing of resources, relating to emergency relief. This includes establishing an evacuation or relief centre in ‘neighbouring jurisdictions’. [2372] However, the extent to which state and territory governments are aware of, and have used these arrangements, is not clear.

21.112 During the 2019‑2020 bushfires, recovery resource sharing also occurred outside of formal arrangements. For example, the ACT Government told us that, given its relative inexperience with disaster-related grants and loans, it engaged the support of the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority to provide loan assessment and administration support on a fee for service basis. [2373] Similarly, through the informal sharing of expertise from NSW and the Australian Government, Victoria was able to implement changes to its application forms for the $10,000 small business grants, resulting in a significant increase in uptake. [2374]

21.113 Work by the Australian, state and territory governments is underway to address gaps in the national recovery capability, which, in turn, would support more effective interstate resource sharing. For example, the Australian, state and territory governments, through CORS, is considering the creation of a Disaster Recovery Capability Development Strategy. This strategy is intended to mature and grow the national recovery capability so it can sustain long‑term recovery efforts after a crisis and support complex recovery across all recovery domains. Similarly, CORS is exploring the development of model arrangements for recovery from a catastrophic crisis. This would support decision‑making and advice on recovery resource prioritisation across all recovery domains. [2375]

21.114 A number of state and territory governments have developed programs and initiatives to maintain surge recovery workforces within their jurisdictions. For example, Queensland has a well‑established ‘Ready Reserve’ of specially trained public servants providing a human and social recovery workforce surge capacity. Similarly, WA has recently initiated a State Recovery Cadre – a team of nominated individuals, who have expertise in a particular field, and can support local recovery efforts when gaps in capability or capacity are identified. [2376]

21.115 There is scope to build on current arrangements to create more expansive, efficient and effective arrangements for the sharing of recovery resources across the social, built, economic and natural recovery domains.

Recommendation 21.4 National recovery resource sharing arrangements

Australian, state and territory governments should establish a national mechanism for sharing of trained and qualified recovery personnel and best practice during and following natural disasters.

Recovery exercises and training


21.116 Exercising provides an opportunity for recovery entities to practice and fine‑tune their recovery arrangements and systems. Exercising can take place in a number of ways, such as discussions or role‑playing, and typically revolves around a particular scenario or hazard. [2377] The extent and nature of recovery exercising varies across jurisdictions. For example, local councils in SA may undertake exercises for council recovery programs through the Local Government Association’s Council Ready Program. [2378] WA is in the process of incorporating a recovery component within in their State Emergency Management Exercise Framework to allow it to be exercised as a standalone component. [2379] Deficiencies in recovery arrangements are also identified through ‘after event’ reviews. [2380]

21.117 Smaller jurisdictions and local governments may not have the same capacity to develop specialised recovery exercises. For example, the NT Government has suggested that access to exercise packages, templates or materials and exercise writing and planning courses could enhance the development of specialised recovery exercises. [2381]

21.118 There is also scope for regular national recovery exercises. [2382] The state and territory governments have suggested that CORS could be a useful avenue for conducting national recovery exercises in the future. This subcommittee is conducting a number of foundational projects which would support national recovery exercises, such as the Recovery Planning for Catastrophic Crisis Project. [2383] This work can improve the coordination of recovery exercises and provide useful tools to conduct recovery exercises at the jurisdictional, regional and local level.

Recommendation 21.5 National level recovery exercises

Australian, state and territory governments should work together to develop a program for national level recovery exercises, building on the work currently underway through the Community Outcomes and Recovery Subcommittee of the Australia-New Zealand Emergency Management Committee.


21.119 State and territory governments provide a range of training courses, materials and modules to support locally-led recovery capacities – see Appendix 23: Recovery Arrangements. However, we have also observed an absence of a national approach to building recovery competencies and training pathway for recovery practitioners. [2384]

21.120 We heard that this issue was exacerbated by the closure of the Australian Emergency Management Institute (AEMI) in 2014. The AEMI was funded by the Australian Government and delivered education, research and training in national emergency management and disaster resilience. It also facilitated recovery workshops and provided mechanisms to identify gaps and common recovery issues being experienced across jurisdictions. Local governments in particular have noted that the closure of AEMI has been a disservice to the disaster management cohort, especially for skills development. [2385]

21.121 Australian state and territory governments should develop a national approach for recovery competencies and professional pathways for recovery practitioners, including for local governments and non‑government organisations. This should include consideration of national and jurisdictional education, research and training facilities, similar to the former AEMI.

BlazeAid volunteers helping to repair a fence in NSW

Figure 88: BlazeAid volunteers helping to repair a fence in NSW [2386]

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