Right now we are in the middle of Fire Action Week, the annual public reminder that Victorian’s face high bushfire risk, every summer, and increasingly in spring and autumn.
Fire Action Week provides Victorian fire agencies the opportunity to tell everyone they need to start physically preparing for bushfire, despite the floodwaters in many areas. Annual messages to clean gutters and trim grass will always be central to communications between Government and communities. However, our approach to risk and resilience is changing.
In Victoria, there is an increased emphasis on community resilience, which can include working with communities over long periods of time, having conversations about what is important to them. At the same time, the Safer Together policy emphasises the importance of an end-to-end approach to bushfire management – using a range of strategies to deliver effective bushfire risk reduction outcomes, rather than over-reliance on any one strategy. There are also more appeals, from many organisations, for us to invest more in mitigation, to save money on response and recovery in the long-term.
In this sense, Fire Action Week is just the tip of the iceberg when we think of how resilience to natural disasters is built and maintained.
On the back of the Red Cross World Disaster Report, Judy Slatyer CEO of Australian Red Cross agrees that resilience can be hard to pin down but worth the investment.
'Resilience' can be tricky to define precisely. In essence, it's what helps people adapt to, cope with and recover from adversity. It can be as personal as a family emergency plan, or as large-scale as a citywide approach to building. It includes disaster mitigation (building flood levees or forest fire management, for example) but goes further to encompass public health, community education, psychological wellbeing, economic stability and recovery. The evidence is stacking up that it's a wise investment, whatever form it takes.