A number of community focussed citizens from across Australia are planning a two day meeting in Melbourne in March/April 2012 to discuss the establishment of a Community-led National Disaster organisation. 

The following is to help explain why we think there is a need for such an organisation, and why and how you can become involved. 

Why do we need a National Community Led Disaster organisation? 

Currently there is a gap between the stated goal of governments in wanting to give communities a pivotal role in emergency management,  the real opportunities for community-led decision-making  and the skill and capacity of citizens and communities in assuming this responsibility. Governments are big, and bound by bureaucratic procedures. As such, they are slow to adapt and can struggle to action desired strategies.
Governments are big, and bound by bureaucratic procedures. As such, they are slow to adapt and can struggle to action desired strategies.
Community leaders and active citizens are desperate, because of their experiences or interest, to have a lead role and a strong voice in managing the risk. However, there are no avenues available at present to facilitate this.
There needs to be a fundamental change or shift in the relationship between citizens, communities and governments. There is a crisis in governance and a disaster brings this to light.
This shift needs to build on the passion, local knowledge and self-organising capacities of local disaster impacted communities and should signal a shift away from Tier upon Tier decision-making to Peer to Peer collaboration. This is best exemplified in deliberative and participatory stakeholder-inclusive processes initiated as disaster preparedness strategies and then formally enacted as disaster-response and disaster community renewal decision-making processes.
The amalgamation of smaller local governments into larger Councils has meant that in the aftermath of a disaster there is an absence of a local authorising environment or agent at the township level.  This creates significant challenges in community preparedness, and in the response and personal and community renewal after a disaster.

 What could such an organisation do?

Focussing on preparation, prevention, response and renewal after disaster, it could:

 Provide strong advocacy and direct representation of community interests and alternative strategies and approaches to emergency management agencies and government departments.

·     Provide input into and feedback on government, non-government organisations, peak bodies and corporations and businesses emergency management policy and strategy development.

Be proactive in advancing the issues experienced and identified by communities to government, non-government organisations, peak bodies and corporations and businesses.
Provide input into government emergency management policy development.
Provide a space that encourages and allows free and frank discussion about issues arising from living with the risk and consequences of disasters, outside the confines of government, NGOs and business.
Resource, support and enable community groups and citizens.
Encourage and enable independent, citizen led, community research and impacted community reviews of disaster events.
Ensure grants and resources are accessible for community members and groups to encourage initiative, diversity and local solutions to local issues.
Connecting community groups and citizens with common interest in disaster, and encourage translocalism (direct sharing of experiences and learning between one local community).
Be informed and directed by the issues arising at community level.
Provide a channel/outlet for local community members who have developed an interest and experience in community disaster responses and preparation.

·     Foster a change in the disaster recovery paradigm from a government and funded agency led approach focussed on individual and family welfare to a community-led approach that is based on holistic community dynamics and social, economic, cultural and political determinants analysis and systemic, structural and strategic community-level development.

Explore socially innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to these issues.

·         We will develop an online set of tools by the end of the year.  The aim will be to begin the conversation online to develop ideas and connections, to utilise the capacity of online tools to get things started, and to enable the most to be made of the face-to-face time.

If you are interested in being involved in the discussion to set up this organisation, or being kept in the loop of developments, please contact Kate Lawrence katel@alphalink.com.au or 0402 080 445.

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