Shepparton News

New recovery unit

NEW AGENCY TO HELP DISASTER SURVIVORS GET BACK ON THEIR FEET

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MELBOURNE: A dedicated emergency recovery unit will be establishe­d to help Victorians get back on their feet after disasters such as the Black Summer bushfires.

The Victorian Government has agreed to establish the entity after it was recommende­d by an Inspector-General for Emergency Management inquiry into the 2019-20 fire season.

It was the state’s most severe and destructiv­e fire season for more than a decade, with five people killed, 458 primary and nonprimary residences destroyed or damaged and more than 1.5 million hectares burnt.

A 480-page report, tabled in state parliament yesterday is the second from the IGEM inquiry, and identifies multiple shortcomin­gs in the crisis response.

It found a lack of informatio­n sharing between relief and recovery organisati­ons, which forced community members to retell their stories and compile various forms of evidence to demonstrat­e impacts and navigate systems.

Organisati­ons were aware of the issue, including the distress, frustratio­n and delays it caused, but there

were legal issues with sharing informatio­n, the report noted.

Community members spoke of their frustratio­n in completing complex applicatio­n forms, continuall­y having to prove losses and not receiving timely responses.

‘‘It’s the worst written form I’ve ever seen in my life and the way it’s administer­ed is just appalling,’’ one said.

The IGEM described the applicatio­n and eligibilit­y requiremen­ts for funding grants as ‘‘inflexible, onerous, confusing and distressin­g for affected individual­s’’.

In addition, an influx of food donations led to waste and showed the need for a ‘‘concerted communicat­ions

campaign’’ to discourage random donation of foodstuffs and other goods.

One person told the inquiry how they were getting donations of firelighte­rs and barbecue beads.

‘‘I think in that respect, it would be much better if we could get the community to centralise donations, to sort them and send them that way,’’ the person told the report.

‘‘Because if it is like that, the community’s just going to do what they want to do, and they take the most inappropri­ate things to people.’’

Scores of Victorians also donated their time and services during and after the

disaster, but there was no system or defined lead agency to co-ordinate spontaneou­s volunteers.

The IGEM has made a further 15 recommenda­tions to improve Victoria’s relief and recovery arrangemen­ts, on top of the 17 in its phase one report.

The Victorian Government supports the recommenda­tions, including creating a permanent and dedicated recovery management entity for all emergencie­s.

In the interim, Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes said Bushfire Recovery Victoria would continue to play a similar role during the coming extreme weather season.

 ?? Picture: AAP/State government of Victoria ?? Help for Victorians: A new emergency recovery unit will be establishe­d to help Victorians get back on their feet after disasters such as bushfires.
Picture: AAP/State government of Victoria Help for Victorians: A new emergency recovery unit will be establishe­d to help Victorians get back on their feet after disasters such as bushfires.

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