Feds aim to improve disaster response and recovery as climate change hits harder

Minister Murray Watt on a visit to Richmond Valley last month. Photo: Susanna Freymark

The Australian Defence Force should be the last call in a disaster, not the first, Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt said.

He was releasing a call for input from us all on how the country can deal with the increase in disasters – often with more than one hitting at a time.

With 80% of Australians living in areas that have experienced some form of disaster since 2019, the Federal Government is looking at how the nation responds and recovers.

“This is not about removing Defence from disaster response – when Australians find themselves in an emergency situation where Defence has a unique capability to bring to bear, then the ADF will always be there,” Mr Watt said.

 “In line with the Defence Strategic Review, this is about making sure Defence is not the first call that’s made – it is the last.”

 As climate change makes natural disasters more frequent and more severe, we need to think differently about how we respond to disasters, he said.

The government has released a discussion paper – Alternative Commonwealth Capabilities for Crisis Response – and wants feedback on it.

The paper is seeking public views on how the Federal Government can respond to requests for disaster assistance from state and territory governments.

This is an opportunity to have your say on how Australia can better develop the personnel required to respond to disasters in the future, Mr Watt said.

“Australia’s disaster management systems continue to be tested and stretched as we experience more frequent, intense, concurrent and compounding disasters.”

The Federal Government has made a $38million commitment to Disaster Relief Australia, a veteran-led organisation that provides additional support for states and territories when disasters occur.

This public consultation is being done alongside the work being done by the Senate Select Committee on Australia’s Disaster Resilience.

The discussion paper is available here.

Online submissions can be made and there will be roundtable talks with various community groups and local government

Submissions are open until September 15.

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