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Environment, Political

Climate-hit communities vital to help Australia prepare for future disasters

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action 4 mins read

March 26, 2024

People whose communities have been hit by floods, fires, heat, and sea level rise met for the first time in Canberra today in a new alliance calling for the government to put climate-impacted communities at the heart of decision making that impacts them.

As the Federal Government consults on a National Adaptation Plan, bushfire survivors joined Traditional Owners and other climate impacted people from New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the Torres Strait to meet with political leaders.

They’re asking for direct funding for communities to co-design climate disaster prevention, preparation and recovery alongside experts and governments. And they’re calling for action to protect communities by stopping coal and gas pollution making the problem worse.


The new alliance wants to see genuine consultation with impacted communities on the development of the National Adaptation Plan, with an issues paper currently available for submissions until 11 April.

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action CEO Serena Joyner said: 

“After another chaotic summer with devastating floods, storms and fires across the country, it is more important than ever for communities to have a voice in decision-making around preparation, prevention and recovery.

“This is the first time climate disaster survivors from across Australia have joined forces in Canberra to call on the government to listen to communities, especially First Nations, on what will work in their communities – and to fund them to do it.” 

Dr Aunty McRose Elu, senior Torres Strait Islander elder, community advocate, and former Queensland Senior Australian of the Year, said:

“I arrived in Canberra today with anger but also with love and care for our communities. If we walk together in one spirit, one mind, one strength and wisdom, we will find a way forward together. I’m confident that is how we will get there.

“We know they can be doing so much more to keep us all safe from climate harm. Our only chance for survival is to act very quickly to put us on the right path and limit global heating to 1.5 degrees. The Government knows this but its commitment to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030 is not in line with the science or what is needed to save our homelands from climate change.”

Associate Professor Arabella Douglas, Minyungbal Bundjalung woman and CEO of Traditional Owner group Currie Country Social Change said: 

“First Nations peoples have been providing good advice to governments since 1788 on how to live well in this place. It's time to action that advice for the safety of the whole nation.”

Firefighter and disaster recovery expert Dr Jean Renouf, CEO of Plan C, said:

"To avoid waste and irrelevant projects, communities must be right there alongside governments and experts co-designing policies to prepare Australians for future disasters.

“Communities are already leading action, like local disaster plans and radio communications systems to resilient housing and food and water security. But we shouldn’t have to face this alone. These activities need serious amounts of government funding to expand. It's that simple really."

2019 Young Achiever of the Year Jade Vivienne from Kangaroo Island, SA, said:  

“The devastation of the 2020 Kangaroo Island black summer bushfires runs deep, etched in the collective memory of a community that endured the trauma, hard work and grief together. I'm disheartened to observe the lack of accountability by private shareholders and government agencies on environmental disasters. It’s short-term thinking and my generation will be left with this legacy of extreme weather scars and more common disasters.”

Chels Hood Withey of the Community Disaster Action Group in the Northern Rivers said: 

"Communities across Australia are being left to pick up the pieces for coal and gas fuelled catastrophic events. Two years after the devastating floods in the Northern Rivers, we've been left with broken promises. We urgently need community-led, fully funded disaster recovery and adaptation."


Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action member Jack Egan from Batemans Bay, NSW said:

“Black Summer woke my community up to the drastic consequences of climate change. Governments’ first and bipartisan duty is to protect Australians from as much future climate-amplified damage as possible.”

Miriam Torzillo representing Reclaim Our Recovery, Lismore said:

“In Lismore we call the 'government response'  the second disaster. That's mainly because the community were left out of any opportunity to have a say in the design of their future.” 

Andrew George representing Reclaim Our Recovery, Lismore said:

“Communities lead during and after disasters. The question for federal politicians is, will you resource and value community leadership, or will you stand in our way, inflict more harm, and lose our votes?”

Alliance organisations represented include Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, Currie Country Social Change, Grata Fund, Plan C, Lismore’s Reclaim Our Recovery, Northern Rivers Community Disaster Action Group. 

ENDS


Key Facts:

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA) is a non-partisan community of people impacted by bushfires working together to call on our governments, businesses and institutions to take action on climate change. BSCA formed shortly after the Tathra and District fire in March 2018, and its founding members were all impacted by bushfires, including the Black Summer bushfires in 2019-20, Blue Mountains in 2013, Black Saturday in 2009 and Canberra in 2003. 

BSCA has been at the cutting edge of legal reform to reduce climate emissions and hold governments, agencies and companies to account. In 2023 the NSW Environment Protection Agency was the first such agency in the country to introduce a climate policy, which it was required to do as a result of landmark court action taken by BSCA.


Contact details:

Emily Watkins on 0420 622 408 or emily.watkins@climatemediacentre.org.au

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