Time for new vision on disaster recovery

Anne Tiernan at lectern
Associate Professor Anne Tiernan says there is a need to reconceptualise the recovery process after natural disasters.

A new report into natural disaster recovery in Australia reveals there is inadequate planning for many of the short and long-term impacts of disaster.

Researchers from Griffith University’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy examined the impacts in Emerald, Cardwell, Marysville and Carisbrook, where communities were still recovering from flooding, cyclones and bushfires.

The study was commissioned by the Regional Australia Institute, which yesterday published its findings in a report titled From Disaster to Renewal.

The study also found that many recovery efforts fail to take advantage of significant financial real investment in a community, focusing excessively on getting a town back to ‘normal’ rather than adapting to changed economic drivers or exploring opportunities for renewal.

Associate Professor Anne Tiernan, who led the research project at Griffith University, says the study confirms the importance of distinguishing immediate relief issues from longer-term resilience policy.

“The research shows how a number of decisions in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster can undermine key issues in the increase of community resilience,” she said.

“The response performance in Australia is excellent in the event of a natural disaster, and this is acknowledged around the world, however there is a need to reconceptualise the recovery process and see it is a much longer-term scenario than is commonly understood.”

Associate Professor Tiernan said Griffith University researchers, including former Director-General of the Department of Community Safety, Professor Jim McGowan, have worked for a number of years on an agenda of policy coordination and delivery issues around natural disasters and crises.

She believes federal and state governments have coordinated work in this area with significant success, and now the Regional Australia Institute report presents a platform to build on this.

JimMcGowan“It is not about more resources to support the response to and recovery from natural disaster but rather the redirection of some of the existing resources to promote community resiliencies through mitigation strategies and more focused approaches to community recovery,” Professor McGowan said (left).

“This approach recognises that business recovery is a pre-condition for community recovery.

“Financial investment needs to be strategic and enable adaptation, innovation and renewal in the post-disaster environment. We need to ask ‘What’s the best thing for the community and the people living here?’.”