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July 20, 2024

NSW government awards instead of funds community-led disaster efforts

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NSW 2022 Get Ready Community Awards at Parliament House in early October (L-R) Wardell CORE volunteers Joel Orchard and Cherelle Lewis; Hub 2484 volunteer Kerry Pritchard; Emergency Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons; and Hub 2484 volunteer Thomas Cornish. PIC supplied

The NSW government is yet to announce dedicated public funding for community-led disaster recovery groups on the Northern Rivers but last week officially commended three at Parliament House.

Emergency Services, Resilience and Flood Recovery Minister Steph Cooke and Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons presented the NSW selection of the 2022 Get Ready Community Awards and Resilient Australia Awards.

The federal government’s Resilient Australia Awards started more than two decades ago and includes preliminary presentations in all states and territories.

The Community Award category was introduced in 2020, with previous recognised projects ranging from community systems for rescuing vulnerable pets and livestock in disasters to mental health support for children post-disaster and emergency services training videos focused on interaction with people on the autism spectrum.

Private company Suncorp sponsors the category, with the annual overall national community award winner to receive $5,000 but no mention of financial reward at a state or territory level.

NSW government information online as of Thursday morning said community-led initiatives that helped people prepare for and recover from disasters were ‘more important than ever’.

The 2022 Get Ready Community Award was ‘a chance to share and celebrate the people and groups behind these initiatives and make sure important work doesn’t go unnoticed,’ the information read.

Volunteers in Murwillumbah, Wardell and Mullum commended

NSW Get Ready Community Awards 2022 (back L-R): Wardell CORE volunteer Joel Orchard; Hub 2484 volunteer Thomas Cornish; (front L-R): shedding advocate Shardae Reed; Wardell CORE volunteer Cherelle Lewis; Community Shedding Workshop Inc volunteer Sophie Wilksch; Hub 2484 volunteers Kerry Pritchard and Diane Bauer PIC supplied

Back on the Northern Rivers, Wardell CORE coordinator Joel Orchard was quoted in a media release from the group saying he was ‘absolutely thrilled to join colleagues’ at Parliament House for the awards presentation last week.

Wardell CORE was recognised as a lead nominee in the NSW Get Ready Community Award category alongside Shedding Community Workshop Inc, based in Mullumbimby.

Murwillumbah-based organisation Hub 2484 was announced the state’s community award winner, making the project eligible for the national prize to be announced later this year.

Mr Orchard said the official recognition was ‘a great testament’ to what communities could achieve when they worked together but that there was still ‘a long way to go’.

‘Let’s hope this recognition brings our community more support and resources to rebuild, recover and be better prepared for the future,’ Mr Orchard said.

Community groups prepare for wet season

Two NSW flood-related inquiries this year have included recommendations for more official support of community-led disaster efforts, one led by the upper house and the other by former Chief Scientist Professor Mary O’Kane and former NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller.

But most community response and recovery projects are still relying on donations from individuals and charities such as the Northern Rivers Community Foundation, Rotary and Lions groups.

Mr Orchard said community groups found it hard to achieve their potential owing to a lack of resources, funding and understanding of the ‘vital role grass-roots groups played in the disaster recovery ecosystem’.

Building partnerships and sharing ideas was fundamental to community organisations’ success, Mr Orchard said, with last week’s commended three groups from the Northern Rivers reportedly exploring ways to better support each other.

Local groups were ‘digging-in’, the Wardell CORE volunteer said, and were beginning to think about helping their communities prepare for the anticipated wet-season ahead.

‘Our region has shown how powerful a collection of volunteers, supporters and community groups can be in the face of disaster recovery,’ Mr Orchard said.

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  1. Do like to say it but extending grants / funds to grass root groups has more to do with politics, political philosophy, patronage and political control than community welfare. Different political parties have different levels of political control, politics over welfare than others. Quite easy to see.


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