Aussies told to plan for future disasters

The Salvation Army's fundraising for bushfires and other disasters has been hit by COVID-19.
The Salvation Army's fundraising for bushfires and other disasters has been hit by COVID-19.

Resilience NSW Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says Australia's disaster recovery will be "quite significant" and that people should start planning for future disasters.

The former Rural Fire Service boss says the country has faced unprecedented damage and destruction during the bushfire season, which was compounded by storms and floods and the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There are communities that have been so profoundly impacted and affected, and whilst there's a tremendous focus on the rebuilding of infrastructure, on people's homes, it's a massive undertaking," he said in an online webinar on Friday.

The commissioner is urging individuals, families, businesses, industries and governments to begin having conversations about how they might respond to disruptions caused by disasters in the future to build resilience.

Citing the bushfires as an example, he recounted how people in NSW were unable to purchase goods because they relied solely on cashless payments or were unable to refuel their cars because the power went out and the petrol pumps didn't work.

"The biggest challenge with resilience is how we will plan and conceptualise those disruptions. How we will seek to prevent or mitigate them, what our response is, and then most importantly, how quickly do we rebound and recover," Mr Fitzsimmons said.

He also praised the "extraordinary cohesion and collaboration" of the federal government and the states in the past six months during the bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic.

"In New South Wales, we sought assistance from every state and territory across Australia, and saw assistance coming in from New Zealand, the United States and Canada."

The webinar was held by the Salvation Army for its business launch to raise $35 million under its Red Shield Appeal.

The charity was unable to hold its usual fundraising campaign during COVID-19 restrictions but has continued to offer services after seeing a tripling in demand for support during the pandemic.

"We've got 216 people off the streets in Melbourne and into hotel accommodation that was provided by the state government," the Salvation Army's Corps Officer Major Brendan Nottle said.

"Salvation Army teams across the country engaged with people on the streets and got them into accommodation. [They] contacted elderly people who could not get out of their homes, and they did the shopping for them."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also delivered a pre-recorded message urging Australians to donate to the Salvos' Red Shield Appeal.

Money raised by the end of the financial year will go to the Salvation Army's social services projects to provide care to millions of Australians living below the poverty line, victims of family violence, and those facing COVID-19 challenges.

Australian Associated Press