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Dr Allison Rowlands NSW Department of Family and Community Services Australia. Australia’s major natural disasters Summer 2010-11: recovery responses and role of social work. An international context: 2009 figures. 351 natural and 225 technological disasters

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dr allison rowlands nsw department of family and community services australia

Dr Allison RowlandsNSW Department of Family and Community Services Australia

Australia’s major natural disasters Summer 2010-11: recovery responses and role of social work

an international context 2009 figures
An international context:2009 figures
  • 351 natural and 225 technological disasters
  • Casualties (natural disasters: 10,551; technological disasters: 6,707)
  • Persons affected (natural disasters: 142 million; technological disasters: 33,000)
  • Deadliest = 1,117 Sumatran earthquake
  • 40 million people affected by Chinese flood
haiti 1 year on un
Haiti 1 year on: UN
  • Latest estimate of fatalities 220,000
  • 4,000 small, faith-based non-governmental organizations doing small, local projects in Haiti
  • 90% of NGO funding part of the UN coordination structure
  • Majority of the rubble had yet to be cleared; manual removal of rubble = more employment
  • 810,000 still living in 1,150 camps that still existed (half the peak camp population)
  • 95% of children now back in school; 1,500 temporary premises
  • 30,000 shelters built; social housing a feature of the future

Major floods, cyclone and bushfire

Dimension of impact and losses

Social work response

Community rebuilding – process and progress

A framework for analysis

scale of the natural disasters
Scale of the natural disasters

Brisbane region floods – Dec-Jan 2011

Victorian floods – Jan 2011

Cyclone Yasi – Feb 2011

Western Australian bushfires – Feb 2011

queensland community recovery
Queensland Community Recovery
  • Department of Communities
  • Personal support services
    • Personal support and information about the cause and effect of the disaster event on individuals and families,
    • Temporary accommodation
    • Financial assistance to meet immediate individual needs
    • Assistance to replace some household items lost during the event
    • Assistance with repairs to homes so it is safe and liveable again
    • Provision of an interpreter service,
    • Help with cleaning up and other practical assistance
recovery centres
Recovery Centres
  • Lodgment of and follow up of grant applications for repairs, replacing contents etc
  • Emotional and support services
  • Assist with exploring accommodation options
    • Crisis accommodation
    • Tenancy advice and referral
    • Mortgage relief assistance
  • Hubs for Queensland Government officers
community wellbeing
Community Wellbeing
  • National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRAA)
  • Community Development and Engagement Initiative
  • Flexible Funding Program
social work assessment and interventions
Social work – assessment and interventions

Crisis intervention incl lifeline

Community mental health interventions – coping with stress

Red Cross community outreach

Referral for material aid

Reaching out to students

Advocacy and systemic interventions eg replacing essential documents

Information dissemination eg safe cleaning up; your car; your pets; flood rebuilding seminars; volunteering

Community newsletters and recovery plans; self help info

government inquiries
Government Inquiries

Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry

17.01.2011; report Feb 2012

Community meetings with several flood-affected communities in March 2011

Examples of submissions

australian international social work response summer 2010 11
Australian international Social Work response summer 2010-11

Centrelink social workers off shore disaster support

On site or provision of support and follow up to Australians returning from overseas events

NZ: Greymouth Mine disaster; Christchurch Earthquake; evacuations from Egypt

Considerations for staff selection and support

  • Interventions
  • “surge capacity” – being responsive and flexible and knowing the limits
  • National coverage of social work workforce
  • Building knowledge and skill capacity over last 10 years (Bali Bombing 2002)

Emotional support to people affected


Information and referral

DVI support with families and follow up

Legal and financial complexities

Family liaison person role

Case management
  • Interagency collaboration – within Australian govt and on the ground
  • Planning withdrawal eg level of closeness – intimacy; boundaries
  • Domestically – crisis intervention, assessment, short term interventions re grief and loss, assessment re eligibility for financial support, information and referral, advocacy
staff care and issues
Staff care and issues

Selection criteria

Pre-activation training and preparation

Convincing colleagues in government eg authorities on the ground; representational role re what social work can do

Constantly reassessing the role; relationship building; acute awareness re what’s needed; strategic thinking

Team building
  • Self care
  • Supervision and managing staff
  • Media management and politics management!
  • Debriefing
a theoretical framework prof beverley raphael
A theoretical framework: Prof Beverley Raphael
  • Death and survival
  • Loss and grief
  • Dislocation and relocation
  • Resilience, renewal and regeneration
    • New strengths and understandings
    • More courage
    • Reevaluation of life
    • Reference point in one’s life
loss and grief
Loss and grief
  • Loss of loved ones
  • Loss of home
  • Loss of community
  • Loss of work, money, material possessions
  • Psychological losses
  • Disillusionment; attachments and relationships
  • Mastering the experience and managing feelings
  • → Social Work role?
initial recovery interventions
Initial recovery interventions
  • Context of evacuation
    • Loss of human dignity; privacy; social networks
    • Strange environment
    • Quality of service provision; bureaucracy
    • Uncertainty
    • Family tensions
  • Refugees
  • The young, the old
  • → Social Work role?
community response and recovery
Community response and recovery
  • Initially shattered; fragmented
  • Unaffected areas respond; spontaneous and unorganised response; convergence; emergent groups
  • Organisational systems (infrastructure) starts responding or response comes from outside
  • Level of training; degree of damage
  • Leadership; flexibility and later rigidity?
  • Continuity in roles
  • Assessment and coordination
Altruism; high arousal; cooperation; solidarity

→ therapeutic community” and development of formal and informal infrastructures

  • Training; skills; coordination; plans
  • Negativity; disillusionment and reality bites
  • Concurrent family stresses and dislocation of social networks
  • Limitations of recovery agencies and conflicts appear; blame
    • value of pre-planning
    • politics and image
    • media
Coordination issues in international aid
  • Basic planning processes – assessment; goal and objective setting; resourcing incl human resources; implementation; monitoring and review; coordination and communication strategy
  • Cultural awareness and sensitivity?
  • Who pays?
  • Transition planning
  • Politics
convergence of volunteers and aid workers
Convergence of volunteers and aid workers
  • Paedophile volunteered after Queensland floods
    • Impossible to check backgrounds
    • Suitability? Motivation? Supervision? Debriefing?
  • Duplication of effort
  • Liability issues
social change as longer term community consequence
Social change as longer-term community consequence
  • Population; in and out migration
  • Economy and industry; workforce participation
  • Community cohesion
  • Family structure
  • Mental and physical health
  • Anti social behaviour
  • Facilities and rebuilding
  • Social planning
  • Engagement and participation
  • Governance
  • Raphael, B. (1986) When Disaster Strikes. NY: Basic Books.
  • http://www.communityservices.qld.gov.au/community/community-recovery/support-assistance/cyclone-yasi.html
  • http://www.floodcommission.qld.gov.au/home
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (2010) World Disasters Report 2010.www.ifrc.org
  • UNICEF (2011) Children in Haiti.www.unicef.org/haiti
  • Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority (2009) 100 Day Report. http://www.wewillrebuild.vic.gov.au