Winner: Royal Far West
Royal Far West’s Bushfire Recovery Program, designed to support the wellbeing and resilience of children affected by the bushfires of 2019 and 2020, has been hugely successful in giving children a voice and be heard and supported in the recovery process. Now in more than 30 communities, some 3,000 children have been supported through group programs, individual therapy and capacity building. The program recognises the position children can find themselves in during a crisis: having loved ones away fighting the fires, seeing the destruction but not having the words to express their feelings, and listening to adult conversations, but not being included. The program has been delivered to children up to the age of twelve, through their schools, but also extends to the parents, educators and other professionals around them, whose well-being as on-going carers is just as important. The lessons learned through this program will have long-term positive benefits in the way these children react when faced by challenges and disasters in the future. Royal Far West’s Bushfire Recovery Program is making sure children are not forgotten in recovery.
NSW Emergency Recovery Service
When a community is recovering from a disaster, many people want to help, but the reality is that well-meaning but unrequested donations can cause tremendous harm and difficulty for communities already struggling. The NSW Emergency Recovery Service, developed by GIVIT, a non-profit organisation working in partnership with the NSW Government, has resolved this problem - with technology. The service has developed an online donation management platform that matches needs with donors. This empowers local communities to request exactly what they need, and helps donors to make a valuable and well-targeted contribution to the disaster relief effort. Since January 2020 GIVIT has been able to provide, through this program, nearly 220,000 donations through 197 community organisations in NSW. GIVIT also plays a role in educating the public about the challenges associated with donated goods, and encourages the donation of money, 100 per cent of which is used to purchase essential items and services in affected areas.
Crises related to climate, food, water, fire, energy, infrastructure, economy, ecosystems and health are inevitable. OzGreen understands that a community properly prepared for these sorts of things is a resilient community. This is, therefore, the basis of the Resilient Communities program, which trains local community leaders to deliver action-oriented community workshops empowering people living in vulnerable areas to prepare, prevent, respond and recover from disasters. The program was piloted in a range of locations in regional NSW and, thanks to a Resilience NSW Community Resilience Innovation Program grant, delivered 63 workshops over a seven month period. Knowledge, thoughts and ideas were contributed by representatives from local emergency service agencies and volunteer facilitators were taken through comprehensive training. Thanks to the OzGreen Resilient Communities project, many NSW communities are now much better prepared for any emergency.
Local Government Award
Winner: Bega Valley Shire Council
Bushfire Recovery Rebuilding and Resilience Program
Bega Valley Shire holds the dubious distinction of having been the most disaster - impacted local government area in NSW in 2020. 66 per cent of the shire burned in the Black Summer fires - taking four lives, 500 homes and 1,000 structures with it. Then floods and COVID-19 also impacted heavily on the community and created wide-reaching challenges for the whole region. The Bega Valley Shire Council, armed with the knowledge gained from previous experience, worked with the NSW Government to set up the Bega Valley Local Bushfire Recovery Committee and the Recovery Resilience and Rebuilding program. Naturally, the bushfire disaster and the recovery process were chaotic, but through a firm belief in the fundamental principle that people matter, the Bega Valley Shire Council embarked on a journey of walking with the community, which is richer for its leadership. Council knows these sorts of events will continue to happen and the programs established in 2020 have led to greater disaster preparedness, and placed relief, resilience and recovery as core to Council’s business.
Finalist: City of Sydney
COVID-19 Food Relief Response
COVID-19 has had a huge impact, both economically and socially, on many people. In the City of Sydney, already vulnerable residents experienced increased hardships - with many experiencing food insecurity for the first time. The City of Sydney COVID-19 Food Relief Response was a coordinated and cooperative effort between 60 businesses and not-for-profit agencies to support this urgent need. With $2 million contributed by the city, and another $110,000 raised for OzHarvest, the program has, since March 2020, provided more than 600,000 meals, 60,000 food hampers and $40,000 worth of food vouchers to those who need them the most. After the initial crisis, an ongoing need was recognised and the City has now established and is coordinating local agency sub-groups to equip this response. Apart from providing much needed food relief to vulnerable residents, the City of Sydney COVID-19 Food Relief Response has had an additional effect of creating a greater sense of awareness, cooperation, commitment and a unity of pu pose between 60 support agencies who had not previously worked together.
Finalist: Wollondilly Shire Council
Activate Wollondilly 2020
Within 24 hours of the Green Wattle Creek fire starting in November 2019, Wollondilly Shire Council had enacted Activate Wollondilly - providing information, counselling services, referrals, crisis payments, food hampers, gift cards, toiletries and Christmas gifts to bushfire -impacted residents. Activate Wollondilly is a strengths-based approach to disaster management and preparedness aimed at building resilient, informed and educated communities who are then prepared for future emergencies and better able to cope with them when they happen. The program builds capacity and cohesion through creating dialogues between residents, stakeholder and emergency response agencies. The Green Wattle Creek fire continued to burn for two and a half months, destroying more than 270,000 hectares of pristine wilderness, national parks and 17 residential properties. Activate Wollondilly 2020 was vital to the immediate and on-going way the community dealt with this crisis and the recovery from it.
Winner: Why Leave Town
Community Gift Card Program
Droughts, bushfires, floods, mouse plagues, and of course COVID-19, all have far reaching impacts on communities and the individuals within them. The effect on local businesses can also be significant, especially when goods are purchased online and from outside the local community. The Why Leave Town Community Gift Card Program solves this problem by simplifying and encouraging people to shop locally. Through an online platform, donors can purchase EFTPOS gift cards locally, and the funds loaded onto them can only be spent in those same communities. This way 100 per cent of funds received through gifts, staff incentives, and relief and recovery programs can be circulated back into the local economy. Donors can give gifts to individuals while at the same time supporting struggling local businesses. It is said that every $100 spent locally, due to the multiplier effect, is worth $180 to the local economy. With more than $11.5 million having now been spent and about one million Australians having participated, more than 60 Australian communities have become far more economically resilient thanks to Why Leave Town.
Winner: Fire and Rescue NSW
Evidence-based fire safety education for children
Fire safety education is conducted around the world to enhance children’s capacity to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from fire. In fact, prevention through education is the first line of defence against misuse of fire and related injuries and fatalities in children. Fire and Rescue NSW has provided firefighter-conducted fire safety education in schools for decades. There were, however, no overarching guidelines, so in 2020 Fire and Rescue NSW decided on an evidence-based review of these programs. Through theoretical, process, and outcomes evaluation, this study led to a program of tailored education that enhances understanding of risk and risk mitigation. It empowers children, and their households and communities, with the knowledge and skill to make informed decisions, enhancing their resilience to fire. The response to the changes to fire safety education that have arisen from this study, from both educators and firefighters, has been overwhelmingly positive.
Finalist: Wollondilly Shire Council
Wollondilly Children and Youth Voices Projects
The bushfires of 2019 and 2020 had a devastating effect on many communities. Wollondilly Shire had more than 270,000 hectares of wilderness and national park burned, and 19 residential properties destroyed. Such devastation can have a lasting effect on the children living through it. To lessen the impacts of this, Wollondilly Shire Council, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Wollondilly North, launched the Children’s Voices Project. The aim was to give children an opportunity to express their feelings, thoughts and emotions about the way the fire had impacted upon their community, their families, and themselves. Feedback from this project was so positive it was decided to extend it to families with adolescent children who also felt they needed extra support. These young people are our future leaders. It’s vital we look at the world through their eyes and listen to their ideas and opinions. It was a credit to the professional way the programs were delivered that every person who participated felt they belonged and their input was valued, heard and respected.
People's Choice Photography Award
Winner: Virginia Eastman
Still Standing - We and the Trees
Virginia Eastman describes her home in the Blue Mountains as “defined by colour”. But when fire came in 2019 and 2020, it left it “black and blue”. Her photo, Still Standing - We and the Trees, was taken early in February 2020 along The Oaks fire trail at a point where the fire had been particularly fierce. Everything is stripped of life and colour, except for firefighter Tom Cowan “almost glowing like a golden yellow beacon of hope in defiant contrast to the black and grey expanse of desolation”. The trees stood tall, but Tom, as a symbol of firefighters everywhere, can stand taller than “the fiery foe”. Virginia believes that resilience is an energy living deep inside us, alongside hope, safe from life’s flames. “Resilience is an internal energy, a physical and mental health, and a way to find a bright flash of something golden in contrast to the darkness that comes with challenging times,” she said..
Finalist: Jamie Lepre
After the Corroboree
Jamie Lepre’s photo shows a group of Aboriginal high school students from Nowra, Bomaderry, Ulladulla and Batemans Bay standing around a fire , “with ochre on their bodies, having just danced in a Corroboree”. The occasion was part of a three-day immersive cultural burning workshop for Aboriginal youth. This workshop, recognising the profound impacts of discrimination and intergenerational trauma, is a transformative and authentic learning process to bring about positive cultural identity and resilience. The photograph shows an atmosphere that’s electric and charged with emotion. These young people had earlier participated in a cultural burn, which helped them understand the relationship between resilient landscapes and resilient people. “They had danced with their ancestors and felt the connection between past, present and future. It was a moment they will all remember,” Lepre said.
Finalist: Paul Lloyd
Out of the Ashes...
Paul Lloyd is a Regional Emergency Management Officer with the NSW Police Force. Throughout the Black Summer bushfires he took hundreds of photos of the heartbreaking toll on lives, wildlife, property, first responders and communities across the state. When visiting Batlow with police chaplain Rev. Judy Heggart, they met the pregnant fiancee of a local police officer. While he was away serving the community, their home had been destroyed by fire. Judy and Paul took her to see if anything could be salvaged from the ashes, but all was lost. Paul’s photo Out of the Ashes… shows this moment of utter despair. “Like so many hardship stories, there is a silver lining,” Lloyd said. “Judy and the woman established an incredible friendship that day, and Judy went on to officiate at their wedding, celebrated the birth of their child, and acted as celebrant at the child’s naming ceremony and baptism. Once again, resilience has come Out of the Ashes,” he said.