The summer holiday season is fast approaching, and will hopefully provide Australians the chance to unwind, spread some much-needed cheer, and look forward to the future after a tough year.
However, the cumulative effects of drought, bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a significant toll on many individuals, families, businesses and communities. The road to recovery may not be easy. As Australia navigates this post-crisis period, it may be important to retain and enhance many of the collaborative systems and processes that became so important in the 2019-2020 bushfire and pandemic crisis responses.
Are we ready for the next event?
The devastation of the 2019-2020 Australia bushfires still looms large in our national psyche. And as 2020 has demonstrated, we never know what’s around the corner. So it’s important to be prepared for the potential of heightened disaster risks that may accompany the Australian summer holiday period.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s October 2020 to April 2021 severe weather outlook warns of heightened chances of hail, storms, flooding and cyclones due to the arrival of a La Niña weather system.2 And a major insurer has warned Australians are concerned the country is not prepared for the prospect of more wild weather.2 Its recent survey indicates around 30% of Australians believe Australia’s disaster preparation strategies for bushfires or storms are inadequate. Almost two in five people also believe the current health crisis has hindered Australia’s recovery from last summer’s bushfire damage.3
Nothing sharpens focus like a crisis
Governments at every level responded quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we saw new levels of collaboration with non-government organisations.
“This helped keep communities safe and connected, supported the economy, and strengthened the relationships between Australia’s leaders and citizens,” says Ashley Marshall, General Manager, Government at Australia Post. “We believe it’s important to keep this momentum going.”
Interim observations from the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements have highlighted a greater need for a nationally co-ordinated disaster response. When people and communities are well-prepared, supported and cared for during and after disasters, it can mitigate the extent of damage and harm.1
And this preparation, response and recovery has been called a ‘shared responsibility’ — shared between individuals, private enterprise, not-for profit organisations, and all levels of government.1
“For us, 2020 has been a year of courage, resilience and absolute determination to serve,” notes Marshall. When Australia was in crisis, Australia Post’s people delivered. “Our doors remained open, and for many communities, families and businesses, we became their lifeline.”
Our Post Offices are central to the communities they serve, particularly in rural, regional and remote parts of Australia where Australia Post is the “most present service provider”, according to recent Deloitte analysis.4 96% of Australians have a local Post Office, and we’re one of the most trusted service providers in regional communities.5
“Post Offices, posties and delivery personnel help keep people and communities connected,” says Marshall. “They rely on our presence, so we work hard to balance our community service obligations and business priorities.”
And that community role becomes heightened when disaster strikes. As people in crisis look for certainty and support, they may turn to their local Post Office. Others, such as not-for-profit organisations, may also depend on our major infrastructure and network to help them connect and contribute to recovery. For example, in Victoria we worked with Australian Red Cross, the state government and Foodbank to deliver emergency relief packages to vulnerable people and those self-isolating during the initial response to the pandemic.5