Supporting government and Australian communities this holiday season

As Australia moves into a post-COVID recovery phase, it also faces severe weather warnings for the summer ahead – making disaster preparation an ongoing need. Partnerships proved vital in keeping communities connected during the 2019-20 bushfires and pandemic, and Australia Post is ready to help you serve Australians when they need it most.

Key points

  • A collaborative, co-ordinated approach has proven critical to community disaster preparation, response and recovery1
  • During the 2019/20 bushfires, Australia Post became a lifeline for many communities and remained open to provide critical services
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia Post has enabled many businesses to continue to trade and service customers online.

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

A helping hand in a time of need

In many communities impacted by the 2019 – 2020 bushfires, the Post Office became the only place to withdraw cash as EFTPOS and credit card systems were down. With some retailers in those communities only able to accept cash, the value of Bank@Post services became critical – simply enabling people to buy essential supplies.6

Australia Post also helped keep communities connected to technology during the crisis, providing mobile phones and SIM cards as well as personal radios and batteries to help people to stay informed. We also offered up to 12-months free Mail Redirection and Mail Hold services for anyone who had lost their homes.7

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia Post was quick to secure its role as an essential service, ensuring 99% of its 4,300 Post Offices could remain open throughout lockdown restrictions. This also provided a financial lifeline for some communities: 400 bank branches and thousands of ATMs were temporarily closed, and 500 branches reduced their trading hours.7

“In some communities, the Post Office was the only place still open,” Marshall notes.

However, it’s not just remote and regional areas where Australia Post lends a hand. When the pandemic disrupted healthcare in Victoria, Australia Post was able to flex our logistics network to work with major public health services.8

“These efforts included bringing medicine to patients who would normally visit a cancer centre, blood pressure monitors to pregnant women with gestational diabetes, and delivering other vital medication and equipment around the state,” says Marshall.

Over the three months leading up to May 2020 Australia Post also helped facilitate an extra 26 million online transactions9 that may not otherwise have occurred in store due to lockdowns. This surge in eCommerce volume created enormous demand on our parcel delivery network. Eight million households have shopped online since March – including 1 million for the first time.10 The peak holiday shopping season is set to grow those numbers,