Australia is set to overhaul the way it supports people after natural disasters that will stop a shocking and hidden problem.
Frontline responders to natural disasters like bushfires will be given training to identify and support women and children suffering domestic violence, fixing a serious service gap exposed by a royal commission.
The federal government will provide $3.7m over four years to organisation Gender and Disaster Australia to train and provide resources to more than 1000 responders across the country such as the Australian Red Cross, volunteer firefighters and healthcare workers.
Women’s Safety Minister Anne Ruston said it would help them understand family breakdowns and gendered violence issues that increase during and after disaster events.
“Sadly, evidence shows natural disasters were often linked with increased reports of family,
domestic and sexual violence,” she said.
“The project will strengthen the capacity of relief and recovery services and refer women to
services that will help them get back on their feet.
“The training will give frontline responders the tools – including resources based on victim survivor lived experiences – they need to better recognise and support women and children experiencing or at risk of violence.
“(They will also be able to) refer men exhibiting signs of violent behaviours to appropriate services.”
This change means an important recommendation from the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements will be met.
It found that natural diasters were often linked with increased rates of domestic and family violence, either increasing the intensity of existing violence or triggering new violent behaviours.
The Royal Commission noted family, domestic and social violence reporting peaked in regional areas following natural disasters including during the 2010-2011 Queensland floods and the 2009 Victorian bushfires.
The commission called for a nationally consistent program to manage the issue.
Federal Emergency Management Minister Bridget McKenzie said frontline workers needed to be equipped with specialised tools to support people affected by domestic violence during a disaster.
“Especially in rural and regional areas where we know there are often barriers to accessing support,” she said.
“The result is greater capability within the emergency management sector and greater resilience within individuals, families and communities.
“GADA has developed the training so that once a person has completed the program they will have the skills to deliver the training within their organisations or communities.
“This will embed the training in communities and organisations on an ongoing basis so that the benefits can continue into the future.”
GADA will begin training disaster responders by mid 2022.