October 2023: Disaster preparedness and response

Community Legal Centres Australia released a statement in early October as news came of unfolding climate disasters across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania: Governments must protect people and communities from the legal impacts of frequent and worsening climate disasters.

Victoria: Gippsland Community Legal Service

One of the community legal centres that has been on the frontlines of recent weeks’ disasters is the Gippsland Community Legal Service. Last Friday, 13 October, the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR), Simon Suttie, Principal Lawyer at Gippsland Community Legal Service had this to say:

Last week communities in Gippsland experienced fires, floods, storms, and an earthquake.

Our experience at GCLS in responding to the Black Summer Bushfires tells us that the communities impacted will suffer the legal and social ramifications of that week for years to come. Those communities are more likely to have more legal problems that are longer lasting and more complex.

The IDDRR is a timely reminder that we all need to do more as a society to ensure that existing inequality is not compounded by the increased frequency and severity of the disaster events our communities are experiencing.

South Australia: Disaster Legal Support

The Disaster Legal Support program provides free legal help to people in South Australia impacted or at risk of natural disasters, through all stages of the disaster management cycle. The Disaster Legal Support Program recently took out the Resilient Australia Awards State Award for Community Project and was national runner-up for the Kangaroo Island Efforts. They have now launched a new disaster preparedness and resilience project with funding from the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission (SAFECOM).

With this SAFECOM funding, Disaster Legal Support has procured Grab and Go (important documents) satchels for community distribution and created 32 “what to do before…” legal explainer videos, in 6 languages. Now, Disaster Legal Support aims to distribute a whopping 7000 Grab & Go Important Document bags across SA along with information on what is an important document.

Ippei Okazaki from Diaster Legal Support with two of the Grab & Go bags