It took a few years due to the pandemic, but I was delighted to finally come together with 4000 of my peers from Australia and across the Asia Pacific region at the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Brisbane recently.
There has never been a better time to connect face to face and collaborate with others in emergency management, disaster, and resilience as we all come to grips with the mounting challenges presented by compound disasters.
This year, Australia partnered with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) to host the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference. UNDRR works to foster a culture of prevention when it comes to incidents and hazards, so impacts do not turn into disasters – we are definitely on the same page here at Resilient Ready!
I caught up with colleagues old and new. It was also great to see so many women at the event with many familiar faces from the Australasian Women in Emergencies (AWE) group in attendance.
Reflecting on the three days in Brisbane, there were some clear points and themes coming through that really resonated with me.
There is nothing more important than having the local community at the forefront of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
Among the many fantastic presentations was one from Tonga, which (if you don’t know) is a country comprised of 171 islands, only 45 of which are inhabited.
The speaker shared how, by working directly with the Fijian Government, they were able to better direct the Fijian response because they knew exactly what the community needed and how things on the ground worked.
Australia has a lot to learn!
It was fascinating to hear about the lived experiences of our Pacific island nation neighbours. They have experienced extensive compound disasters in recent years and have had to deal with many climate change-related risks and challenges. And due to their geography and size, they are being forced to frequently punch well above their weight when it comes to connecting, collaborating, and preparing for disasters.
I hope we can learn from their lived experiences and embed their wealth of knowledge and learnings across our own communities here in Australia.
I was surprised how little focus was leveled at livelihoods throughout the Conference. We all have them, and we all need them to survive and thrive.
Perhaps a future conference focus could include a session with a business slant to capture the most critical of segments, business communities.
We know businesses form the backbone of their communities, connecting and supporting people during and after disasters.
Overall, it was time well spent and I want to thank the people behind the conference for pulling together such a mammoth enterprise. And it was wonderful to see so many leaders coming together to focus on disaster preparedness, among them Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, and Brendan Moon, Australia’s first coordinator-general to oversee the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) who is taking the agency reins this week.
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