In April 2015 the small rural community of Dungog, in the Hunter Valley region of NSW, experienced a significant flooding event which resulted in the loss of 3 lives and the inundation of over 100 homes.
The community responded by establishing a range of support and recovery mechanisms, such a clothing pools, food banks, crisis accommodation, and volunteer coordination centres. The initial community led recovery activities that were undertaken became the platform of strengthen, self-belief, self-determination and support from which the community and individuals stepped from into their longer term recovery.
As the first anniversary loomed the community wanted to continue the focus on the strength and capacity that was gained and fostered in the initial days after the disaster event and recognise their individual and collective resilience.
A photographic exhibition was developed with over 300 local people participating in a range of photos depicting community members holding letters spelling out their own words of resilience, strength and sense of community. “Reflections of Resilience” photographic exhibition was recognised in the Get Ready NSW community awards in 2017.
Over the past 2 years the community’s focus has naturally shifted from recovery to preparedness and how their experiences can better resource themselves, and others in the future.
The Dungog Shire Community Centre, which had been the central hub of coordinating community led and initiated recovery efforts in response to the April 2015 event, has continued its community engagement and capacity building practice at the true community level and has now become the hub of support, resource and guidance of community conversation and reflection on recovery experience informed preparedness.
Our approach to preparedness has been to make it everybody’s language, to take those conversations into the everyday. Coming from a strengths based approach, we look at the existing , networks, resources and opportunities that a person, capacitiesfamily or community has that may be accessed and adapted to bring strength and support to a new identified challenge.
The community preparedness approach that has been developed is based on lived experience, ensuring the lessons learnt from a community and individual perspective of survival and recovery were the foundation for a community capacity building approach to preparedness.
This update was kindly provided by Sarah U’Brien, who presented ‘Dungog 2015 Floods: A Case Study Of Spontaneous Community Coordination And Community Led Recovery’ at the 2017 Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference.
Find out what’s on the program for the 2018 Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference this May here.