- Adopt the Gender and Emergency Management (GEM) Guidelines developed by Women’s Health Goulburn North East, Women’s Health in the North and Monash University Disaster Resilience Initiative.
- Address intersectional issues for women and people facing more than one type of disadvantage or discrimination. An intersectional lens must be applied to all aspects of the recovery process. This means all community consultation processes should make a particular effort to engage and work with marginalised populations. Particular efforts should be made to engage women with disability, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women, older women, young women and LGBTIQ+ people in positions of community leadership and in the development and implementation of recovery initiatives.
- Ensure that recovery initiatives are responsive to geographic locations, and the local environment and community. Disasters will manifest differently in different locations and communities. Women from rural, regional and remote communities must be involved in the development and implementation of locally relevant initiatives. As above, efforts should be made to ensure a diverse range of women are engaged.
- Ensure that aid and rebuilding initiatives are fit for purpose and accessible to all in the community. Strong engagement with local communities and shire councils is critical in this regard.
- Implement, as a matter of priority, a separately funded process to develop an ongoing preparedness, mitigation and response plan to respond to disasters and ensure long-term recovery.
- Recognise that long-term drought conditions constitute a disaster, as well as an exacerbating factor in the current bushfire crisis.
- Reduce response times for relief, including the delivery of aid and other supports. Many people do not have a financial buffer. This particularly applies to people in drought affected areas. There is an urgent need to deliver aid and other supports in short timeframes.
- Ensure access to adequately resourced, culturally safe and responsive women’s specialist services, including crisis services. There is critical need for ongoing assessment of an increased demand for women’s specialist services.
- Ensure that all relevant recovery and response information is accessible to local communities in language, including Indigenous languages and Auslan.
- We welcome the establishment of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency. At this difficult time, it is vital that we pool our knowledge and experience of previous natural disasters to ensure the recovery efforts reach everyone who need them.
- During an emergency, everyone in a community is affected, but we all experience disaster differently. Issues such as gender stereotypes, inequality, unequal distribution of family and other unpaid care responsibilities, social isolation and economic constraints can result in many women being placed in positions of increased vulnerability during an emergency and the subsequent recovery.
- Women contribute their time to maintain and rebuild families and communities. However, disasters can reinforce traditional gender roles within families and communities, with men expected to provide and protect and women expected to put their own needs last, forgoing employment and leadership roles in disaster recovery to support their families. This results in women shouldering a disproportionate amount of unpaid care work. Similarly, levels of gendered violence against women increase in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
- Following the Black Saturday fires in 2009, women were more likely to give up paid work to provide unpaid care and community work, which affected their long-term economic security and shaped their post-disaster needs differently to those of men.
- Resources are required to engage with women’s organisations, to include them in planning and on‐ground responses. Local women must be involved in developing response plans and should be employed in the rebuilding process. There is a business case, and a substantial return on investment, for engaging with women and the broader community post disaster.
- Any non-gendered bushfire recovery plan will fail to identify and address the needs of women, which would in turn exacerbate their vulnerability. All disaster preparation, management, response and recovery efforts must include a gender analysis at all levels, within both government and non‐government organisations.
- Further, an intersectional gender lens is critical. While women generally experience increased vulnerability during and following disaster, women from particularly marginalised backgrounds will experience that vulnerability differently, more acutely and for longer periods. There is a need to ensure that a diverse and representative range of women’s voices are heard in post-disaster responses. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women with disability, women of migrant and refugee backgrounds, women experiencing violence, older women, young women and people who are LGBTIQ+ must be represented and engaged in local consultations about disaster recovery to ensure effective responses to their different experiences and pathways in recovery.
National Women’s Alliances
The six National Women’s Alliances—funded by the Office for Women—represent over 200 women’s organisations, bringing forward the views, voices and issues of Australian women and, in particular, women from marginalised and disadvantaged groups. The Alliances have previously developed community-informed evidence and resources relating to disaster response and recovery from a gender perspective, and will shortly produce more detailed recommendations in view of the current crisis.
For more information, contact: Keli McDonald, firstname.lastname@example.org