Fire & Flood Resilience07 Nov 2021

Stronger together: new Australian volunteer initiative helps prepare and protect communities from fires and floods

The Australian Resilience Corps connects Australians wishing to volunteer to partner organisations who need help on the ground to build resilience to extreme weather events.

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Photo Credit: South_agency via Getty Images.

Minderoo Foundation has partnered with the country’s leading volunteer organisations and companies to launch the Australian Resilience Corps as a way for Australia’s many aspiring volunteers to help communities improve their resilience before natural disasters strike.

The Australian Resilience Corps has been developed by Minderoo Foundation and founding partner NRMA Insurance to connect volunteers with existing community-led volunteer organisations to support work that helps communities at risk of natural disasters shift their focus from recovery to resilience.

Two years on from the devastating Black Summer bushfires, less than a year since the Perth Hills fires and following the floods in south-east Queensland and New South Wales, the aim is to encourage Australians to rally together and join what will become the largest network of volunteers to prepare and protect communities from fire and floods.

Minderoo Foundation Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest AO, and Co-Chair, Nicola Forrest AO, said at a time when extreme weather events were on the rise due to climate change, shifting the focus on natural disasters from reaction to preparation was critical for saving lives and futureproofing the nation.

“Seeing the outpouring of help following the Black Summer bushfires and hearing from communities themselves inspired us to work with partners to provide opportunities for Australians to direct their goodwill to off-season activities,” the Forrests said.

“By coming together to prepare each year for fires and floods we can make the seemingly impossible possible, and make our communities resilient to the devastation caused.

“This is a program for Australia.”

Minderoo Foundation is working with a range of Australian volunteer partners to stand up the Australian Resilience Corps including through the preparation of training material and support of preparedness activities. Volunteer partners include Volunteering Australia, Disaster Relief Australia, Red Cross, Rural Aid, Lifeline Australia, Lions, Rotary WA, BlazeAid, and the Australian Institute of Disaster Resilience (AIDR).

In Australia, 97 per cent of all disaster funding is spent after the event, with just three per cent committed to mitigation measures ahead of a natural disaster.

NRMA Insurance Group Executive Julie Batch said, “We’re proud to be working with the Minderoo Foundation as the founding partner of the Australian Resilience Corps, a national volunteer platform to help communities build their resilience to the impacts of extreme weather. We know our own NRMA Insurance employees – who see first-hand the heartbreaking impact severe weather has on our customers – are excited to join the corps and help their communities be better prepared, stronger and more resilient.”

CEO of Minderoo Foundation’s Fire and Flood Resilience initiative, Adrian Turner, said shifting both the investment in natural disasters and mindset from recovery to resilience was critical to better protecting people, wildlife and our country, including regional economies.

“Having fought to protect my brother’s home in the Kangaroo Valley during the 2019-2020 bushfires, I know from first-hand experience that preparation and active land management saved the property and our lives,” Mr Turner said.

“We are grateful to our partners for working with us to lift the resilience of the most vulnerable communities across Australia by giving everyone the opportunity to upskill and help.”

The Australian Resilience Corps is part of a bigger ambition to inspire Australians to get behind the power of help, which includes a feature length documentary and book. The Corps is launching concurrently with the film, A Fire Inside, produced by FINCH, and made possible with the backing of NRMA Insurance. The film highlights the extraordinary spirit of volunteerism during the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires and introduces the Australian Resilience Corps as a meaningful, tangible way for Aussies to help protect communities from future devastating disasters.

Australia’s leading companies such as Boston Consulting Group, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, Optus and others are supporting the Australian Resilience Corps via employee engagement as volunteers.

While one in three Australians volunteer annually, the number of hours Australians spend volunteering decreased by 20 per cent from 2014 to 2019 due to several factors including in particular people not knowing how to engage. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has also limited volunteer numbers.

Disaster Relief Australia CEO Geoff Evans said volunteerism is an Australian way of life and deeply rewarding to those who take up the challenge with limited opportunity previously for volunteers to offer their time ahead of disasters.

“It is already too late once there is smoke on the horizon. The Australian Resilience Corps provides a crucial opportunity for communities to come together and volunteer to mitigate and prepare for disasters. Resilient communities cope better with the impact of disasters and bounce back faster. With almost half of the Australian population living in communities that have a low-to-moderate level of disaster resilience there is much work to be done. DRA is proud to be part of this leading effort.”

By visiting www.resiliencecorps.org.au, would-be volunteers can complete resilience training and learn about essential topics that can help them plan-ahead of future disasters and reduce the risk of impact. They will also be able to connect with volunteer organisations aligned with their skills and interests to help communities in need. In 2022, volunteers will be able to join activities in communities that are vulnerable to fires and floods to help prepare.

Rural Aid Chief Executive Officer, John Warlters, said volunteers were a force for good and the positive impact of their work in communities and on properties post-disasters extended beyond the physical tasks they tackled.

“Their mere presence was a psychological booster and helped strengthen the resolve of those impacted to carry on. Spirits are lifted when they arrive to provide a helping hand,” Mr Warlters said.

Minderoo Foundation
by Minderoo Foundation

Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with eight key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.

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