Perspectives from the frontline Climate change / environment

Perspectives from the frontline

VCOSS Bushfire Recovery Project Consultation Report

The bushfires of the Black Summer of 2019–20 were among the worst in our state’s history. They destroyed homes and livelihoods, separated families, and left many communities and individuals experiencing trauma and mental distress.

The terrible summer was closely followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, disrupting recovery and isolating people further from their communities. Rebuilding, reopening and reconnecting had to be put on hold, to keep people safe from the coronavirus. 

Like in all emergencies, it is low-income and marginalised Victorians who bear the heaviest burden in a bushfire. People who do not have a home to shelter in, or who are physically unable to prepare their properties. People without insurance, or who live in isolated areas without a car, because the rent is more affordable. When we fail to consider the needs of vulnerable Victorians in emergencies, the consequences can be catastrophic. 

Community service organisations see first-hand the impacts of natural disasters on our most vulnerable people. There is increasing recognition of the crucial role they play before, during and after emergencies and disasters. Australia’s National Strategy for Disaster Resilience states that non-government and community service organisations are at the forefront of strengthening disaster resilience. 

In the Black Summer of 2019–20 and throughout the year that followed, people turned to the community sector for support and advice, and the sector’s dedicated work has been critical to helping communities to cope with the ordeal, and begin to recover. 

This consultation report tells the story of community service organisations, often in their own words. Throughout the report there are direct quotes from staff members of community service organisations throughout East Gippsland and North-East Victoria, many of whom live and work in bushfire-affected communities. 

We thank the individuals and organisations who generously shared their experiences with us. These experiences show a sector that is resilient, adaptable and responsive, and deeply connected to the needs and experience of their communities. 

This consultation report has been used to inform the planning of the next stage of the VCOSS Bushfire Recovery Project, gratefully supported by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.

Download the report.