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Aboriginal communities: dealing with disasters in Darwin


A new report reveals how Aboriginal communities deal with disasters in cyclone-prone Darwin, and how emergency organisations can provide better support in times of crises.

Wednesday May 18, 2016

Disaster resilience, management and preparedness in Aboriginal communities in Darwin and Palmerston 2016
Filling in project consent forms at Nightcliff foreshore: A new project by Australian Red Cross and the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation looks into how disasters are experienced by Aboriginal communities in Darwin

Darwin's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are located in one of the highest cyclone-risk areas in the world. But despite being subject to a range of coastal hazards and severe weather events, little is known about how these highly diverse communities cope with, respond to and manage these events. Now, a new research report shines some light into how these communities deal with disasters.  

The report, Disaster resilience, management and preparedness in Aboriginal communities in Darwin and Palmerston was run as a partner project by Australian Red Cross and the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation. It's aim was to identify ways that emergency services organisations can better support the safety and well-being of Indigenous communities during future emergency events.  

"Indigenous disaster relief and emergency management is highly complex," says Panayiota Romios, Senior Researcher, Australian Red Cross. "It requires cultural understanding, sensitivity and knowledge, as well as the engagement of the many government and non-government agencies. This project seeks to better understand the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in respect to disaster relief and emergency management."

From consultations with Larrakia people and government service providers, the final report shows that communities have well-established strategies to prepare for and respond to emergencies but external support still remains crucial in times of crises. However, to be most effective, this support should be integrated with community-led initiatives and take traditional knowledge and practices into account.

"The research shows how important it is to recognise the strengths and limitations of existing emergency management practices and routines," says Panayiota. "Future emergency management activities should be grounded in the established and well organised practices of these communities-they work well."

The research has led to the proposal of a number of initiatives to increase disaster preparedness measures, including the development of 'safety leader' positions in communities and emergency management strategies developed in collaboration with community members.

"Red Cross will continue to explore further ways of engaging and encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to volunteer in emergency management, so mainstream emergency  can work alongside traditional institutions and knowledge practices  

Download the full report: Disaster resilience, management and preparedness in Aboriginal communities in Darwin and Palmerston.

Find out how Australian Red Cross works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations.

Find out how Red Cross helps people prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

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