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Training for our needs


Two remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia take steps to be better prepared for emergencies with help from Red Cross.

Iga Warta and Nepabunna, eight hours drive north of Adelaide, lie at the base of the spectacular Flinders Rangers. With 70 kilometers of dirt track to the nearest town of Leigh Creek, the Adnyamathanha people can find themselves vulnerable during an emergency.

Terry Coulthard from Iga Warta and Roger Johnson from Nepabunna attended a Red Cross emergency preparedness training in Port Augusta. They found the training valuable and asked Red Cross to expand the program to their communities.

Aboriginal REDiSupport training was developed by Red Cross in 2011 in response to the increasing number of emergencies in South Australia's regional areas. It is specially designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to help them prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies.

Terry and Roger invited Red Cross into their communities to discuss residents' needs and what they hoped to get from the training.

"When they (Red Cross) first came, we told them this is about what we need, not what you want to deliver. We said we need an emergency bag, we need first aid kits for every child, and we got that. Red Cross has done a fantastic job," says Roger.

Terry admits he was reluctant to do the training at the start, unsure of how it would be delivered, but found it "quite enjoyable and presented in a friendly way", and "designed for our communities by talking about real experiences."

One of those was a tragic car accident. A 15 year old boy died, another was badly injured and several other children were in shock. Residents had to contain the situation and stabilise the injured boy over a long period. Their isolation meant medical and emergency service support took several hours to arrive.

Jai O'Toole, Red Cross Emergency Services Manager in South Australia, says it's a credit to Nepabunna and Iga Warta to be proactive and recognise that due to their remoteness, the two Aboriginal communities are more vulnerable in an emergency.

"We listened to the community and tailored our training program to suit. We spent a lot of time really getting to know the two communities, their strengths and needs. We identified that first aid training would compliment the Emergency Services training and then partnered with the Red Cross College to deliver this."

Daniel Coad from Red Cross College Services in South Australia says the standard training provided in the cities would not have been appropriate and adapted the first aid training to meet the needs of the two communities.

"Our training gave people the skills to assist in any type of medical incident or emergency, particularly one that needs prolonged patient care. Being remote, the residents need to have the confidence to make the right decisions," says Daniel.

Terry says the training covered a range of different types of emergencies, such as flooding when the communities often become isolated and require food drops.

This document may contain the names and/or images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are now deceased.

"Usually during that time we lose power. So we want to find out if the way we're managing it is the best we could do….and other ideas on best management of a flood situation."

The trained community members can now not only support their own communities in emergencies, but also to support others communities in need across the state and Australia. In 2013, REDiSupport trained team members from South Australia were deployed to assist the Aboriginal communities affected by the floods in Queensland.

Terry and Roger hope to continue to work with Red Cross to make their communities stronger and more resilient.

Aboriginal REDiSupport training was funded through the Natural Disaster Resilience Grant Scheme, a joint State and Commonwealth initiative. Red Cross is seeking funding to expand the program to other Aboriginal communities in South Australia, including a community in the remote Lower Eyre Peninsula region that has requested REDiSupport training.

Red Cross has been working for a 100 years to support communities to become more resilient to disasters. We focus particular attention on people, households and communities particularly vulnerable to emergencies and provide resources and information to help them prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.