Red Cross builds connected and safer First Nations communities ahead of disasters

4 May 2023

Disaster preparedness and resilience in First Nations communities across regional New South Wales is the focus of a new partnership between Australian Red Cross and Pacific National.

The three-year partnership is focused on ensuring First Nations communities are not left behind when a disaster occurs, and concentrates on the Gumbaynggirr, Baryulgil Malabugilmah and Dhungatti communities in Northern NSW, the Kamilaroi community in the Central West, and the Yuin community in Southern NSW.

Australian Red Cross First Nations Community Disaster Resilience Team Leader, Julie Perkins said the 140,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples across regional NSW are disproportionately impacted when a crisis occurs.

“With the frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters on the rise, this work is critical to ensuring our First Nations communities are not being left behind,” Ms Perkins said.

“Red Cross believes that a connected community is a resilient community, and a resilient community is a safer community.

“This partnership with Pacific National enables Red Cross to sustain its vital work in First Nations communities, adopting a community–led approach across regional NSW.

“This includes initiatives such as delivery of First Aid training to First Nations community members, teaching disaster preparedness to First Nations school children with the Pillowcase Program, and ensuring a First Nations presence at evacuation centres.”

Launching the Australian Red Cross and Pacific National partnership are Julie Perkins, Melanie Withers, Rob Larisch-Morgan, Di Bernardi, Trevor Kapeen and Alexandra Ristway.

Pacific National Chief Executive Officer, Paul Scurrah said that as Australia’s largest private rail freight operator, Pacific National has a significant regional presence and is committed to enhancing and caring for the communities which they operate in, and through.

“We are thrilled to offer our support to Australian Red Cross. We hope that through the initiatives we support, First Nations communities feel safe, connected, and cared for. Our three-year partnership assists First Nations communities in three regions of NSW – Northern NSW, Central West and Southern NSW – prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters.”

As part of the partnership, Red Cross and Pacific National are collaborating to deliver a series of “Safer Communities” BBQ’s, the first of which kicked off today in Grafton and was well attended by community members, including First Nations senior school students from local high schools, First Nations Elders and representatives from local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Organisations.

The partnership will support First Nations communities and help to ensure they’re not left behind when a disaster occurs.

Other elements of the partnership include:

  • Recruitment and training of First Nations Emergency Service Volunteers and culturally appropriate training resources.
  • Delivery of First Nations First Aid, Psychological First Aid and Mental Health First Aid training for community leaders and community members.
  • Community disaster resilience and wellbeing workshops and training.
  • Linking First Nations communities with recovery support services.
  • Facilitation of Cultural Burns and Yarning Circles to unite communities and form social connections.
  • Advocacy for representation and participation of First Nations and marginalised groups in decision making roles at local, state and federal government levels.

Communities in focus include Grafton, Tweed, Byron, Clarence Valley, Kempsey, Nambucca, Coraki, Yamba and Ballina in Northern NSW, Moree, Mungindi and Collarenebri in Central West, and Bega Valley in Southern NSW.

For media inquiries please contact:
Australian Red Cross media: or 1800 733 443
Pacific National media: Andrew Huckel 0455 455 844

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