Young people want to be more prepared for disasters – and are taking action themselves

Young people are rightfully concerned about disasters and emergencies – and are taking their own actions to become better prepared.

We used to say that one in three Australians will face a disaster in their lifetime, but as of this year that figure is much higher. As disasters continue to become more frequent and unpredictable, it’s likely that Australia’s young people will face disasters and emergencies at an even higher rate. They’re rightfully concerned – and are taking their own actions to become better prepared.

The Our World Our Say report released this month is the nation’s largest-ever consultation of children and youth on climate change, disasters and disaster-resilience. About 1,500 young people aged 10-24 were surveyed, in the wake of the devastating summer bushfires.

Overwhelmingly, young people expressed that they were deeply concerned about climate change and disasters:

  • 78% of young people are concerned or extremely concerned about climate change
  • 73% of young people are concerned or extremely concerned about experiencing a disaster
  • 83% of young people think they should be learning more about natural hazards and how to reduce the risk of a disaster

They also expressed their concern that their education to date has left them unprepared to deal with a disaster or emergency.

The survey found that young people learned more about earthquakes in school than hazards like bushfires, floods, drought and tropical cyclones – all natural hazards young people living in Australia and the South-Pacific region are more likely to face. In fact, almost two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed had experienced at least three events such as bushfires, heatwaves and drought in just the past three years.

It’s no surprise that in light of these experiences, young people are taking their own action to address climate change and to be better prepared for disasters.

"We want to be ready for when disasters strike through greater preparedness, and we want to reduce the intensity and frequency of disasters through climate action. We know that on our current trajectory disasters will come thicker and faster. We want to know how to plan, prepare and protect ourselves and our communities in an increasingly unsafe world."
Our World Our Say report

These actions include making personal changes to live a more sustainable lifestyle, like switching to reusable coffee cups and water bottles, avoiding spending money on unnecessary items, and reducing household waste, water and electricity use. Young people are also furthering their own education around climate change and disaster preparedness online through social media, and taking part in large-scale actions like the School Strike for Climate.

Above all, they want to be informed, to be heard, and to make a difference.

“Young people are calling for better dialogue between leaders and scientists on climate change and disaster risk, as well as an avenue for young people to join the conversation and give voice to their hopes and concerns for the future.”

This report was led by the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience and World Vision Australia, with the support of UNICEF Australia, Plan International, Save the Children, Oaktree and Australian Red Cross.
Looking for more information on how to be prepared for an emergency? Take a look at our resources on looking after yourself and your family when disaster strikes:

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