3 June 2020

Bushfire recovery survey to monitor community resilience

| Michael Weaver
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Girl sitting on rock watching bushfire in distance.

Smoke from the North Black Range bushfire, west of Braidwood, in December 2019. Photo: Jarrah Knowles.

Following more than six months of response and recovery of the past summer’s bushfires, the views of people in the Queanbeyan-Palerang shire are being sought as a means for people in the community to check-in with each other.

The Queanbeyan-Palerang Recovery Needs Survey has been launched as a way of monitoring recovery progress and planning for the future.

While people affected by the bushfires have had to fill out a lot of paperwork already, the survey is being delivered through a partnership between Service NSW and the newly created Resilience NSW, which is headed by former NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

“There was never a more important time to make sure that communities devastated by drought, bushfires and now COVID-19 are getting the help they need to rebuild and recover,” said Mr Fitzsimmons.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council’s bushfire recovery coordinator, Terry Campese, said the short survey can be completed as a printed copy, online or over the phone. The survey will go to everyone who has registered with the Queanbeyan-Palerang bushfire recovery assistance point.

“There are more than 260 people and families who have registered with, or sought assistance and advice from, the Queanbeyan-Palerang bushfire recovery assistance point set up in the old Braidwood Library,” said Mr Campese.

“Our summer of bushfires has impacted everyone and everything for many years to come. The emotions, reactions and tasks, big and small, that flow from that are changing all the time, and now coming out of COVID-19 it’s important we reset and go forward together.”

Mr Campese said his team is currently providing support to people in various degrees based on their needs.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” he said. “That’s why we encourage everyone to make contact and register with the assistance point. It’s person-to-person and the solutions and approach are as unique as the people we are helping.

He said the results of the survey will help guide ongoing recovery efforts for people who need more support than they have wanted or needed to date.

“Our approach is sensitive to the needs of each person, which includes privacy, dignity, respect and connection to land and community,” said Mr Campese.

“With the permission of each person, and within privacy guidelines, we have and will continue to share information with other agencies as we all look to collaborate in supporting our community and meeting their needs.”

Braidwood business owners standing together on footpath.

Braidwood business owners are standing together as the town recovers from the past summer’s bushfires. Photo: Karuna Bajracharya.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council Mayor Tim Overall is chair of the Local Bushfire Recovery Committee and said while much has already been achieved, there is an ongoing task to support the community.

“Given the size and complexity of the effort needed, everyone involved is mindful of people and needs falling through the cracks,” said Mayor Overall.

He added that the council has been talking with the NSW Government to strengthen the support network for people who are trying to move on from the bushfires in the days, months and years ahead.

“Communication channels have been an issue for people from day one so we need to make the survey easy and accessible so we get as big a picture as possible,” said Mayor Overall.

“We are mindful that people have filled in a lot of paperwork and dealt with many agencies already. Connecting with impacted community members and hearing from you helps us provide support to you and the community. This survey is important in terms of learning the lessons and rising to the challenges.”

He said answers to the recovery survey will help the lead agencies understand individual needs and identify how they can assist, while keeping people informed about the assistance that is available.

The Queanbeyan-Palerang Recovery Needs Survey has already begun to answer these questions, but council wants to see as much response as possible.

“You can answer it on your computer, tablet or smartphone, or if you would prefer to complete the survey by phone or have a paper copy forwarded to you, please call 6285 6789 and a member of our team will assist you,” said Mr Campese. “Similarly, please call if you have any questions or comments.”

Follow-up phone calls will be made by the recovery support team, in partnership with Australian Red Cross, to people who have registered with the Queanbeyan-Palerang bushfire recovery assistance point.

People can contact council’s support team if they have been impacted by the bushfires and need support. Friends, family and community members can also contact the service on behalf of others.

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