Councils’ leadership and support as communities start to rebuild

Article image - Councils’ leadership and support as communities start to rebuild At the City of Whittlesea’s Relief Centre following Black Saturday fires, Mayor Mary Lalios (centre), Governor of Victoria, David de Kretser, and wife Jan, with local resident Phyllis.

President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), Councillor Geoff Lake, has praised the ongoing efforts of local councils for the role they are playing in the aftermath of the Victorian bushfire disaster.

“Councils play a critical, but often unrecognised role in responding to these types of catastrophic events,” Councillor Lake said.

“In all affected areas, councils worked around the clock supporting emergency services and their local communities.

“The work of councils is only just beginning.Councils will lead the community recovery effort, which, given the unprecedented scale of loss and damage in many communities, will last for years.”

During an emergency, Local Government supports emergency services by providing vital resources and local knowledge of vulnerable communities, property and infrastructure.

Councils are responsible for establishing relief centres for displaced and stressed members of the community and coordinating counselling and other personal support services. Within days more than 25 relief centres were set up at various locations in Victoria.

A number of communities both on Melbourne’s fringes and in regional areas remained under threat for days, with the potential for what had become massive blazes breaking their control lines.

Total fire ban days saw many people leaving their homes and taking refuge at various relief centres set up by councils.

Councils from parts of Victoria unaffected by the fires and interstate are providing staff and other resources to assist with the huge recovery task ahead.

The importance of this support is reflected in the following message from Bill Forrest, Chief Executive Officer of Nillumbik Shire on Melbourne’s north eastern fringe, provided for LGPro’s Weekly Update on 25 February.

“On behalf of the Nillumbik community, Mayor, Councillors and staff I would like to most sincerely, from the bottom of my heart thank all those councils who have responded most generously with any resources we needed to deal with the tragic impacts on our whole community, but in particular Strathewen, Arthurs Creek, St Andrews and Christmas Hills.

“In particular the Cities of Banyule, Boroondara, Darebin, Frankston, Glen Eira, Greater Geelong, Greater Shepparton, Hume, Manningham, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Monash, Moonee Valley and Warrnambool; the Shires of Melton and Pyrenees, the Borough of Queenscliffe and my sincere apologies to any I’ve missed.

 “We’re hanging in with your support and best wishes.”

By 25 February almost $400,000 had been raised by Western Australian councils for the Victorian Bushfire Aid Appeal. Facilitated by the WA Local Government Association, Local Governments around the State had raised funds by donating annual leave, an hour of pay, cash to a fund established by the Commonwealth Bank, as well as organising community fundraiser events.

WALGA President, Councillor Bill Mitchell, said that Local Governments have been very eager to support those affected in Victoria.

“Local Governments have been innovative in the ways they have offered support,” he said.

“Some councils have held auctions and concerts to raise money, while others are prepared to fly staff with emergency management experience to Victoria to help alleviate some of the burden.

“Local Governments have ensured that whatever contribution they have made does not put future pressure on their own communities, so while some councils have made cash donations, others have found it more practical to offer volunteer services.”

The Local Government Association of Queensland has linked with Brisbane’s Sunday Mail to establish a website aimed at making it easier for the public to donate to and support communities devastated by natural disasters in Victoria and North Queensland.

LGAQ President, Councillor Paul Bell, said the $10,000 website, www.canyouhelp.com.au, had been donated by the LGAQ’s wholly owned IT subsidiary, Resolute Information Technology.

“The website itself does not accept cash donations, but directs intending donors to the Red Cross Victorian Bush Fire Appeal and the Queensland Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal,” Councillor Bell said.

“Although history has shown that cash donations are the best way to support communities in need, the website also directs those who want to volunteer their labour, business and support services, donate materials and goods or leave a tribute to those suffering and those who continue to care for them.

“The website also encourages communities to adopt bushfire ravaged Victorian and flood affected North Queensland communities.

“In addition, it invites kindred bodies such as service clubs, chambers of commerce, sporting and cultural organisations to hook up across state borders, promoting the twinning concept.”