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Communities ‘not equal’ in ability to withstand disasters

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Many social, economic and institutional factors contribute to a community’s disaster resilience, and what works in one location won’t necessarily work elsewhere.

That’s the conclusion of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (BHNCRC) and University of New England, who have developed a new map that rates areas across Australia.

The interactive online map identifies disaster resilience capacity across 2084 statistical areas in Australia.

It shows how capacity to withstand natural disasters differs between Australian communities, and is intended to help insurers and other stakeholders tackle bushfires, floods, storms and earthquakes.

“Communities around Australia are not equal when it comes to their capacity for disaster resilience,” lead researcher at the University of New England Melissa Parsons says.

“This research captures a national picture of disaster resilience to help communities, governments, emergency services and other organisations develop the right capacities for resilience to suit their communities.”

Areas with low capacity for disaster resilience are home to about 3.8 million people, the new Australian Disaster Resilience Index shows, with the NT featuring prominently.

These communities may have limited capacity to use available resources to cope with adverse events, and adjust to change through learning, adaptation and transformation, it says. Limitations may be contributed to by entrenched social and economic disadvantage.

The index gives decision-makers a nationally standardised snapshot of resilience for the first time, enabling organisations to tailor programs and policies that strengthen disaster resilience.

Areas assessed as having high capacity for disaster resilience together house about 7.6 million people, the index says, while 1042 areas assessed at moderate capacity are home to around 12.3 million.