Disaster assistance for storm affected communities in New South Wales

Minister for Justice Michael Keenan and NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Justice and Police Troy Grant today announced that disaster assistance has been activated in response to the August storms which affected parts of the NSW coast and western Sydney.

Mr Keenan said the Australian and New South Wales governments are committed to working together to assist affected communities through the recovery process.

“Assistance is being provided to the local government areas of Penrith, Shoalhaven, Upper Hunter and Wollongong through the jointly‑funded Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).

“The range of assistance measures activated under the NDRRA will ensure that storm-affected communities have access to the help they need to recover, and councils and state agencies have the financial support they need for clean-up operations and repairing damaged infrastructure” Mr Keenan said.

The assistance measures available include:

  • personal hardship and distress assistance for affected individuals and families;
  • assistance for council counter disaster operations and the restoration of essential public assets;
  • concessional interest rate loans for small businesses, primary producers and voluntary not-for-profit bodies;
  • freight subsidies for primary producers; and
  • grants to voluntary not-for-profit bodies.

Mr Grant said the damage caused by the August storms affected communities across a large part of the state.

“This assistance will be of real benefit to individuals, families, small businesses and primary producers in these communities and ensure they can get back on their feet as soon as possible” Mr Grant said.

For information on personal hardship and distress assistance, contact the Disaster Welfare Assistance Line on 1800 018 444.

To apply for a concessional loan, grant or freight subsidy, contact the NSW Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593 or visit www.raa.nsw.gov.au.

Information on disaster assistance available for this natural disaster can be found on the Australian Government’s Disaster Assist website at www.disasterassist.gov.au and the NSW Office of Emergency Management’s website at www.emergency.nsw.gov.au.

International course on first aid to cultural heritage in times of crisis

Many different types of professionals respond to an unfolding crisis.

This course provides strategies for interlocking culture specialists with humanitarian specialists during an emergency situation and aims to unify these sometimes conflicting perspectives. The course imparts practical skills and knowledge for taking simple measures to secure and stabilize endangered cultural heritage during a complex emergency situation, which in turn can become a driver for peace and holistic development. The recovery and stabilization of such cultural material can be a strategy that allows people to cope in a crisis.

After four international, and more than nine regional and national editions in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, the 2016 course is hosted in Washington D.C, USA, by the Smithsonian Institution. The content will be enriched through case examples on safeguarding cultural heritage in the aftermath of national disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and most recently, Hurricane Sandy.

Dates: 23 May  –  24 June 2016

Place: Washington, DC USA

Organizers:

In cooperation with

Prince Claus Fund, Cultural Emergency Response Programme (CER)

Full announcement here!

#culturecannotwait

Securing archives at risk conference, 1 October 2015

1 October 2015, Hotel National, Bern, Switzerland

The conference “securing archives at risk” is organized by swisspeace in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Archives and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in the scope of the “Archives and Dealing with the Past” project.

The event addresses the topic of the protection, security and access to archives at risk. When archives and records hold sensitive information with regard to accountability, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, they are often at risk not only for political reasons following armed conflict or situations of transition, but also due to lack of resources, bad archival conditions and natural hazards.

The objectives of the conference are to understand the risks associated with archives that contain information on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law; to understand the current national and international legal standards; and to identify what can be done in the respective countries and if needed, in cooperation with other actors to protect, secure and give access to such archives.

You are warmly invited to register online by 17 September 2015. The conference program is available for download.

South Australia to benefit from bushfire mitigation funding boost

28 August 2015

Commonwealth Minister for Justice Michael Keenan announced $1.36 million in funding over three years to enhance bushfire mitigation in South Australia, as part of the Commonwealth’s National Bushfire Mitigation Programme.

South Australian Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Conservation Ian Hunter welcomed the contribution and said the South Australian Government would provide funding of $1.45 million over three years.

Mr Keenan said it was vital the Commonwealth partner with South Australia to better prepare local communities for bushfires through enhanced mitigation.

“Bushfires are a fact of life in Australia and they can be devastating for the communities in their path,” Mr Keenan said.

“We’re funding projects that will help to minimise risks to communities from bushfires and reduce the costs of reconstruction and recovery.

“The Commonwealth’s partnership with South Australia reflects our shared focus on reducing the financial burden of natural disasters.”

Minister Hunter said funding was being provided to the South Australian Country Fire Service and Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) to enhance modelling of fire behaviour and bushfire spread, provide a dedicated fire weather forecasting service, plan for strategic fuel reduction activities in high-risk areas across private lands, and provide community education and resilience initiatives in bushfire prone areas.

“This funding will enable South Australia to consider the bushfire risk at a landscape scale, where planning is undertaken across a broad geographical area rather than for a particular landholder, or group of landholders,” Mr Hunter said.

“In addition, the funding will support further development of DEWNR’s fire behaviour and bushfire spread modelling, which allows experts to understand where bushfires are most likely to occur, and their impact.

“This modelling informs our fuel reduction programme and other strategies, and allows us to educate the community in high risk areas of bushfire risk while also supporting the SACFS during bushfire emergencies.”

The $15 million National Bushfire Mitigation Programme delivers on a Coalition Government election commitment to cement Commonwealth partnership with all States and Territories to build on their existing bushfire management practices and implement strategies to address bushfire risks.

Statement on the murder of Khaled Asaad

Published by The International Council of Museums (ICOM) on 19 August 2015 at ICOM press releases

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) vehemently condemns the appalling murder of Khaled Asaad, 82, in Palmyra, Syria, by Islamic State militants.

A renowned archaeologist and scholar, Mr Asaad was head of antiquities at the ancient ruins of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for more than a half-century. He was a longtime member of ICOM.

The international museum and heritage community extend their deepest condolences to the family of Mr Asaad, to the residents of Palmyra and the people of Syria in the face of this most recent act of extremist brutality that has led to the loss of countless lives, the annihilation of collective history and identity in the context of ongoing violence and unrest.

ICOM expresses its outrage at the wanton disregard for humanity displayed by the murder of Mr Asaad, who devoted his life to working for the preservation of the historical site of Palmyra, so important to the culture and history of humankind.

The international community strongly condemns this senseless act of violence, the systemic destruction of lives, of culture and of heritage in Syria. The loss of Mr Asaad is a loss for us all.

 

2015 AICCM national conference

The AICCM National Conference, organized by the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works will take place from 4-6 NoveHobart - by Ryon Edwards 284972989_72ecb4f286mber 2015 in Hobart, Australia.

The theme of the conference is ‘Illuminating the new: contemporary practice and issues in materials conservation’ with a focus on current issues, materials and techniques relating to all collection areas and from all conservation specialisations.

Contact AICCM by e-mail for more information secretariat@aiccm.org.au

Photo by Ryon Edwards

New toolkit promotes closer regional cooperation in rapid disaster response

The Hon Michael Keenan MP, Minister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter Terrorism, announced the completion of the East Asia Summit (EAS) Rapid Disaster Response Toolkit, a comprehensive guide for regional decision makers for both sending and receiving international disaster assistance.

The Toolkit heralds a new era in rapid disaster response, providing valuable tools that decision makers in EAS countries can employ with ease, both when providing and receiving international assistance in times of disasters.

The application of this important resource will enable countries to respond quickly and effectively to assist countries affected by major natural disasters, an issue with which our region is all too familiar.

The Toolkit includes three tools:

  • a user-friendly and accessible listing of the designated national focal points of each EAS participating country responsible for managing offers and requests for international disaster assistance;
  • guidance and advice for EAS decision makers to consider when readying for and responding to disasters within the region. This resource draws on existing regional arrangements such as the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response; and
  • the response arrangements and capabilities of every EAS participating country. This includes key administrative requirements, such as customs and immigration, which are fundamental for ensuring rapid response to disasters.

The Toolkit was developed over three years by Indonesia and Australia, in collaboration with EAS participating countries including New Zealand, to strengthen rapid disaster response capabilities across the region.

Standing here in Christchurch today, we are reminded of the ongoing need to strengthen our collective capacity to cooperate in times of disaster. Four years on, it is great to see the impressive progress that has been made in recovering from the devastating earthquakes.

Australia’s expertise in emergency response is widely respected but we can always learn from the experiences of our regional partners.

The Australian Government recognises the importance of building strong relationships to improve disaster response. The EAS Rapid Disaster Response Toolkit is a great example of Australia’s active participation in international efforts to reduce disaster risk and build resilience within our region.

$5.5 million to improve natural disaster resilience

Commonwealth Minister for Justice Michael Keenan and South Australian Minister for Emergency Services Tony Piccolo today announced more than $5.5 million of projects to assist communities across South Australia build resilience to natural disasters.

Mr Keenan said while the nature and size of the country’s landscape meant that natural hazards were a fact of life in Australia, communities are stepping up efforts to manage natural disaster risks.

“Natural disasters have an enormous impact on our economy and cripple businesses and communities. These projects led by state agencies, local councils, non-government organisations and volunteer organisations are all designed to help communities better prepare and respond to natural disasters,” Mr Keenan said.

Funding will go to 33 projects. A complete list of projects can be found at http://www.safecom.sa.gov.au 

Australian Government to consult on changes to natural disaster funding

Today the Australian Government is tabling the Productivity Commission’s final report into natural disaster funding arrangements.  We commissioned this inquiry shortly after coming to Government as we recognise that the current system is flawed.

This follows yesterday’s tabling of an Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report into national recovery funding arrangements.

Both reports are critical of the current funding system:

  • The Commission argues that governments nationally focus too much on recovery, at the expense of directing resources towards better-preparing for future disasters.
  • The ANAO criticises the lack of oversight and accountability for recovery funding under successive Commonwealth governments, and highlights systemic issues with state and local government claims for ineligible expenditure.

While the Australian Government will always have a role in supporting states affected by natural disasters – and we will always stand ready to assist communities in need – the findings of these two independent bodies make it clear that change is needed.

Today I have written to my state counterparts foreshadowing consultations on the best way to address the findings of these reports.

I have made it clear that the Australian Government is not proposing any radical reductions in the funding support it provides to the states. Instead we will seek to pursue a more modest and gradual approach to getting the balance of mitigation and recovery funding right, in close consultation with state governments.

Mitigation funding will ensure the most disaster-prone states are able to address their greatest risks.  We want to work with the states to understand the scope of mitigation projects they wish to pursue, and find a way to support these projects without making dramatic cuts to recovery funding.

We also see merit in an upfront disaster funding system where the Australian Government provides grants to states based on an early assessment of disaster damage and impact, rather than the current system of reimbursing costs based on detailed rules.

Such a system would remove red-tape for all levels of government, and ensure states have more autonomy to recover from disasters in a way that best meets the needs of affected communities.

Importantly, the Productivity Commission report also raises a number of issues – including the need for better land use planning, and improved risk data and information sharing – which should be carefully considered by state and local governments.

The Government will provide a full response to the Productivity Commission’s final report following these consultations.

Media contact:  Rachelle Miller – 0475 804 886