News & Media

Community engagement in Gellibrand

By: CFA News

Category: Community Safety

  10.35 AM 16 August, 2013

Location: District 6 News

Views: 2402

Story by Sharon Linke

Last week, in the foothills of the Otways National Park, Corangamite Group volunteers and community representatives met with CFA, DEPI, and shire representatives to discuss community engagement.

The forum grew out of concerns raised through the District 6 Planning Committee about the existence of widespread apathy of many residents to their bushfire risk, despite the many forms of engagement by a number of agencies.

This concern is coupled with specific risks for some locations, which makes engagement with the public more difficult. For example, a high number of absentee landholders and the swelling of tourism numbers during holiday season that coincides with the fire season.

Community Education Coordinator Sharon Linke said brigades in the Corangamite Group have a history of being proactive in community engagement.

Setting the focus for the forum, participants explored the difference between the expectations of CFA and the expectations of communities in the event of an emergency. Agency representatives gave an overview of current forms of engagement, including the new Street Bushfire Advice Service and the multi-year planning of bushfire education programs.

Four topics were workshopped, which involved in-depth discussions on the strengths and weaknesses of current engagement methods. Small groups explored how to change behaviour and spur communities to action, and were challenged to identify signs that communities had successfully built resilience.

Several key themes resonated throughout the workshop, including changing the language of lengthy and multiple messaging, to keep it short, sharp and simple.

Getting bushfire information to kids was identified as one action point which can be brought to fruition immediately through encouraging more volunteers to be involved with the Fire Safe Kids program and other local community initiatives.

There was strong support shown for the Home Bushfire Advice Service.

Reflecting on the forum, one volunteer summarised, “…thanks for the evening.  I felt that my concerns and issues were heard.  I didn’t realise how complex the issues were..… and now I have lots to think about!”

Last Updated: 16 August 2013