Chapter 5

Co-ordination and management of recovery efforts

Throughout the inquiry, it has been consistently argued that at the centre of any form of disaster relief program should be strong humanitarian principles. Representatives from the community of Cobargo, for example, suggested that ground rules for engagement in disaster-stricken areas should be based on the principles of neutrality, an apolitical approach and non-discriminatory behaviour.1
Further to the evidence presented by local communities, in this chapter the committee considers how an effective post-disaster recovery framework could be established, especially in light of the establishment of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA).
This chapter details the evidence received from community stakeholders about to how to implement a humanitarian response to disasters, how to best utilise assistance from the Australian Defence Force (ADF), and how the NRRA could develop a governance framework to ensure that the co-ordination and management of recovery efforts in future is agile and fit for purpose.

Assistance from the Australian Defence Force

Stakeholders raised the importance of having access to useful, practical and trained personnel to assist with the clean-up and rebuilding process. It was argued, by a number of organisations, that being able to call on the ADF and its resources may be one way to assist impacted communities.2
Cobargo community representative Mrs Christine Walters noted, for example, that physical assistance to manage some of the major clean up tasks is often one of the first things required. It was argued that:
Real physical help for people, not just by the good and kind folk from the community but by properly resourced and authorised military personnel, would be a great beginning to help people get back on to their properties and enable them to start the process of rebuilding. The ADF did come to the Bega Valley after the bushfires but were not permitted to do any work on private properties and spent a good deal of time at the Cobargo showground asking me how they could help me. I didn't need the help; the people who were burnt out did.3
Mr Graeme Freedman, expressed his agreement with Mrs Walters’ view, and added:
In my experience, the people who were most likely to help us on the ground immediately after the fires in ways that were practical, that would have helped us get sorted out and that would have solved some of the mental health issues were the military. We had them wandering around looking for things to do. They had engineers who had worked all around the world, helping with other disasters. They knew exactly what needed to be done. They had the expertise already. They had the equipment. They could have taken building materials from nearby areas—Canberra and places like that—brought them down and built hooches or whatever, or done whatever needed to be done on properties, but they were not allowed to do it. It was embarrassing that we had people who really wanted to help, knew how to help, had done it before—their engineers knew what they could do and had the earthmoving equipment and stuff—and they couldn't do anything for us. That was a total embarrassment.4
The Royal Commission indicated that during the course of its inquiry, individuals, community groups, organisations and government agencies had pointed to the special capabilities and resources available to the ADF, and identified it as a possible source of support in the event of natural disasters. The Royal Commission also acknowledged the public’s perception that the ADF is able to assist in all aspects of disaster recovery, and is always readily available. The Royal Commission noted that this is not in fact the case, and neither is it a reasonable expectation of the ADF.5
The Royal Commission noted that the ADF does not have capabilities or resources to fight bushfires, it does, however, have capabilities to provide ancillary support. It can provide evacuation assistance, surveillance of fire fronts, and delivery of food and water to communities and farms, among other assistance. The ADF provides this support in accordance with the processes outlined in the Defence Assistance to the Civil Community (DACC) Manual.6
The committee notes the Royal Commission’s finding that notwithstanding the prominent role that the ADF has played in significant natural disaster responses, some governments and organisations (particularly local governments) and some fire and emergency service agencies, indicated that they did not have a good appreciation of what the ADF can do, how to request ADF assistance or, at times, how to interact with the ADF once it was deployed. The committee also notes the recommendations made by the Royal Commission which, if implemented, would clarify the ADF’s current and future role in disaster recovery.7

Forging better links between government agencies and communities

The importance of developing a fit-for-purpose recovery and assistance framework was stressed by a number of those who provided evidence to the committee. Local-led recovery, it was argued, involves more than simply deploying resources to communities. It requires those who are deployed to provide resources and assistance to acknowledge that their role is not to lead the process, but to work within the community, at the grass-roots level, and to provide linkages – to government agencies, industry bodies, or charitable groups.8
To be most effective, those deployed to communities following a disaster should do so on the understanding that they are being employed as an on-the-ground resource. Their job is to become embedded in the community, develop an understanding of the issues the community is facing, and listen to what the community is telling them is needed.

Disaster Recovery Officers

The National Bushfire Recovery Agency (NBRA) was established in January 2020, in part to administer the $2 billion National Bushfire Recovery Fund announced at the same time. Recovery Support Officers were employed by the Agency in an effort to provide ‘boots on the ground’ assistance within communities.9
The role of Recovery Support Officers is to work within communities to provide knowledge and information regarding support services and how to access them. The Support Officers work with local government services such as the Rural Financial Counselling Service, Regional Investment Corporation, and state government agencies to provide assistance.10
The deployment of Recovery Support Officers was an issue raised by individuals and community representatives in their evidence to the committee.
Cobargo community representatives, for example, noted that in their experience, embedding the recovery officers in communities worked very well. They told the committee that the community was:
…very lucky with the selection of these two people. Andy, in particular, has a lot of experience working in Indigenous communities and he brought a great deal of that expertise into his work in the Bega Valley. What we really appreciated from both of these people was the manner in which they reached out into the community. They were very aware that a lot of work was occurring perhaps from people who might not have been in the gaze of council before. As I said, a lot of women have come forward to do this work. Andy and Daniel were very good at identifying who was doing the work, where the work was coming from and who in the community was managing relief and recovery. They were also extremely supportive of the community consultation work that was underway and is still underway in Cobargo. They participated as observers, but that was very, very helpful. They got into the community and we really appreciated that.11

Development of a humanitarian assistance framework

In evidence, Cobargo resident, Ms Zena Armstrong, reminded the committee that when the Australian Government deploys people to assist with post-conflict recovery and other post-disaster events overseas, those deployed have access to a framework for international engagement in international disaster recovery. Ms Armstrong pointed to the existence of a humanitarian assistance framework that is well established and well acknowledged and noted that there are principles of engagement which underpin international humanitarian assistance.12
Ms Armstrong noted that in the domestic context, those involved in recovery efforts don't have access to specific rules of engagement, and don't tend to have the benefit of well-established practices. Ms Armstrong acknowledged that disaster recovery in Australia is of course complicated by state-federal relationships. Further, she argued that:
In the international context, DFAT has very clear carriage of the international response, working very closely, of course, with Defence, the AFP and others. The framework is not as well established domestically, but I believe it needs to be. Engagement in a domestic context would do well to be informed by those same humanitarian principles that govern the delivery of humanitarian assistance internationally.13
One of the consistent themes the committee heard during the inquiry was that consideration for people should be at the heart of all recovery efforts. CatholicCare Grief Counsellor, Ms Therese Kearney argued, for example, that something as simple as reaching out to isolated communities, rather than expecting them to travel to relief centres, can provide a much-needed morale boost. Ms Kearney explained:
In lots of places, especially in the high country, in the mountains, it's often expected that those people will come to a regional centre or something. CatholicCare have found that it's really important that we go to them and not have them come to us, even in the regional centres. With the huge donation from emergency funds in Victoria, we have been able to fit out a four-wheel drive, dual-cab ute, canopied, with a coffee-making machine—which we originally thought was going to have pods in it, and then the poor old community development worker had to go and do a barista course when we found out it was a full-blown coffee machine—and a generator and a wi-fi internet booster, such that we can take it to those very small communities, and we're talking about Goongerah, Bendock and Cabbage Tree Creek, which are tiny little places that just don't have access to the rest of the world. They are really cut off. If this could be replicated in any way it would be brilliant, because it's a really great service to take to the smaller communities in the high country. It takes us about three hours along winding dirt roads to get there, but it's a really important thing that has happened and people have responded amazingly to it.14
The 2019-20 bushfires were the catalyst for the establishment of Catholic Emergency Relief Australia (CERA). Catholic Social Services Australia noted that CERA is a Church-wide collaboration of social service agencies, parishes, schools, universities, hospitals and aged care providers, and it is the “initiative through which the Catholic Church and its ministries assist those effected by disaster and emergency”. Further, it was noted that CERA has developed its own framework, which:
aligns with the Australian Disaster Preparedness Framework;15
outlines the principles that underpin national preparedness, recovery and response;
defines what constitutes preparedness capabilities for emergency disasters along with framework components;
will provide a guide for Catholic agencies and groups on emergency preparedness in their jurisdiction; and
will contribute to the national emergency preparedness, response and recovery effort in relation to an emergency disaster.
In its submission, Catholic Social Services Australia noted that in working with impacted communities it has been the experience of the Catholic Bushfire Communities Response Network “that the strong focus by state and federal government on a highly medicalised and economic approach to recovery is only part of the long-term solution for traumatised individuals and communities”.16
Catholic Social Services Australia stressed, therefore, the importance of providing socially-oriented community initiatives which facilitate communities to develop their own projects and chart their own pathways to recovery. In this way, communities are provided with communal solutions rather that individualised assistance. It was argued that this “focus on community development and engagement has been missing from the government responses to the bushfire recovery effort”.17
One of the recommendations made by Catholic Social Services Australia was for investment “in community engagement and development programs supporting the next generation of community leaders to step up”.18 It was submitted that a year on, the service has been witnessing high levels of volunteer fatigue – particularly given the additional challenges of COVID-19 restrictions. This has meant that a number of community activities have lapsed and won’t be revived. It was suggested that Local Government elections in NSW in September 2021 will:
…witness record numbers of retiring Councillors. We believe that a national community engagement initiative that includes facilitation tools, training programs and local projects will encourage emerging/aspiring leaders in communities to step up, and it would be an excellent investment in future disaster responses and recovery.19
When asked by the committee to elaborate further on this recommendation, Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ursula Stephens, told the committee that:
One of the lessons of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency has been that there has to be an investment in preparedness, and part of that preparedness is skilling up communities to be able to do the kind of work that helps them to have personal and communal agency around the things that need to be done in a recovery phase. I suppose we all remember the good old community development workers that used to be attached to local councils. Well, they're no longer funded as a function of local government. But I do think that the lessons that we've learnt in this whole strategy across the summer bushfires is that embedding those soft skills in communities is really a critical part of preparedness and building community resilience.20

National Bushfire Recovery Agency

On 6 January 2020, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency (NBRA). Former Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner, Andrew Colvin, APM OAM was appointed to lead the Agency. The NBRA operated as an independent group within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The overall vision of the NBRA, as articulated by Mr Colvin, was to ensure that “bushfire-affected communities are empowered to recover and build a resilient future”, and give life to that vision “by putting the experience of bushfire-affected individuals and communities at the centre of everything we do”. 21
The primary purpose of the Agency’s was to lead and coordinate the Commonwealth-supported recovery and rebuild for the 2019-20 bushfires. To achieve this, Mr Colvin indicated that the organisation would:
collaborate across all sectors, work across all levels of government, connect communities and communicate with them;
consult directly with communities to understand their needs and aspirations and communicate this back to government;
ensure that affected communities have ready access and are aware of all available support;
work with state, territory and local governments as well as charities and non-government organisations to inform and integrate recovery and rebuilding activities;
work closely with Emergency Management Australia;
provide advice to the Government on the administration of the National Bushfire Recovery Fund and how existing and new Commonwealth policies and programs can best contribute to the recovery and rebuild efforts in bushfire-affected areas; and
advise on the economic and social impacts of the bushfires on affected communities.22
In evidence, representatives from the NBRA responded to questions about whether the principles that underline domestic recovery are formalised or published in a way that communities are able to understand.
Mr Colvin noted that a range of national frameworks had been agreed between the Commonwealth and states and territories in relation to recovery principles. He also indicated that the frameworks broadly guide the efforts of all organisations, in terms of where the recovery focus and priorities should be.23
When asked whether the frameworks align with overseas recovery processes, Deputy Coordinator, Major General Andrew Hocking indicated that:
I guess they’re nuanced differences, but one of the main, common themes is the community-led approach. I think, in general terms, there is a common understanding, whether it’s foreign or domestic – I think it’s really as Zena Armstrong said – that community-led is slow and hard. But it’s better than a top-down approach, which sort of has people in cubicles in capitals deciding what people need. I guess, taking a more strategic view and looking back at the principles, it is a discipline to move at the pace of communities. But I think, as you picked up in your questioning, there’s a good balance to be had – and perhaps a better balance to be struck as Australia moves forward – in getting the right balance between community-led and community-enabled. 24

National Recovery and Resilience Agency

In November 2020, in response to the Royal Commission recommendations, the Federal Government announced the establishment of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA). The work and functions of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, including the allocation of $2 billion of grants under the National Bushfire Recovery Fund, were integrated into the new Agency.
The NRRA brought together the former National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency, disaster risk reduction and recovery functions previously situated in the Department of Home Affairs and the Rural Financial Counselling Service Program.
In establishing the NRRA, it was noted that the new Agency would “help support local communities respond to large-scale natural disasters, and undertake new initiatives to manage the impact of future events and the changing climate”.25 The new agency was provided with funding of $600 million to be invested in a new program of disaster preparation and mitigation. Immediate funding was also identified to support resilience projects across communities, including bushfire and cyclone proofing houses, building levees and improving the reliance of telecommunications and essential supplies. $4.5 million was also provided to support disaster recovery scenario training to help regional communities prepare for high-risk hazards.26
In addition to providing support to local communities during the relief and recovery phases following major disasters, the Agency will also provide advice to Government in relation to policies and programs to mitigate the impact of future disaster events.

Operating principles for providing relief and recovery support

Australia’s Humanitarian Action Policy

The Humanitarian Action Policy published by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) in December 2011, notes that the goal of the policy is to “save lives, alleviate suffering and enhance human dignity during and in the aftermath of conflict, natural disasters and other humanitarian crises as well as to strengthen preparedness for the occurrence of such situations”.27

Disaster risk Reduction

Australia’s commitment to reduce the risk of natural disasters in developing countries is outlined in a 2009 policy titled Investing in a Safer Future: a Disaster Risk Reduction policy for the Australian aid program. This policy reflects Australia’s support for, and role in, the international community’s efforts to implement the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015, which is the international blueprint for disaster risk reduction.
In January 2005, the Hyogo Framework was adopted by 168 countries, including Australia. To be consistent with the Framework, Australia integrates disaster risk reduction into both humanitarian and development programs. In implementing its disaster risk reduction policy, Australia works with partner countries to reduce their vulnerability and build resilience to natural disasters.

Guiding principles

The four guiding principles which underpin Australia’s Humanitarian Action Policy are:
Respect and promote humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence in humanitarian action. Australia provides humanitarian action on the basis of need and respects the independence, impartiality and neutrality of our humanitarian partners.
Support the primary responsibility of states for affected populations within their borders in times of crisis, and help build partner states’ capacity to do this. When international assistance is requested, Australia supports coordinated humanitarian action that complements the efforts of partner governments aiming to protect and help their citizens. Where a government lacks the capacity and/or the political will to support affected populations Australia may work with partners to meet the affected population’s needs.
Promote respect for international humanitarian law, refugee law and human rights law in the provision of humanitarian action and the protection of populations affected by humanitarian crises. Australia works with governments and our humanitarian partners to advocate for the rights and protection of affected populations.
Practice Good Humanitarian Donorship, including by providing predictable and flexible humanitarian funding. Australia is committed to international standards of being a good donor, with a focus on predictable and flexible funding.

Australian Council for International Development

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) is the peak body for Australia’s non-government aid and international development organisations.
ACFID has an overarching Code of Conduct which is a voluntary, self-regulated code of good practice. The aim of the Code is to improve international development and humanitarian action outcomes and increase stakeholder trust by enhancing the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of ACFID members.28
ACFID is governed by a set of nine overarching principles which cover a range of issues, and address themes such as human rights, the inclusion of vulnerable and marginalised people, participation, empowerment and local ownership, sustainable change, collaboration, communication, governance, resource management and people and culture.29

National Resilience and Recovery Agency (NRRA)


The purpose of the NRRA is stated as follows:
We provide national leadership and strategic coordination in disaster recovery, resilience and risk reduction informed by a locally led approach that assists individuals, businesses and communities recover from disasters and be better prepared in the future.30

Guiding principles and values

The NRRA’s website notes that the organisation’s guiding principle is “locally led, locally understood and locally implemented”. It also notes that it puts communities at the centre of solution design and implementation.
The Agency’s organisation values, as stated in the organisation’s Corporate Plan are as follows:
Work Together
We have a ‘boots on the ground’ approach to understand what it’s like firsthand in recovering from and preparing for disasters
We make an effort to understand individual circumstances, and then share our insights with those responsible for providing support
We are authentic and compassionate and aim to empower others
We are a reliable and trusted partner, and work effectively across jurisdictions and with external parties
We make evidence based decisions that are well informed by on-the-ground intelligence
Make a Difference
We focus on making a difference, whether it be big or small
We say what we do and do what we say to get the best outcomes
We make it easier to access information and services
Get Stuff Done
We are courageous in our thinking and are not bogged down by traditional processes if there is a better way
We are accessible, contactable and responsive
We do our work safely and care about the wellbeing of our people31
The committee notes the information provided in the NRRA’s Corporate Plan, regarding the way in which the Agency undertakes its role. In light of the fact that the provision of recovery assistance, aid and emergency relief by Australia’s government and non-government agencies is governed by a clear set of overarching principles, the committee inquired as to whether the NRRA has similar principles which underpin its work.
The committee was, however, unable to obtain any clear information regarding this issue, and when contacted, the NRRA indicated that the organisation was unaware of any Agency-specific principles.
The committee was told that the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) do have a set of general principles for relief and recovery assistance. Instead of NRRA-specific principles, the committee was directed to Australia’s National Principles for Disaster Recovery. These principles are detailed below but apply broadly, and not specifically to the NRRA:
Understand the context
Successful recovery is based on an understanding community context, with each community having its own history, values and dynamics.
Recognise complexity
Successful recovery is responsive to the complex and dynamic nature of both emergencies and the community.
Use community-led approaches
Successful recovery is community- centred, responsive and flexible, engaging with community and supporting them to move forward.
Coordinate all activities
Successful recovery requires a planned, coordinated and adaptive approach, between community and partner agencies, based on continuing assessment of impacts and needs.
Communicate effectively
Successful recovery is built on effective communication between the affected community and other partners.
Recognise and build capacity
Successful recovery recognises, supports, and builds on individual, community and organisational capacity and resilience.32

Committee views

The committee notes the Royal Commission’s recommendation that a standing national resilience and recovery agency be established to drive long-term resilience policy outcomes.
The Commonwealth’s response to the Royal Commission’s findings acknowledged that:
Australians should expect to receive relief and support swiftly, irrespective of where they live. In a national scale disaster, relief and recovery support should be delivered consistently and equitably. A national approach to disaster recovery – that better coordinates all levels of government and other key partners such as charities – is required to raise the standard of support for communities across the board.33
The committee also notes the Royal Commission’s findings in relation to the role of the ADF. The evidence provided to the committee’s inquiry echoes that to the Royal Commission, particularly in relation to the public’s perception of the ADF’s role in disaster recovery efforts.
It is also clear that there are a number of government agencies, local governments, and fire and emergency service agencies which also have a limited appreciation of the ADF’s role, including how to request ADF assistance and how to coordinate with the ADF if, and when, it is deployed.

The role of the NRRA

The committee acknowledges that the Commonwealth has responded positively to the Royal Commission’s recommendation that a national resilience and recovery agency be established and has done so with the establishment of the NRRA.
The committee supports the Agency’s aim of assisting local communities to respond to large-scale natural disasters, and to undertake new initiatives to manage the impact of future events and the changing climate. Having a central Agency to perform these functions is a welcome step.
The committee notes that the information contained in the NRRA’s Corporate Plan provides an overview of the Agency’s values. The committee is concerned, however, that the Agency does not appear to have developed a clear set of operating principles to underpin the current and future work of the organisation, similar to the approach taken by ACFID (and other agencies such as AusAID and the Red Cross) and which would guide it in taking a humanitarian, people-centred, trauma-informed approach to its work.
The committee is also disappointed to note, that as the central Agency with direct responsibility for the coordination of Australia’s disaster relief efforts, there is limited contact information included on the Agency’s website. This includes phone contact details, the provision of which would allow communities and individuals to immediately speak to a representative of the organisation to seek assistance.
The committee recommends that the NRRA examine the foundational work that has been done by other Government agencies (including AusAID) and organisations such as the Australian Council for International Development and the Red Cross. This would assist the NRRA to develop a set of operating principles for a domestic context, and with a primary focus on people and addressing their needs. This would underpin the work of the Agency, provide it with a better foundation than the ‘values’ set out in its Corporate Plan and make it better placed to provide assistance following natural disasters.

Recommendation 4

The committee recommends that the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA) develop and implement a set of operating principles which are guided by Australia’s current humanitarian and foreign aid principles. The principles should establish the role and function of the Agency and outline the ways in which the Agency will provide assistance which is traumainformed, peoplecentred, and communityled.
The values that would inform the development of these operating principles would be the universal values of humanitarian assistance—impartiality, nondiscrimination, political neutrality and crosscultural awareness.

Recommendation 5

The committee recommends that development of the NRRA’s operating principles be undertaken in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities.

Emergency Response Fund (ERF)

The Emergency Response Fund (ERF) was established on the commencement of the Emergency Response Fund Act 2019 (ERF Act), on 12 December 2019. On establishment, the ERF was credited with the uncommitted balance of the Education Investment Fund, which has now been closed.
The ERF allows the Government to draw up to $200 million in any given year, beyond what is already available to fund emergency response and natural disaster recovery and preparedness, where it determines the existing recovery and resilience-building programs are insufficient to provide an appropriate response to natural disasters.
From 2019-20, disbursements (debits) from the ERF can be made subject to the following limits:
$150 million available each financial year to fund emergency response and recovery, following natural disasters in Australia that have a significant or catastrophic impact; and
$50 million each financial year to build resilience, to prepare for or reduce the risk of future natural disasters, and build the long-term sustainability of communities that are at risk of being affected by a future natural disaster.34
The NRRA – which has responsibility for the administration of the ERF –appeared before the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee during consideration of the 2021-22 Supplementary Budget Estimates. The Agency confirmed that the ERF, originally credited with $4 billion, had earned interest of $726 million since inception and none of the potential $600 million available for emergency response over three financial years since inception had been disbursed.35
What has emerged from the Legislation Committee’s consideration of the NRRA’s estimates, is that the ERF is an alarmingly opaque funding arrangement from which desperately needed emergency response funding for the 2019-20 fires is not being disbursed. It is subject to guidelines that are unclear; funding is granted at the discretion of the NRRA CoordinatorGeneral; there are no reporting requirements that provide detail as to the recipients of funding and its purpose, and there are no regular performance reports from which neither the Parliament nor the public can determine which funds are coming from which of the various funds administered by the NRRA.
For any funding arrangement, much less a fund as large as the ERF and other funds administered by the NRRA, including the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants Program, the National Bushfire Recovery Fund and the Preparing Australia Program, the arrangements described above seem to provide conditions that are ripe for funds to be misallocated.
In order to address these issues, the committee makes the following recommendations around the administration of the ERF and the allocation of funding. These recommendations are also aimed at improving transparency around the allocation of funding from the National Bushfire Recovery Fund through improved reporting and centralised portals.

Recommendation 6

The committee recommends that the Australian Government undertake an urgent review of the funding arrangements for the Emergency Response Fund (ERF), with a view to ensuring the Fund is subject to the most stringent accountability and transparency measures, which are also consistent with the operating principles that should govern the operation of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA) by adoption of Recommendation 4.

Recommendation 7

The committee recommends that the administration and expenditure of funding under the Emergency Response Fund and the several other funds administered by the National Recovery and Resilience Agency be included in the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Audit Program for 2022-23, and that the Government ensures that the ANAO is adequately funded to carry out the audit.

Recommendation 8

The committee recommends the Australian Government use the Emergency Response Fund to increase investment in mitigation and resilience measures, in line with the recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s 2014 report into Natural Disaster Funding.

Recommendation 9

The committee recommends the National Recovery and Resilience Agency re-instate monthly funding reporting for the National Bushfire Recovery Fund.

Recommendation 10

The committee recommends that the National Recovery and Resilience Agency establishes monthly reporting requirements for government and non-government entities receiving funding from the National Bushfire Recovery Fund.

Recommendation 11

The committee recommends that the National Recovery and Resilience Agency consider appointing additional members to their advisory board with specific expertise in response, recovery and resilience in bushfire affected areas.

Recommendation 12

The committee recommends the Australian Government and the National Recovery and Resilience Agency work to develop a central, secure portal and reporting framework for organisations operating in natural disaster affected areas to upload information to, in order to streamline the recovery process and reduce re-traumatisation of natural disaster victims and survivors.

  • 1
    Ms Zena Armstrong, Committee Hansard, 2 March 2021, p. 10.
  • 2
    See, for example, Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund, Submission 8, Ms Sabrina Davis, Submission 189, Ms Sophie Rex, Submission 177 and Ms Angela Turner, Submission 113.
  • 3
    Mrs Christine Walters, Cobargo Bushfire Relief Centre, Committee Hansard, 2 March 2021, p. 2.
  • 4
    Mr Graeme Freedman, Committee Hansard, 2 March 2021, p. 17.
  • 5
    Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements: Report, October 2020, p. 187.
  • 6
    Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements: Report, October 2020, p. 188.
  • 7
    Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements: Report, October 2020, p. 192.
  • 8
    See, for example, Ms Zena Armstrong Committee Hansard, 2 March 2021, Mrs Christine Walters, Cobargo Bushfire Relief Centre, Committee Hansard, 2 March 2021, National Enterprise for Rural Community Wellbeing, Submission 9, Catholic Social Services Australia, Submission 168, Australian Business Volunteers, Submission 163 and Community Legal Centres NSW, Submission 130.
  • 9
    As previously noted, in May 2021, as part of its response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations, the Government announced the establishment of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA). The NRRA assumed the functions of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, including the employment of Recovery Support Officers.
  • 10
  • 11
    Ms Zena Armstrong, Committee Hansard, 2 March 2021, p. 9.
  • 12
    Ms Zena Armstrong, Committee Hansard, 2 March 2021, p. 3.
  • 13
    Ms Zena Armstrong, Committee Hansard, 2 March 2021, p. 5.
  • 14
    Ms Therese Kearney, CatholicCare Victoria, Committee Hansard, 2 March 2021, p. 26.
  • 15
    The Australian Disaster Preparedness Framework was developed by the Federal Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Western Australia. The Framework, published in October 2018, is described as a guideline to develop the capabilities required to manage severe catastrophic disasters.
  • 16
    Catholic Social Services Australia, Submission 168, p. 5.
  • 17
    Catholic Social Services Australia, Submission 168, p. 6.
  • 18
    Catholic Social Services Australia, Submission 168, p. 3.
  • 19
    Catholic Social Services Australia, Submission 168, p. 9.
  • 20
    The Hon. Dr Ursula Stephens, Catholic Social Services Australia, Committee Hansard, 2 March 2021, p. 27.
  • 21
    Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, An update from Andrew Colvin, Coordinator of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, 3 August 2020,, [accessed 17 November 2021].
  • 22
    Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, An update from Andrew Colvin, Coordinator of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, 3 August 2020,, [accessed 17 November 2021].
  • 23
    Mr Andrew Colvin, National Coordinator, National Bushfire Recovery Agency, Committee Hansard, 17 March 2021, p. 13.
  • 24
    Major General Andrew Hocking, Deputy Coordinator, National Bushfire Recovery Agency, Committee Hansard, 17 March 2021, pp. 13-14.
  • 25
    Media Release, Prime Minister, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management and Minister for the Environment, Helping Communities Rebuild and Recover from Natural Disasters, 5 May 2021.
  • 26
    Media Release, Prime Minister, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management and Minister for the Environment, Helping Communities Rebuild and Recover from Natural Disasters, 5 May 2021.
  • 27
    Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Humanitarian Action Policy, December 2011, p. 4.
  • 28
    Australian Council for International Development, Code of Conduct Overview,, [accessed 19 November 2021].
  • 29
    A full version of the Australian Council for International Development, principles can be found at
  • 30
    Australian Government, National Recovery and Resilience Agency, Corporate Plan 2021-22 to 202425, p. 6.
  • 31
    Australian Government, National Recovery and Resilience Agency, Corporate Plan 2021-22 to 202425, p. 6.
  • 32
    Australian Disaster Resilience Knowledge Hub, Social Recovery Reference Group Australia, National Principles for Disaster Recovery, [accessed 24 November 2021].
  • 33
    Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, A national approach to national disasters: The Commonwealth Government response to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, November 2020, p. 4.
  • 34
    Department of Finance, Emergency Response Fund, Emergency Response Fund|Department of Finance, [accessed 29 November 2021].
  • 35
    Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, Committee Hansard, 25 October 2021, pp. 119-121.

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