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Children largely forgotten by bushfire royal commission

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements final report devotes more attention to animals in evacuations than to children.
30 October 2020

Save the Children has welcomed the Royal Commission’s findings that in the face of climate change, Australia’s disaster management arrangements must change. 

The leading child rights organisation is disappointed however that recommendations specifically relating to children were negligible.

Save the Children CEO, Paul Ronalds said that Australia could not afford to have a repeat of the last bushfire season, where the unique needs of children were not met. 

“The report today is disappointing from the perspective of children,” said Mr Ronalds. 

“More than 14,000 children had to be evacuated during the Black Summer bushfires but their specific needs have not been addressed by the royal commission.

“There are many families in vulnerable positions and we can’t have a repeat of the last bushfire season where children were an afterthought.”


The Royal Commission recognised that climate change is already increasing bushfire risk, and this is projected to worsen. 

The report also acknowledged the evidence that children and young people may face particularly high health risks from exposure to natural hazards like bushfires. It highlights that children and young people are particularly susceptible to ongoing mental health effects, which can result in poorer educational outcomes and a loss of a sense of stability and safety. 

“We welcome the royal commission’s emphasis on the importance of strengthening Australia’s resilience to disasters, especially as they are set to become more frequent and intense due to climate change,” said Mr Ronalds. 

“However, it is disappointing to not see any recommendations specifically aimed at meeting children’s needs during and after bushfires and other emergencies.

“We urge Australian governments to adopt a more systematic approach to support children’s needs during emergencies and in the recovery process, which can take many months or even years. 

“This includes children’s safety and emotional wellbeing, their educational needs and their right to be involved in decision-making about emergency management.”


The report notes that submissions called for further consideration and planning for the health needs of children during evacuations and the need for appropriate designated spaces for children in evacuation centres. 

Read Save the Children’s submission to the Royal Commission here

ENDS

For media inquiries contact Angus Smith on 0488 330 882 or media.team@savethechildren.org.au

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