Two New South Wales inquiries into the state’s response to major flooding earlier this year have failed to address the significant impacts on children, leaving them more vulnerable to future disasters, said Save the Children today.
The catastrophic flooding in February-March caused widespread devastation and claimed the lives of at least 23 people. Thousands of children were forced to flee their homes and unable to attend school.
The reports detail how evacuations were poorly coordinated, the importance of community involvement in recovery efforts and the important role played by non-governmental organisations, but the impacts on children and how services could have better responded to meet their unique needs are largely absent from policy recommendations.
Children who experience a disaster can suffer impacts to their physical or mental health and disruption to their education without tailored support. They will remain extremely vulnerable to disasters if we do not learn lessons from recent experiences.
Matt Gardiner, CEO of Save the Children’s 54 reasons, said:
“More space is dedicated to animal welfare than to children in one of these reports, which is extremely concerning given the impact of such disasters on children’s wellbeing.
“Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity to learn how children experienced this disaster and how services could have better responded to meet their unique needs.
“As the climate crisis worsens, floods and bushfires will become more intense and occur more frequently. We should be doing everything we can to learn from recent disasters so that we can better protect children in the future.
“Governments should commit to ensuring that children’s services, such as child friendly spaces at evacuation centres and longer-term recovery programs are priortised alongside other essential services in future disasters.
“It is also critical that we listen to children’s views as part of the recovery process, as they are disproportionally impacted by disasters yet their voices are rarely heard.
“These reports show that Australia is underprepared for the realities of the climate crisis, and we hope they prompt stronger and more urgent action from governments.”
Save the Children Australia made submissions to the NSW Independent Flood Inquiry and the NSW Parliamentary Flood Inquiry, calling on the NSW government to ensure the needs of children are systematically met in the immediate response to disasters through Child Friendly Spaces, as well as their longer-term recovery through resilience building programs like Journey of Hope. It is also critical that governments enable children to participate in disaster preparedness, recovery and resilience activities in their communities, especially given they are the ones who will benefit most from reducing disaster risk and impacts as the climate crisis worsens.
Save the Children responded to the floods through the deployment of Child Friendly Spaces within evacuation centres across flood-affected communities in NSW and QLD and have begun providing recovery support for children affected by the floods.
MEDIA CONTACT: Joshua Mcdonald on 0478 010 972 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
A proud part of the Save the Children Australia group, 54 reasons works in almost 200 communities and locations in every Australian state and territory, delivering quality services to children and families to support child development, diverting young people from the justice system, responding to domestic and family violence, and amplifying children’s voice and participation in decision making.