The 2020 Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements Report, has emphasised the necessity for a fundamental shift in strategic thinking about Australia’s natural disaster management. If there were one word that encapsulates this shift, the commission suggests it would be ‘resilience’.2
And if the cascading and compounding disasters of 2020 haven’t highlighted the importance of an investment in the preparedness and resilience of Australian communities – then nothing else will.
Ashley Marshall, General Manager Government at Australia Post, agrees with the Commission’s call for ‘national cooperation’ to make Australia more resilient to natural disasters. “Cross-sector collaboration, and meaningful community engagement, are critical for effectively supporting disaster resilience,” he says.
Partnering to help keep Australia strong
It’s long been necessary, and is now widely recognised and accepted, that businesses, public organisations and individuals each play a role in various aspects of natural disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. And the 2020 Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements Report, has called for a national approach.2
This shared responsibility includes prioritising immediate community needs such as material aid, cash, essential supplies, medical supplies and communication – all things Australia Post can deliver to Australians.
More than ever before, the scale and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic forced organisations to step outside the box, cut through red tape, move swiftly to meet the crisis at hand – and collaborate to manage the emerging needs of the community.
“Even in our business, we’ve seen new levels of collaboration,” notes Marshall. “From partnering with other businesses to secure additional warehousing space for PPE; to chartering planes to deliver time-critical and potentially life-saving supplies; even digitising mail and dispersing it to its nominated delivery points; Australia Post has done everything within its power to help serve the needs of the community through this period.”
Keeping communities connected in times of need
Natural hazards are a fact of life in Australia—every year, bushfires, floods, cyclones and storms devastate our communities.3 And when disaster strikes, Australia Post's role in communities becomes heightened.
In regional Australian communities, Post Offices are the most present service provider – 96% of residents have a local Post Office. “Our licensees are local business themselves. And they have relationships with and valuable knowledge of the communities they support,” explains Marshall. “As people look for support and reassurance, we are one of the entities they turn to.”
In 2019, when floodwaters prevented aid from reaching vulnerable residents in the rural town of Ayr, local Australia Post employees coordinated a flatbed tilt truck to transport a van carrying supplies across floodwater to enable deliveries. Australia Post also trialled flexible mobile post office units and vans during the 2019 Townsville floods – taking our services to communities to keep them connected.
And when Marshall reflects on the 2019/20 bushfires, he says “Our network really came to life to support Australians. We’ve learnt a lot about how our network – from our 4,300 Post Offices, to our huge fleet of vehicles, and over 75,000-strong workforce – can help keep people connected in the wake of a disaster.”
For example, the Batemans Bay Post Office quickly transformed into a community hub where residents could access cash, meet and socialise, charge their phones and access the internet to stay in communication with their family and support network.4