All on Board: Incorporating national gender and emergency management guidelines

This project is an initiative to address the growing interest in the impact of gender on emergency management (EM) and the recognised need for gender to be incorporated into national guidelines. The background of this federally funded NEMP project is outlined below.

Over 2016, the project team incorporated feedback from more than 350 emergency management personnel across Australia. The result is the following three documents. Thank you to all that contributed feedback. Please read and circulate widely:

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Gender and Emergency Guidelines

• Gender and Emergency Guidelines Checklist

Gender and Emergency Guidelines Literature Review

The project has been externally peer reviewed and evaluated. Find the peer evaluation here.


Gender issues are known to compound the damaging effects of disaster on survivors. Increased gender and disaster knowledge and subsequent improved emergency planning and response will improve the health and wellbeing of women and men affected by disaster across Australia. The guidelines collaboratively developed in the All on Board project were evidence-based – informed by international and national research and experience. They align with other gender related policy and program developments such as the Sendai Framework. They were developed through consultation with representatives from each state and territory. An iterative process facilitated ownership of the shared responsibility for gender and emergency management. This is a cross-cutting issue, traversing planning, response, recovery and reconstruction.

Outcomes sought

Through effective consultation and collaboration in reducing the compounding effects of gender on disaster impacts, the Gender and Emergency Management Guidelines intend to improve Australia’s ability to prevent, prepare, respond to and recover from natural disasters. Two overarching outcomes are sought: 1) The development of National Gender and Emergency Guidelines to fill a  gap in Australian knowledge, policy and practice. Benefits include:

  • A shared and improved understanding of the need for such guidelines, and the critical importance of policies and practice that incorporate a gender lens.
  • A shared and improved understanding of the specific issues (social, structural, psychological, financial, interpersonal, and physical) relating to gender and disaster – and a capacity, informed by clear guidelines, to respond to these issues.
  • Changed practices by key emergency management organisations and communities to help identify, prevent and respond to gender-based disaster impacts.
  • New knowledge within the emergency sector of how to action the guidelines and gain support for subsequent changed policies and practices.
  • Improved planning, response and recovery for both men and women in the midst and aftermath of disaster.

2) A truly national initiative, achieved through a national consultation process. Benefits include:

  • Collaboratively developed guidelines which are inclusive of the contexts and experiences of all states and territories.
  • Guidelines which are ‘owned’, supported and endorsed by all states and territories.

Overview of the literature

(Full literature review here.)

There is a consensus in disaster studies that disasters have a differential impact on men and women (see for example, Enarson, 2012; Enarson & Haworth-Brockman, 2008; Eriksen, 2013; Gender & Disaster Network, 2005). Internationally, gendered considerations are central to disaster response in developing countries yet this is not reflected in the majority of the EM guidelines at both national and state levels in Australia, nor in other developed countries (Hazeleger, 2013; Department of Police and Emergency Management, 2013; Emergency Management Victoria, 2015; Australian Emergency Management Institute, 2011). Gendered disaster research in Australia, principally since the Black Saturday bushfires, finds that a lack of attention to gendered issues contributes to poor recovery and weakened resilience (Parkinson, 2012, 2015; Parkinson & Zara, 2016; Zara & Parkinson, 2013, Zara, et al., 2016). Identified issues include increased violence against women in disasters’ aftermath; community aggression; increased harmful behaviours by men; increased drug and alcohol abuse; suicide and mental health issues. For men, management of recovery and reconstruction after Black Saturday overlooked local men, and employment issues became disruptive. Psychological assistance was not tailored for the gendered expectations of men and this led to men avoiding the help that was offered, or to men being penalised in the workplace for seeking help. This research also showed that gendered expectations of women as primary carers of children led to some women forgoing their professional careers. Women reported having no choice to return to work in the absence of men taking on shared responsibility, and in the absence of early reestablishment of formal child care. Women’s strengths in community leadership and knowledge, too, were frequently overlooked by those leading disaster recovery and reconstruction. The lack of female leadership in the EM sector is equally problematic, leading to a lack of awareness of the impact of such issues. For example, discrimination against women in the EM sector has attracted  attention and must be addressed within Emergency Service Organisations (ESOs) (Allison, 2014; Parkinson, Duncan & Hedger, 2015; VHREOC,2015; see also Gender and emergency management guidelines would address the lack of knowledge amongst leaders of the relevance and critical importance of attention to gendered issues (Council of Australian Governments, 2012).


Allison, M. (2014). “Independent review of an incident involving Queensland Fire and Rescue Service employees.” Available from: (Accessed 27/1/2015).

Australian Emergency Management Institute. (2011). Community Recovery Handbook 2. Canberra: AEM Institute.

Council of Australian Governments. (2012). National Strategy For Disaster Resilience: A Companion Booklet. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Department of Police and Emergency Management. (2013). Tasmanian Emergency Management Plan. Hobart: Government of Tasmania.

Emergency Management Victoria. (2015). State Emergency Relief and Recovery Plan Part 4: Emergency Management Manual Victoria. Melbourne: Emergency Management Victoria.

Enarson, E. (2002). Working with Women at Risk: Practical Guidelines for Assessing Local Disaster Risk. Florida.

Enarson, E. (2012). Women confronting natural disaster: From vulnerability to resilience. Boulder, Colarado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

Enarson, E. (2009). Prairie Women Prepared for Disaster. Canada: Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence.

Enarson, E. and Haworth-Brockman, M (2008). Gender Mainstreaming In Emergency Management: Opportunities for Building Community Resilience in Canada. Canada: Public Health Agency of Canada.

Eriksen, C. (2013). “Gendered Risk Engagement: Challenging the Embedded Vulnerability, Social Norms and Power Relations in Conventional Australian Bushfire Education.” Geographical Research.

Gender and Disaster Network. (2005). “Gender Equality in Disasters: Six Principles for Engendered Relief and Reconstruction.” Available from: (Accessed 27/1/2015).

Hazeleger, T. (2013). “Gender and disaster recovery.” Australian Journal of Emergency Management 28(e): 40-47.

Parkinson, D. (2012). The Way He Tells It – Vol. 1 Relationships After Black Saturday. Wangaratta: Women’s Health Goulburn North East.

Parkinson, D. (2015) Women’s experience of violence in the aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires. A Thesis Submitted in Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Clayton: School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Monash University.

Parkinson, D., Duncan, A., & Hedger, E. (2015) Women in Fire and Emergency Leadership Roles: How can we improve the balance? A Research Report commissioned by the DELWP.

Parkinson, D. & Zara, C. (2016) ‘Men Reveal the Emotional and Personal Costs of the Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria, Australia’ in Enarson, E. & Pease, B. (Eds.) Men, Masculinities and Disaster: Revisiting the Gendered Terrain of Disaster. London: Routledge.

Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (2015). Independent review into sex discrimination and sexual harassment, including predatory behaviour in Victoria Police: Phase One Report December 2015. Carlton, VHREOC.

Zara, C., Parkinson, D., Duncan, A., and Joyce, K. (2016) Men and Disaster: Men’s experiences of the Black Saturday bushfires and the aftermath. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management. Vol. 31 Issue 3.