‘It has been a delight to follow from afar the progress of the Gender and Disaster Taskforce…This is a remarkable undertaking of clear benefit to your home communities, as they strive to reduce vulnerabilities and build resilience. It’s a model with great potential for others in Australia and beyond.’Dr. Elaine Enarson, Independent Scholar, US, and author of ‘The Gendered Terrain of Disaster’ and ‘Women Confronting Natural Disaster’.

Australia’s first Gender and Disaster (GAD) Taskforce  was one of the major initiatives emerging from the GAD Pod’s foundational work and research in the area of gender and disaster.

A Gender and Disaster Taskforce model in Australia

The GAD Taskforce was established in Victoria for a 3-year tenure in January 2014. Co-Chaired by the Emergency Management Commissioner, Craig Lapsley and the Executive Officer of Women’s Health Goulburn North East (WHGNE), Susie Reid, the Taskforce included  representatives from Women’s Health In the North and all major Victorian ESOs, the community, government and academic sectors.

The purpose was to ‘provide state-wide strategic direction and leadership to reduce the compounding effects of gender on disaster impacts’ and had seven specific objectives. The work of the taskforce brought a gender-focus to disaster policy, planning, training and practice in order to improve the support that men and women receive before and after disaster, mitigate risks to men and women’s health and wellbeing post-disaster, and build awareness of the critical need for attention to gender in disaster planning and community recovery.

As gender inequality and societal complicity contribute to the prevalence of men’s violence against women, changing the culture of emergency management to include equal contribution by women at all levels, has been identified as an important part of this strategy.

One ESO Executive reflected on his time on the Gender and Disaster Taskforce, and said:

Personally, there was a lot of learning and a bit of journey for me as well …  [The GAD Taskforce] gave me a better, deeper understanding that people in my position could influence the agenda going into the future.”

The Taskforce held its final meeting in November 2016 and concluded with presentation of a ‘handover’ Lessons and Recommendations Paper to help inform the Victorian Government in its transition to the ‘Diversity and Inclusion Framework’ for the Emergency Management sector.  Our hope is that the word, ‘gender’ continue to be included in the name of this subsequent initiative. We continue to advocate!

The GAD Pod also hopes this model – of first establishing a GAD Taskforce which then transitions to government leadership to ensure gender-focussed emergency management – will be taken up in other states and territories of Australia. A blueprint for the establishment of GAD Taskforces elsewhere could begin from the foundational work already undertaken here, and change to suit the context. A starting point would be these key documents:  Terms of Reference, the Foundational Document,  the Program Logic/Workplan and the Lessons and Recommendations paper and associated Workplan Achievements 2014-2016 document.

Members of the Victorian Gender and Disaster Taskforce.

The formation of the GAD Taskforce was a unique and significant step in achieving a collaborative partnership across multiple sectors and the community. To note just one achievement, on November 25, 2015, for the first time, EM leaders on the GAD Taskforce jointly signed the following to mark the 2015 “16  Days of Activism Against Gender Violence”, stating: “Disaster is no excuse for violence. As members of the Gender and Disaster Taskforce, we agree that violence against women is never acceptable and commit to its elimination.”

Read more in this AJEM article: Victoria’s Gender and Disaster Taskforce. Australian Journal of Emergency Management. Vol. 30. No. 4. Oct 2015: 26-29. https://ajem.infoservices.com.au/items/AJEM-30-04-08

Check back for a forthcoming article to make the conclusion of Victoria’s Gender and Disaster Taskforce.

Special presentation

Special presentation by Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick and Chief of Army, Lt. Gen. David Morrison AO

Taskforce members were honoured to welcome Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick and Chief of Army, Lt. Gen. David Morrison AO to the third GAD Taskforce meeting on 12th August 2014. Commissioner Broderick and Lt. Gen. Morrison provided special presentations to the Taskforce, with both speaking passionately about the need to prioritise gender issues and to take action to enact a new culture in traditional and male-dominated organisations.

Watch the presentations by Liz Broderick and David Morrison here: