Women, men and LGBTIQA+ people experience emergencies and disasters differently. Through our training we provide insights and opportunities for emergency planning using a gendered lens. This lens allows for a more accurate assessment of vulnerabilities and strengths. Being alert to these differences at each stage of emergency management is the first step in effective planning and response, and in building communities’ health and safety during and after disasters.
Who is this training for?
The training is for disaster-affected communities and the Emergency Management Sector. This includes core organisations such as fire brigades (both volunteer and paid), police, ambulance services, relevant state government departments, SES, and environment and land management departments. It also includes the broader recovery sector: Local Government, social services, Red Cross, faith-based organisations, specialist services for violence against women and services for men.
At times of disaster, men are expected to protect and provide (even when it’s not possible) and women are expected to nurture and care for others, sometimes at the expense of their own safety and wellbeing.
‘I am a man, and I can do’ has been defeated in so many men. Things they couldn’t do and they couldn’t be and so much was lost … Men are constantly trying to surmount and be stronger and control and when they face that [Black Saturday] - even the most beautiful guys, and I see some beautiful guys in the CFA - you see some of them crumbling too. It just breaks my heart. (Becky)
They are the professional firefighters, it was their job to stop the unstoppable. They bear the grief and the loss and the guilt and they had all those people die, and we knew them all ... The whole community is traumatised, but the DSE boys silently bear the guilt of it because they were the professionals … and I could see [my husband] reliving those moments, where he could have done something differently and saved a life. (Miranda)
In this research, two women felt trapped in relationships and homes where men were violent. They stayed because of direct requests from their children not to leave.
I hadn’t said anything, but it was one of those days when I thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore, that’s it’. OK, I’m shooting baskets with [my son] and he says to me, ‘I can understand why you would want to’ and he didn’t finish his sentence, ‘but please don’t leave, we’ve been through enough’. (Courtney)
Where women did seek professional help for their partner’s violence, they often felt betrayed by their lack of response in a post-disaster context where men were suffering or had been “heroes”. One woman said, ‘I’ll get out of here in a box’, revealing her extreme level of fear and surrender.
Insights from the research have been endorsed at the highest levels of emergency management. In Victoria for example, the Deputy Commission of Police said:
‘This is about men being men, as they see themselves, as we see ourselves, in response to disasters... In public we are strong and fearless and not affected, but the implication for many women is when we come home, we don’t cope at all’. (Tim Cartwright)
The Gender and Disaster training modules focus on how women, men and LGBTIQA+ people experience emergencies and disasters differently. This includes:
- understanding the escalating rates of family violence and men’s harmful behaviours and suicide;
- referral of women to the services and support needed in emergencies and after disaster;
- support for men to access help in the community or workplace;
- planning to respond well to the needs of LGBTIQA+ people.
The training also explores what causes the different experiences including: the ways girls and boys are brought up to fulfil expected roles and the ways this links to harmful behaviours after disasters and in emergency services organisations.
The modules are based on research conducted over more than a decade, from Black Saturday survivors, and health and community professionals who worked in fire-affected communities in 2009 through to the long-term disaster research launched in 2019. It reflects reality rather than the myths we perpetuate about men as ‘protectors’ and women as ‘protected’. Three research projects released in 2018 and 2020 studied the experiences of LGBTIQA+ people in disasters.
The training includes an action planning workshop, built on the Gender and Emergency Management Guidelines, which ensures participants have a plan for implementing what they learn.
The training is unique in that other family violence training does not address the specific circumstances of the disaster or emergency context. As one local government organisation said:
“When we wanted to run training in our region we sought EOIs from a range of organisations. The LID training was the only one that was sympathetic to our need to look at family violence in the context of disaster and EM. The facilitator had an excellent knowledge of the sector and this made a huge difference.”
The gender and disaster work has been awarded at state, federal and international levels, in addition to two awards from Monash :
2019 - The Resilient Australia Award for ‘Nationally Significant Projects’ for “Addressing domestic violence in disasters through implementing National Gender and Emergency Management Guidelines”
2019 - The Victorian Resilient Australia Community Award 2019, sponsored by the Australian Government in partnership with the states and territories and managed by the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) for Long-term disaster resilience.
2017 - The Mary Fran Myers Award 2017 was awarded by the Natural Hazards Centre in Boulder, Colorado, and the Gender and Disaster Network for our collaborative efforts to reduce disaster vulnerability through advocacy, research and management. The award was to the lead researchers, the three GAD Pod organisations and executive officers, EMV and DHHS (along with GAD Taskforce members and community). The award is an important recognition of the Victorian-based research in the field of gender and disaster in issues that are of significance locally, nationally and internationally. (Awarded to the Gender and Disaster Collaboration.)
2014 - Resilient Australia Award, sponsored by the Attorney-General’s Department, for ‘Gender & Disaster: Leading the Change’, in the category of ‘Projects of National Significance’. (Awarded to WHGNE, WHIN & MIRI.)
2013 - Victorian Health Promotion Foundation Award for ‘Family violence after natural disaster research: Breaking new ground’, in the category of ‘Knowledge and Understanding’. (Awarded to WHGNE.)
2015 - The award for Best Thesis in the Social & Political Sciences was presented for ‘Women’s experience of violence following the aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires’. Supervisors: Professor Denise Cuthbert (RMIT), Dr Kirsten McLean, Dr Danielle Tyson. (Awarded to D. Parkinson.)
2013 - The 6th Professor Frederick ‘Skip’ Burkle Jnr Keynote Lecture, 2013 at the MUDRI Research Symposium, Monash University on 27/11/2013. (Awarded to D. Parkinson and C. Zara.)