What we do

We aim to increase the resilience of Victorians in the face of emergencies and disasters through Gender and Disaster Training Modules.

We educate that women and men experience emergencies and disasters differently. Seeing emergency management through a gender lens allows for a more accurate assessment of the different vulnerabilities and strengths of women and men. Being alert to this at each stage of emergency management is the first step in effective planning and response, and in building community resilience.

The problem

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 2012,  when opening our 2012 Hidden Disaster Conference, the Deputy Police Commissioner 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)

Concern for children is paramount to women’s decisions, and sometimes it traps women. In this research, two women had direct requests from their children to stay.

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.


The Emergency Management sector, including core organisations such as the CFA, SES, MFB, AV, Victoria Police, DELWP, etc. and the broader recovery sector including Local Government, VCOSS, Red Cross, Victorian Council of Churches, other faith-based organisations, etc.

The solution

At its simplest level, the GAD Pod Training modules educate emergency management personnel to refer women to the services and support they need in emergencies and after disasters; and to support men to access help in the community or the workplace.  At deeper levels, it explores 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 with Black Saturday survivors and health and community professionals who worked in fire-affected communities. It reflects reality rather than the myths we perpetuate about men as ‘protector’ and women as ‘protected’.

An additional component is an Action Planning Workshop, built on the Gender and Emergency Management Guidelines we developed  in 2016 with NEMP funding.

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.”

Expected demand
  • Following release of VHREOC inquiry into bullying and harassment in the MFB and CFA
  • Included in  DHHS ‘Addressing family violence in communities recovering from emergencies’
  • A case study exercise in the new DVRC training for Change the Story based on disaster
  • Following the next Victorian disaster (other states with recent disasters are pursuing this training, e.g. Tasmania and Queensland).

The training has been evaluated both internally and externally. Monash University obtained ethics approval and conducted a thorough in-depth evaluation of the four modules as part of the NDRGS funded ‘Lessons in Disaster’ project in 2015/16.

The gender and disaster work has been awarded at state, federal and international levels, in addition to two awards from Monash University:

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.)

Specific information about taking up the GAD Pod training: