2023 Resilient Australia Awards - Victorian winners

23 October 2023

On this page

  • About the Resilient Australia Awards (RAA)
  • Community category
  • Local Government category
  • School category 
  • Mental Health and Wellbeing category 

About the Resilient Australia Awards (RAA)

The Resilient Australia Awards celebrate initiatives that build whole of community resilience toward disasters and emergencies around Australia. 

The awards are sponsored by the Australian Government in partnership with the states and territories. We work with the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) to manage the Victorian awards process. This year, Victoria received 18 applications across the following 6 categories:

  • Community
  • Government 
  • Local Government
  • Business
  • School
  • Mental Health and Wellbeing. 

Victorian State level winners for the Resilient Australia Awards 2023 were announced at a ceremony, hosted by us, on Wednesday 18 October. Chris Stephenson – Deputy Emergency Management Commissioner presented awards to 4 winners and 3 highly commended entries across 4 categories.

“Well done to all of the recipients for their hard work and dedication to community resilience to emergencies. It was great to attend the awards and celebrate motivation, talent and innovation across a range of categories and ages.”

The 2023 Victorian winners are:

Community category

One winner and one Highly Commended Award for the Community category.

Winner: Community Award

The Sarsfield Community Association for “Sarsfield Snaps” 

Sarsfield Snaps is a community-led photography project which emerged immediately following the 2020 bushfires in East Gippsland.  It provided children and young people aged 3-18 years with an opportunity to share their perspectives following the bushfire disaster.  

Through this initiative, participants developed photography skills, made new friendships and grew in confidence. Public exhibitions were held across local communities including at the gallery in Bairnsdale which attracted over 600 visitors. 

A 6-week feature exhibition at the Melbourne Zoo was viewed by an estimated 500,000 visitors. There were also flow on effects to the broader community including positive mental health impacts on family members of all ages and stronger community connections.  

Sarsfield Snaps demonstrates a great way to engage families, community and young people and is an initiative which can be picked up and replicated in other communities.   

Highly Commended Award

St John Ambulance Victoria for “Defib in Your Street” 

Over 7,361 Victorians suffered an “out of hospital sudden cardiac arrest” in 2021/2022. 79% occurred in private residences and only 360 were discharged alive from hospital.  

The St John Ambulance Victoria “Defib in Your Street” program aims to significantly increase community knowledge of CPR and provide critical 24/7 access to defibrillators (defibs) within residential areas.  

Commencing CPR within the first 3-4 minutes, along with the use of a defibrillator, can increase survival rates by over 70%.   

St John Ambulance aims to drastically improve cardiac arrest outcomes for Victorians by providing the community with free accredited CPR classes, community education and access to a publicly available defib.  

The Defib in Your Street initiative demonstrates great community uplift with the potential to save many lives across diverse populations.

Local Government category

One winner and 2 Highly Commended Awards for the Local Government category.

Winner: Local Government Award

Buloke Shire Council for “The Paddock: The Goals”

In the aftermath of the Victorian October 2022 flood event, recovery efforts in the Buloke Shire faced a critical challenge with a volunteer fatigue epidemic. However, a transformative Vodcast streamed live in a football ground in the Mallee helped to realign their recovery journey goal posts, shifting their perspective through:

  • storytelling
  • reigniting community passion
  • sense of purpose, and
  • desire to make a difference.  

The launch of ‘The Paddock: The Goals’ Vodcast coincided with the commencement of the North Central League's football, netball, and hockey season, strategically leveraging the community’s deep-rooted active sports culture.

The Vodcast brought together the 6 sporting communities of Birchip, Charlton, Donald, Nullawil, Sea Lake, and Wycheproof which had all experienced the impact of the floods.

Originally launched as a single episode, the Vodcast's engagement reach went well beyond these sports grounds, prompting its extension to 10 episodes and further amplifying its community-building influence.

This initiative demonstrates links between community, government, business and emergency management agencies, and is a great example of a community-led resilience during recovery.

Highly Commended Award 

Cardinia Shire Council for “Bushfire Prepare”

Residential properties constitute a significant proportion of bushfire risk within the Cardinia Shire. 

Bushfire Prepare provides a collaborative, educational and empowering approach to private landowners wanting to reduce bushfire fuel on their property.

This initiative was developed as a tool to assist residents to:

  • better understand their bushfire risks and build their capacity around decision making for bushfire risk mitigation
  • broaden their understanding at their own pace, with support from facilitators if required.   

Practical workshops allow participants to consolidate learnings and provide opportunities for practical application of knowledge and skills in a collaborative and safe environment.  

Bushfire Prepare contributes to bushfire risk mitigation and supports new ways to work with community members and contribute to community resilience.

Highly Commended Award  

Hepburn Shire Council for “The Big Storm”

Following intense storms, Trentham was isolated for almost a week as emergency crews worked around the clock to restore services to the town’s 1,000 residents.  

"The Big Storm" is a compelling 128-page book which includes 37 first-hand accounts of ordinary people who survived an extraordinary event.   

The story and photography provide various perspectives including from community members and emergency services personnel as they respond to the significant storm event rescuing trapped and at-risk residents. It also walks you through their lives and the landscape in the aftermath of the storm.   

This is an excellent initiative clearly targeted to support the community with solid, self-contained art and storytelling - a valuable community resource, told from many different perspectives. 

School category  

One winner for the School category.

Winner: School Award 

Harkaway Primary School for “The Harkaway Primary School Manifesto and Bushfire Safety Committee” 

It is globally recognised that children and youth should be involved in helping their communities to prepare for natural hazards.

Child Centred Disaster Risk Reduction (CCDRR) is growing in relevance around the world, with the effects of climate change and urban expansion exposing children to more frequent and devastating natural hazards than ever before.  

Harkaway students have collaborated with fire agencies, educators, and experts to help design, develop, and test new approaches to CCDRR. This included:  

  • developing a manifesto   
  • a student showcase event  
  • conferences
  • presentations, and 
  • assisting in the development of a research-informed approach to bushfire education.  

A report outlining key findings of this initiative will be featured in the Natural Hazards Research Australia (NHRA) research communications.  

This Harkaway Primary School initiative has brought together representatives from the community, education sector and emergency services including the CFA to strengthen community resilience.

Mental Health and Wellbeing category   

One winner for the Mental Health and Wellbeing category.

Winner: Mental Health and Wellbeing  

The Southern Aurora Memorial

The Southern Aurora train disaster occurred at Violet Town in Victoria on 7 February 1969. Nine people died and over 100 passengers and railway staff were injured when the train, carrying a near-capacity load, crashed.

The Southern Aurora Memorial commemorates 'hundreds of people helping hundreds of strangers' and acknowledges human values on display during an emergency.

The project uses a range of art, design and information to provide opportunities for remembering, reflection, interaction and learning in a large meditative garden space. 

Recovery still continues for many people traumatised by the collision and during the aftermath, at a time when there were no counselling processes or understanding of the long-term impacts of a significant disaster.

Today, the Memorial also provides support to people suffering from distress, trauma and PTSD to support their mental health and wellbeing.  It was designed and delivered by community volunteers and was informed by local history and historians, individuals and various community groups.   

This initiative not only memorialises and commemorates the loss of lives, but also emphasises the value of collective action and coming together as a community.