Overview of the event
Victoria experienced a weather event, part of a low-pressure system, that moved across Southeast Australia during the week commencing Monday 7 June 2021.
On Wednesday 9 June, Victoria faced damaging to destructive winds and heavy rainfall that affected central and eastern parts of the state overnight, gradually easing on Thursday 10 June 2021.
The winds and rain caused significant impact and damage, including riverine flooding, unstable and fallen trees, damaged power infrastructure, telecommunication outages and major damage to road networks.
Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) received close to 10,300 Requests for Assistance (RFAs) across the state relating to the flood and storm event.
This event significantly impacted Victorian communities across a range of areas and in various ways, including:
- wind damage
- fallen trees
- road damage
- power outages
- telecommunications outages and
- impacts on a wide range of critical infrastructure.
Therefore, it provides an important opportunity to capture and explore the learnings from various perspectives.
The June 2021 Extreme Weather Event Coordinated Learning Review (the Review) was established to ensure a coordinated and consistent approach for reviewing the event.
The purpose of the Review was to establish a coordinated and consistent approach for reviewing this emergency event to ensure that lessons of state-wide multi-agency significance and aspects of particular interest to impacted communities (including both areas of good practice and improvement opportunities) were identified, implemented and shared across the emergency management sector and with impacted communities.
The June 2021 Extreme Weather Event Community Report (the Report) is centred on the lesson’s management approach as defined in the:
- EM-LEARN Framework (2015) and
- Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience: Lessons Management Handbook (2nd Ed, 2019)
The Report is the product of extensive collaboration between:
- local governments and
- members of the community
This collaboration captured and shared the learnings from the June 2021 Extreme Weather Event (the Event).
The Report is designed to support community level learning as well as provide a feedback loop regarding information collected, analysed and the next steps.
The data was holistically analysed and 11 lessons have been identified as of particular interest to impacted communities. These 11 lessons feature in the community report and can be summarised by the following trends:
Responder agency support
Impacted communities expressed gratitude for the support they received from responder agencies and other community members and the way the local community came together in a time of need.
Complexities with communicating public information and warnings due to energy and telecommunications outages, and the challenges with forecasting the Event, resulting in knowledge and information gaps within affected communities.
In addition, there are differing levels of community understanding regarding flood warnings, including the need for non-technical language, the differences within and between minor, moderate, and major thresholds, and the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning.
Community engagement and risk awareness
Community preparation and knowledge of how to prepare and respond to flood and storm events are not as comprehensive as fire-related events, although communities showed initiative and resilience when it came to the recovery phase of the event.
The Event also compounded the existing financial and psychosocial hardship businesses and community members were experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Weather intelligence and predictive services
There were complexities and challenges in predicting the Event, which resulted in consequences such as delays and/or confusion relating to the warnings and information communicated.
Communities and emergency management agencies were further hindered by the lack of intelligence and situational awareness during the initial response to the Event.
Value was found in the early establishment of relief centres and community hubs, however, their establishment was hindered due to the consequences of the storm and flood event.
In addition, initial welfare calls made to community members by the the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) and AusNet due to being listed as a power dependent customer or experiencing prolonged power outages were generally appreciated.
However, community highlighted guidance and support is required from recovery agencies and local governments to assist in accessing and navigating financial assistance.
Transition to recovery
Community valued the wide variety of recovery services implemented to support impacted communities. Communities with lower participation rates in the services/initiatives indicated that many residents were unaware of what services were available and at times felt uncomfortable accessing services as they perceived other community members to be in greater need of assistance.
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