Funding of $1.8m granted to strengthen community climate resilience in Yarra Ranges and Campaspe Shire

June 21, 2023 |

The Commonwealth Government’s National Emergency Management Agency has granted $1.8 million to assist communities in Yarra Ranges and Campaspe Shire to build resilience to future climate disasters through the Disaster Ready Fund.

The Strengthening Place-based Resilience in Yarra Ranges and Campaspe Communities Project will build resilience to extreme climate events through collaborative action between local community-based organisations.

The project will engage up to 40 organisations in each region, including community legal services, health services, community service organisations, emergency management and local Government. The aim of the project is to increase the capacity and capability of local organisations to prepare for and respond collaboratively to disaster risks and hazards.

The project will be co-delivered by Jesuit Social Services’ Centre for Just Places, ARC Justice (through its Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre), Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC), and The Federation of Community Legal Centres (Federation).

A report conducted by Jesuit Social Services in 2021 identified Yarra Ranges and Campaspe Shire as two of the most disadvantaged regions in Victoria. These disadvantages were further exacerbated by the catastrophic climatic flooding events of 2022.

Extreme climate events can have severe psychological, financial, physical and emotional consequences for people and communities. They also can create significant legal challenges.

Legal issues that are common among people living in disaster zones include insurance issues, property damage disputes, challenges covering rental costs and accessing social security. For those already experiencing legal challenges, climate events can exacerbate issues, including homelessness, debt, family violence, elder abuse and/or poor mental health. However, many people do not know where to turn to access the relevant supports.

The Strengthening Place-based Resilience in Yarra Ranges and Campaspe Communities Project is a partnership between cross-sectoral organisations that will integrate services including community legal services into a system of holistic care for Victorians experiencing climatic events. This collaborative approach will ensure that residents of Campaspe Shire and Yarra Ranges will be better prepared for and supported to cope with the potential impacts of climatic events.

Donna Askew, Director Partnerships & Community Engagement at Eastern Community Legal Centre  said:

“From the 2009 bushfires to more recent storm events, we [Eastern Community Legal Centre] have provided legal help and support to Yarra Ranges communities impacted by extreme weather and the increasing impacts of climate change.

“This new cross-sector collaboration is a vital next step in supporting the future resilience of at-risk communities through the building of place-based coalitions of local organisations, better equipped to understand compounding risks and able to respond through shared adaptation strategies.”

Damian Stock, CEO of ARC Justice said:

“As our climate changes, resilience to climate events is more important than ever. We know that communities can be resilient to climate events, and that aligning local organisations to work together to prepare for and reduce the impact of disasters increases community resilience even further.

“Free community legal services are essential in assisting communities to prevent or resolve problems that arise from disasters. The funding from the Disaster Ready Fund will enable ARC Justice to collaborate with other community organisations and local governments to develop place-based action plans that leverage local knowledge and leadership.

“We will draw on the research and community facilitation expertise of Jesuit Social Services, and learn from Eastern Community Legal Centre’s experience of responding to bushfires and storms over the past decade, to develop a robust and coordinated plan to respond to the socio-legal challenges resulting from our changing climate.”

Dr Bronwyn Lay, Climate Justice and Response Lead at the Federation of Community Legal Centres  said:

“We’ve witnessed the catastrophic impact that climatic events have had on Victorian communities, and recognise the unprecedented and unmitigated hardship that those living in disaster zones often experience.

“People and communities deserve access to the wide range of services they need to keep them safe and supported during climate disasters. By connecting people to the relevant supports, this project will help people and communities to build resilience, collaboration and prevention of harms that can result from climate impact.

“We welcome this funding and thank the Federal Government for responding to the urgent need for investment in climate resilience. Community services, including Community Legal Centres, provide a vital service for people experiencing disasters, and the Federal Government is right to recognise this.”

“Our prior experience in developing a Collaborative Action Plan in Melbourne’s West gives us an understanding of what is needed to mobilise and support climate justice in these regions.

“This project scales up this planning process, and will ultimately support place-based organisations to build resilience through shared action,” says John Ryks, Acting Executive Director at Jesuit Social Services’ Centre for Just Places.

Sign up