Strong communities are active, confident, resilient and better places to live. They are places where people feel safe, can achieve their full potential and are well equipped to respond to challenges and change. They are supported and governed by people with a genuine interest and passionate drive to see the best for current and future generations.
Strong communities effectively reduce disadvantage by expanding opportunities for people within their community whether it be in a city, town, suburb, street, neighbourhood or household.
The current and emerging strength of a region with multi-cultural and indigenous communities provides a rich tapestry of beliefs and values. Acceptance (rather than tolerance) of a variety of ages, abilities, religious beliefs, socio-economic status and even opinions emerged as a strong vision for the region.
Research indicates that ‘safety’ is the most significant issue in the minds of the community after improved roads. It is essential for the wider community to participate in the planning and actions to deliver a safe environment.
The Victorian Government “Regional Matters 2005” shows that crime (including against person and property) in the region rates in the second highest category. Only 66-70% of residents say they “feel safe walking down the street alone at night.” These indicators are approximately the same as for Melbourne and leaves scope for action to improve actual and perceived safety and security in the region.
Subjective perceptions of the local environment such as a poor reputation, fear of crime or lack of neighbourliness can affect the preparedness of individuals to participate in their local community.
Sport and recreation play a big part in our feelings of community pride and individual well-being. The extent and diversity of participation in sport and recreation is an important indicator of people’s involvement in their community.
The existence of mutual trust and respect and a sense of community can promote a supportive society that reduces or avoids many potential risks to good health. Differences in living and working conditions, access to services, facilities and basic needs are suggested to be linked to levels of trust and community interaction.
In 2003-2004 there were 1,549 (reported) victims of family violence incidents in the G21 region.
Studies attempting to determine the direct and indirect costs of family violence produce direct cost estimates ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 per case and indirect costs ranging from $22,000 to $51,000 per case. These incidences vary from minor to extreme and have corresponding physical and psychological damage on adults and children as well as flow on effects to employers and businesses.
Whilst the direct responsibilities for provision of services which deal with family violence lie with Police and the Departments of Justice and Human Services and non government agencies, there is a need for all major agencies including Councils to recognise the human and economic cost of family violence on the local communities in the G21 region.
For example, we will need to monitor and respond to the impact on social outcomes of changes to household structures in our region, such as the increased number of single person households.
DHS have recently funded an integrated family violence system with input from a number of stakeholders and services. This new service response is about co-ordinating better service responses to victims and perpetrators of violence.
Children and young people
Whilst families are the most significant foundations for a child’s health, learning and social development, current research demonstrates the importance of the surrounding community in supporting children’s development and well-being.
The United Nations Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) includes a local system of good governance committed to fulfilling children’s rights. They are represented by any local system of governance, where the voices, needs, priorities and rights of children are an integral part of public policy, programs and decision-making. The process incorporates a number of characteristics that prioritize children as an integral focus of community development.
The City of Greater Geelong’s SafeStart Project is a Victorian Government initiative that addresses children’s injury prevention and education for parents, including home fire safety.
A renewed focus on the specific and unique needs of young children in the G21 region must explore the potential for implementing such existing programs as well as working towards the provision of high quality children’s services and facilities across the region.
The employment opportunities, health, education and skill levels of young people in the G21 region are considerably lower than the Victorian average.
Programs to improve experiences and opportunities for young people in the areas of education, training, employment, health, sport and recreation and the arts must be supported throughout the region. Increasing economic, educational, and cultural opportunities will minimise poor social outcomes by enabling people to respond better to challenges, emergencies and opportunities as they arise.
Networks and communications
Effective links between personal, community and governance networks delivers improved health and well-being, reduced crime, better response to disaster, better education, increased acceptance and improved facilities.
We must find new ways of communicating with people from disadvantaged backgrounds given that low literacy rates and language barriers, such as reliance on print media, particularly in non-free newspapers, is not enough. Word of mouth is most effective and therefore the importance of networks that have good connections to target communities is essential.
Key social networks contributing to community strength are:
• Close personal networks including family, work, friends and neighbours provide the foundations for dealing with everyday life such as taking on new challenges, developing new skills and exploring new roles and experiences.
• Associational and community networks such as sporting clubs, business, community and volunteer organisations give people valuable experience in how to assess issues, appreciate public initiative debates and take action.
• Governance networks including all levels of government and all other organisations that make decisions in, or about, communities. Strong and inclusive governance networks provide people with the capacity to identify and assess issues, enter into public initiative debates and take action to get things done, and
• Volunteerism, a strong indicator of community strength, volunteering has experienced a significant decline in many areas of the region including the CFA where lower membership is challenging the viability of brigades.
Investing in community strength can minimise the impact of disasters such as fires, extreme weather, drought and the spread of pests and viral diseases. The incidence of such disasters is predicted to increase as a result of climate change over the timeframe of this plan.
An integrated approach for disaster management based on sound risk management principles and a robust planning framework, will increase the ability of the region to prevent, respond to and recover from disaster. Failure to achieve self reliant, sustainable and resilient communities could put at risk the social, economic and environmental well-being of this region.
Collaborative efforts that are sensitive and appropriate to each community of interest should engage both specific demographic segments and geographic areas of interest to ensure success. Generating a shared understanding of the issues and responsibility for solutions will result in fewer instances of disadvantage and vulnerability to safety, disaster and emergency situations. It will also increase the ability to respond and recover quickly.
The geography, vegetation and climate of Victoria makes it one of the most wildfire-susceptible regions of the world.
According to the Victorian Auditor-General’s Performance Audit Report on Fire Prevention and Preparedness, the most severe fire weather occurs in the south-eastern and south-western corners of Australia, where the meteorological systems produce very strong, dry and hot winds. These areas also produce comparatively tall forests with associated heavy fuel loads. These wet forests occasionally dry out and, under extreme fire weather conditions, their heavy fuel loads contribute to wildfire intensity.
It is anticipated that the incidence of extreme fire weather will increase over the timeframe of this plan, due to the anticipated effects of climate change, including lower rainfall, higher temperatures and more extreme weather.
The G21 region includes several high risk locations, including areas that were affected by Ash Wednesday in February 1983, when over 100 fires swept across Victoria and South Australia, killing 75 people and destroying more than 2,900 buildings.
As permanent and tourist populations increase across the region, so too will the risk of deliberately lit fires and pressure on evacuation infrastructure. There is a need to identify and assess community risks to minimise the occurrence and mitigate the effect, of bushfire, grassfires, residential and industrial fires on the community.
Wildfire management involves 4 broad activities:
• prevention – reducing the risk of a wildfire starting
• preparedness – ensuring that firefighting agencies and wildfire-prone communities are ready to respond appropriately to wildfire and can minimise damage
• response – ensuring that firefighting is co-ordinated, efficient and appropriate, and
• recovery – strategies and services supporting affected areas in their reconstruction of infrastructure and restoration of social, environmental and economic well being.
The G21 Community Safety and Strengthening Leadership Group has identified several objectives and programs to create regional approaches for the planning of safe, self-sufficient, resilient and sustainable communities, with a particular focus on wildfire management. The Leadership Group objectives include:
• Providing leadership, direction and support as regional advocates to existing community safety and strengthening committees across the five G21 municipalities.
• Promoting and encouraging community participation and ownership in the identification and treatment of risks, through volunteerism.
• Engaging communities to ensure local knowledge is integrated into local solutions, and
• Empowering communities to safely and effectively respond to events which threaten themselves and their communities.
City of Greater Geelong has developed an Integrated Fire Management Planning model based on the principles and objectives of the State Government, Integrated Fire Management Planning project. The model includes an agreed methodology for involving the community in planning decisions and working with communities to achieve self reliance, resilience and sustainability in partnership with fire management and other government agencies.
CFA Geelong Office is working with local volunteer brigades within the Bellerine Group of Brigades to develop and trial a community development model. The key objectives of this trial include:
• Building volunteer skills and knowledge
• Involving existing and recruiting new volunteers from a diverse background and experience based on the broader role broader membership concept, and
• Working with and educating vulnerable communities to achieve self reliance, resilience and sustainability.
A CFA /Surfcoast Shire Initiative aims to engage the tourism sector to build their capacity, awareness and influence their behaviour and decision making so they become self reliant, resilient and sustainable in the event of a wildfire. The project objectives include:
• Improving the safety of tourists on days of high wildfire risk by influencing their behaviour and decision making
• Improving the preparedness of tourist providers for a wildfire event
• Increasing the resilience of the tourism industry to respond to and recover from a wildfire event, and
• Strengthening local community capacity and input into prevention and preparedness decision making.
The Breamlea Community Fire Management Planning project is designed to achieve a totally integrated fire management plan between CFA, City of Greater Geelong, DSE and the Breamlea community.
Once these initiatives have been fully implemented, the lessons learned will be used to create models and implementation strategies for fire management in the G21 region. The continuing development of initiatives such as these should be supported and encouraged throughout the region.
Colac Otway Shire and Deakin University Municipal Public Health Plan Indicators Project 2004
Department for Victorian Communities 2005
Department for Victorian Communities, A Fairer Victoria: Creating Opportunity and Addressing Disadvantage 2005
Department for Victorian Communities, Building Stronger Communities 2004
Department for Victorian Communities, Indicators of Community Strength: a Framework of Evidence 2006
Department of Human Services
- Neighbourhood Renewal Education and Learning Strategy
- Participation and Partnerships Strategy
- Health and Well-being Strategy
Department of Justice -Victorian Family Violence Database 2006
Laing and Bobic, Economic Costs of Domestic Violence 2002
Victorian Auditor-General’s Performance Audit Report on Fire Prevention and Preparedness
HORIZON 1 (up to 5 years): 3.1.1:
Increase community volunteering and engagement in activities including: local area planning and decision making, community associations, the arts, cultural activities, education, environment, sports, tourism and recreation. Find projects
Increase the region’s capacity for risk-based, integrated fire, safety and disaster management planning and implementation that is consistent with the “Victorian State Disaster Plan”. Find projects
Increase community strength and resilience through developing strong personal, associational, community and governance networks across the region - including support for the Geelong Local Indigenous Network. Find projects
HORIZON 2 (5 to 20 years): 3.1.4:
Minimise the social, community and economic impacts of violence against individuals and family violence. Find projects
Ensure the region performs in highest quartile for all major education, crime and safety indicators as benchmarked against State and national standards. Find projects
MONITORING OUR PROGRESS - ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITIES:
We will monitor changes in our personal, community and governance networks as well as risk and hazard mitigation using indexes available from the Department for Victorian Communities and State Emergency Services.
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