Cairns & challenging perceptions

Blog by Tal Fitzpatrick, Resilience Leadership Project Coordinator

The Cairns Disaster Resilience Leadership workshops gave some really fascinating insights into the world of community perception, and misperception and how this impacts government and organisations in meeting community needs. 

We were lucky enough to have 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants, and the diversity of experiences and perspectives in the room led to some fruitful conversations. There were many instances in which we saw that just because we think we know what a community need is, doesn't mean we're correct. 

A common thought in disaster management is that being struck by disaster is the primary concern of all communities. However, the Torres Strait Islander participants told us their main concern isn't being hit themselves, but being cut off from Cairns. This is a major concern, because when when Cairns is cut off, all services to the island are cut off.

During Cyclone Yasi in February this year, nobody was focusing on the Torres Strait because they weren't in the direct line of the cyclone, however they were cut off from Cairns for a substantial amount of time. It goes to show, that when it comes to dealing with disaster in community, we need to think more laterally - and actually ask the community - about the consequences and repercussions.

Another participant told us about the experience of the deaf community during Cyclone Yasi. Due to the lack of awareness within the deaf community and the inability to find up-to-date credible information, Marleen Blake volunteered to translate all community messages. Her effort during this time has since been rewarded when she won the Cairns Regional Council Community Initiative Award. 

I'd also like to the thank the guest speakers: Phill Rist CEO of Girringun Aboriginal Corporation, Harry Tamwoy EMQ field officer and part of Keep Our Mob Climate Safe, Mandy Duke Disaster Management Officer at Cairns Regional Council and Jennie Schoof Coordinator of Volunteering Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Project.