National volunteer disaster relief organisation makes Queensland home

Department of Home Affairs

Brisbane will be the new home of a key national disaster recovery organisation, with the opening of Disaster Relief Australia’s National Operations Centre at Hendra this week.

The facility will serve as the headquarters for Disaster Relief Australia’s (DRA) operations, including planning and coordination of its nation-wide deployments, and as a hub for volunteer training.

The organisation, which is playing a growing role in national disaster recovery, unites the skills and experiences of Australian Defence Force veterans, emergency responders and civilian volunteers to deploy Disaster Relief Teams domestically and around the globe.

Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt, said the upscaling of DRA’s operations has been made possible through a $38.1 million grant in the Albanese Government’s 2022-23 Budget.

“This is a big milestone for DRA in the national coordination and training of volunteers involved in disaster relief and recovery,” Minister Watt said.

“As part of the Albanese Government’s efforts to reduce the pressure and reliance on the Australian Defence Force in disasters, in 2022 we backed DRA to upscale its operations and on-board an additional 5,200 volunteers by mid-2026.

“This addresses a critical need and provides the Australian, state, territory and local governments with access to a volunteer workforce skilled in incident management, damage and impact assessment, disaster mapping and debris management.

“Of course, as a proud Queenslander, I’m very pleased to see Brisbane become the hub for this national disaster organisation. Queensland cops a lot of severe weather, and in the last few months alone DRA personnel have been hard at work from FNQ to the South East, helping Queenslanders get back on their feet.

“Today is also a big milestone for communities in other disaster-prone parts of Australia who will equally benefit from DRA’s expertise and preparedness.”

National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Deputy Coordinator-General Emergency Management and Response, Joe Buffone, said the investment in the skilled volunteer workforce had already demonstrated its merit.

“The model of using an alternative capability to the Australian Defence Force was tested over the Higher Risk Weather Season, when we requested Disaster Relief Australia to deploy to parts of the country that had experienced significant impacts from bushfires, storms and cyclones,” Mr Buffone said.

“We had DRA teams in the Northern Territory, North Queensland and South East Queensland over January and February – their work leading the recovery efforts after the storms in the Logan, Scenic Rim and Gold Coast councils areas was the first time non-ADF personnel were deployed by the Commonwealth as the primary non-financial disaster response.”

DRA Chief Executive Officer Geoff Evans added: “The launch of this facility is a significant milestone for DRA and further aids our mission to deploy our volunteers efficiently and effectively whenever and wherever they are required.

“A base on the eastern seaboard gives us the ability to assist communities in need. It also further strengthens our relationship with NEMA as we provide the practical assistance and gritty hard work people need to recover from disasters.”

Brisbane was chosen as the centre for national operations for its robust infrastructure, accessibility, resource availability and cost efficiency. Its strategic location near key transport hubs means Brisbane is well-positioned to efficiently respond to disasters across the eastern seaboard and inland areas and ensure quick deployment of resources as required.

Disaster Relief Australia have recently been on the ground to assist with recovery, including in:

QLD:

  • Tropical Cyclone Jasper in Far North Queensland
  • SEQ Christmas Day storms
  • March 2023 Floods in Burketown, Doomadgee and Gregory.

VIC:

  • 2024 Grampians bushfires
  • 2022/24 floods in Echuca, Rochester and Shepparton
  • Ongoing recovery from 2021 severe storm event in Victoria’s Central Highlands.

WA:

  • 2023 Tropical Cyclone Ellie in the Kimberley
  • Wooroloo fire in February 2021. 

NSW:

  • 2022 floods in Forbes, Parkes and Cabonne local government areas
  • Ongoing recovery efforts from Black Summer bushfires in Yowrie and Windella, Verona, Upper Brogo, Quaama, and Cobargo
  • 2022 Northern Rivers floods.

TAS:

  • Ongoing recovery efforts from 2022 cyclonic winds on the Northwest Coast.

SA:

  • 2022 Riverland floods
  • 2020 Kangaroo Island bushfires.

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