The future requires a different approach

Climate change is increasing the severity, frequency and duration of natural disasters in Victoria

Fire seasons are getting longer and starting earlier, heat waves are becoming more frequent and storm intensity is increasing flood risk. Sea levels are rising, causing erosion and flooding in low lying coastal and tidal areas. Annual rainfall is predicted to decline across Victoria, but when extreme rainfall events occur, they are likely to be more intense. Climate change is also driving the spread of invasive pests and diseases, threatening the resilience of our agriculture sector, food security, community health and ecosystems.

Collectively, this will place growing pressure on the sector’s resources. Agencies are tested by concurrent and compounding emergencies, increasingly beyond the scale of what local communities can manage. Damaged infrastructure may interrupt critical service delivery at the same time as help is needed in more places. We need to ensure we are supporting communities to adapt to climate change impacts and rethinking how we approach recovery after an emergency event. Community resilience will be critical as people and assets are stretched.

Technology is changing emergency risk profiles

Information and communications technology offers incredible benefits – enabling us to connect with others in new ways, process vast amounts of information and learn things from all over the world. We can reach more people with real time information about emergency risks and events, reimagine how we navigate complex data systems with machine learning and reduce our carbon footprint through low emissions vehicles.

Despite these benefits, technology also presents challenges and costs. Critical and personal communications infrastructure is vulnerable to threats we have little direct control over and requires expensive upgrades, interoperability and training. Cyber-attacks, hackers and malware are an everyday risk – undealt with, the technology that keeps us connected can cause harm, leaving us isolated and vulnerable.

More Victorians are changing how and where they work

Under the restrictions of COVID-19, we quickly adapted to a life of working remotely, and many have now jumped on the opportunity to move out of urban centres to regional areas and the peri-urban fringe. Mobility has never been higher and traditional place-based communities are changing. In this new world it will be important to make sure that no matter where they are, Victorians can access the information they need to stay safe.

As the demographics of Victoria’s population continue to change, our emergency management sector will face new opportunities and challenges

We’ll need to attract new volunteers to balance an aging emergency service workforce and more strongly engage with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. There will be opportunities to rethink how we work with spontaneous volunteers and informal organisations and businesses and tap into traditionally underrepresented cohorts to better recognise skills and reduce practical and financial barriers.

We recognise First Nations peoples’ connections with and knowledge of Victoria’s lands and waters, and that as a result, First Nations peoples are impacted significantly by natural disasters. We are committed to supporting Aboriginal self-determination, including working with Victoria’s Traditional Owners to protect and restore Country.

Our future will bring new and novel emergencies, some outside our scope to manage or mitigate in Victoria alone. Interdependent global supply chains, trade and international travel all pose challenges for continuity of essential services, the management of human, animal and plant disease, and the potential for outbreaks.

This is the future we face and to meet the challenges it will present, we’ll need to work together. Our commitment to you demonstrates how we will work together so we can all build a future of Safer and More Resilient Communities.