The Gender and Disaster Pod has received awards at state, national and international levels from the training ‘Lessons in Disaster’ which was developed in response to the research we conducted after Black Saturday in 2009. We would offer this 5-hour training and a Train-the-Trainer in three fire-affected communities. There are two trainers, a fire-fighter of 30+ years and a woman with expertise in gender and domestic violence. Issues for men are addressed strongly, e.g. their reluctance to seek help.

What issues are addressed?

Post-bushfire social recovery in fire-affected communities. Men are known to suffer through unrealistic expectations of them as ‘protectors and providers, strong and silent’ and women suffer from expectations that they will forgo their own needs to support husbands and children, even to the extent of harm through domestic violence. Children suffer as a result.

Alleviating suffering / disadvantage?

The end result sought through this community training is the reduction of harm to women and girls through increased family violence that is known to occur in the aftermath of disasters. This includes new violence in previously happy homes. The gender aspect of the training also addresses career penalties for women that occur in the post-disaster period through additional caring responsibilities and lost infrastructure as a result of the fires. For men, there are career penalties when seeking psychological help, and this exacerbates their unwillingness to speak about their experiences or obtain help.

Changing Policy, Practices & Systems?

Our GAD Pod work over the past decade has seen high level partnerships, e.g. with the Emergency Management Commissioner, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, the CFA, the Aust. Institute for Disaster Resilience, etc. We have achieved changes in DHHS forms and policy, e.g. the DHHS FV and Emergencies Framework; and inclusion of our research in AIDR’s Emergency Manuals used by the EM sector.

Investing in or empowering women?

This project educates women and men about the way gendered expectations are harmful to everyone. In naming discrimination against women, and the health costs to men despite their greater privilege, people become aware of the decisions they make without questioning why. For example, our 2 post-cards on fire planning with a gendered lens question couples about why they are deciding for the man to stay and ‘fight fires’ and the women to leave with children, often too late through trying to persuade the man to leave with them. It also questions assumptions about expectations of women to give up careers when there are demands for extra family caring, even in a post-disaster context.

Media / Promotion?

Yes. There has been significant media attention to the issue of gender in disasters, both in terms of fire planning (stay or go) and in terms of what happens in their aftermath. Our long-term disaster resilience launched in February 2019 and our previous research are often in the news and we have kept a positive and balanced approach, caring for both men and women. We have been requested by Washington DC based National Public Radio for interviews on February 1, 2020.

How is success evaluated / measured?

All our training and research has evaluations. The training has been well received by 450+ emergency service personnel and community members who have so far attended training. It has been awarded by state and federal health and emergency organisations, e..g VicHealth and Aust. Instit for Disaster Resilience.