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Disaster risk reduction

April 13, 2012

(Photograph: Rick Bajornas)

Speaking at a United Nations General Assembly debate on Disaster Risk Reduction on April 12, I praised the partnership between Australia and Indonesia in managing the risk of disasters in the region.

The value of investing in regional Tsunami early warning systems was confirmed following this week’s earthquakes off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.

Our regional neighbours received an Indian Ocean wide tsunami warning just seven minutes after the 8.5 magnitude earthquake occurred at 6:38pm Australian Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, April 11.

It was a great relief to all Australians and our regional neighbours when the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre issued a nil tsunami threat for Australia within 24 minutes of the earthquake.

Early warning systems are critical to saving lives and to reducing the risks and costs of natural disasters caused by tsunamis.

Our region gets more than its share of natural disasters and early warning systems are now agreed as essential to limiting their impacts.

Following the devastating tsunamis in the Indian Ocean in 2004 and in Japan last year, the international community has become acutely aware of the value of investing in disaster risk reduction.

Australia is a strong supporter of international efforts to reduce the risk that natural disasters pose in developing nations – particularly countries in our region.

In May 2005, following the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Australian Government committed $69.8 million over four years (2005-09), to the Australian Tsunami Warning System initiative.

This initiative:

• provides a comprehensive tsunami warning system for Australia;
• supports establishment of an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system; and
• helps facilitate a tsunami warning system for the South West Pacific.

Through the Australia-Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction, the Australian aid program has provided support to Indonesia’s Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) and Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMMKG) to assist in quickly estimating the impact of earthquakes.

In eastern Indonesia, Australia is also supporting a program with funding of $1 million to assist communities to identify priorities for disaster risk reduction through mapping the parts of their community that are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters using a free ‘wiki-map’.

And in the Pacific, Australia has upgraded equipment at monitoring stations in 12 countries to strengthen tsunami warning capacity and measure sea level changes.

  1. April 13, 2012 4:13 pm

    Apart from being a wonderful report on the progress that it is being made it’s also a ripper of a press-release. I have noticed that Ausaid published it in full on their website.

    May I note that it was embarrassing during the Indian Ocean Tsunami to watch on TV Australian servicemen slowly passing water bottles down a conga line as if it was the 19th Century. So much for pallets and mechanization.

    I really hope that before the next disaster in our region and in light of the poor effort that was the NGO operations in East Timor that the political hacks such as Senator Robert Hill’s wife get purged out of the Australian NGOs especially the Australian UNICEF operation.

    Some may recall that Australian UNICEF sent large amounts of Houses-in-a-Box of which they were very proud. Unfortunately no-one had worked out that you might have to be able to join the two roof sections together with some sort of sealing gasket so that it would not leak and immediately fall apart. The same problem with School-in-a-Box. It is with great sadness that I am prompted to make the following comment: The whole UNICEF effort to convert East Timor to one version of Tetum when there were only 7 Tetum books in the whole world (all written by one Maoist nut at Macquarie University – such a human tragedy that will limit the IQ of East Timorese for generations. Could someone please sack some NGO Mandarins?

    As a Senator and the best Foreign Minister Australia has had within my lifetime perhaps you would give some attention to the benefits of Australia deploying DDT as the best way to combat malaria in the aftermath of a disaster. Not necessarily on a long-term basis but where there has been a disaster and a destroyed infrastructure and where outbreaks of malaria are certain.

  2. C Lamb permalink
    April 15, 2012 10:14 pm

    Very good Bob. One thing you might like to note is that the Australian position on Disaster Risk Reduction (or DRR, in the industry) borrowed heavily from the work done by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and there is a lot of strong cooperation at national and field levels with national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to but flesh on the programs, including in Indonesia. AusAid in particular has a very good relationship with IFRC in this field, and from what I’ve seen particularly values the contact the National Societies provide with the communities at risk. It might be good to mention this on some useful future occasion.
    But very good to see such a good intervention on this important subject. Too many governments and others give their attention to response, and too few realise how many lives are saved, and money too, by effective risk reduction work.

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