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Launch of Green Cross 'Harden Up Queensland' website, Brisbane

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Launch of Green Cross 'Harden Up Queensland' website

20 October 2011

Location: Brisbane


First, may I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we meet on and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.


• The Honourable Neil Roberts MP, Minister for Police, Corrective Services and

Emergency Services

• Distinguished guests

• Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a pleasure to join you today in Brisbane to launch Green Cross Australia’s Harden Up Queensland website.

I have a strong personal interest in anything that helps individuals, families and communities be better prepared for disasters so I would like to thank the Green Cross, particularly your Chief Executive Officer Ms Mara Bun, for inviting me to speak today.

The 2010-11 disaster season was one of the worst Australia has faced.

The sequence of floods, cyclones, bushfires and storms was relentless.

And while many parts of Australia were badly affected, it was Queensland that was ‘ground zero’ - first with the floodwaters and then Cyclone Yasi.

Tragically, 35 people lost their lives as a result of the floods.

Amazingly but fortunately there were no fatalities that resulted from the direct impact of Cyclone Yasi.

This showed that the lessons had been learnt from Cyclone Larry and the people of Far North Queensland are to be congratulated for taking simple measures to protect themselves and each other.

This is testimony to the philosophy of ‘hardening up’.

It has certainly been a testing time for Queensland.

But I am pleased to see a city, and indeed a State, which is recovering and rebuilding.

The Commonwealth is committed to working with the Queensland Government, the emergency services, not for profit sectors, businesses and the community to rebuild Queensland.

In fact not just rebuild but create a more resilient Queensland.

Earlier this week the Prime Minister was in Brisbane to announce a further $1.1 billion in joint State and Territory funding for reconstruction including up to $18 million to better protect the town of Grantham against future flooding.

These funds will in part be used to moving housing to higher ground - a move the insurance industry wholeheartedly supports and will shift their funding to rebuild in the new area. Again this is an excellent example of ‘hardening up’.

Natural disasters in Australia are inevitable, and the trend is that these disasters are becoming more frequent, more severe and more costly.

So while recovery and reconstruction is obviously important, the Government is also focused on how we can better prepare for disasters and mitigate their impact when they occur.

In other words how we can make Australia more disaster resilient.

I have referred to a couple of good examples here in Queensland.

But we need our focus to be at a whole of Government level.

And significantly in that context, in February this year, the Council of Australian Governments adopted the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience.

National Strategy for Disaster Resilience and Commonwealth Activities

The National Strategy provides the blueprint for making Australians better prepared for and protected against natural disasters.

To build a disaster resilient Australia, we all need the knowledge, skills and abilities to take appropriate action.

The Strategy calls for increased individual and community involvement in preparing for disasters.

A crucial part of that is we all know how to prepare for natural disasters.

I emphasise this is not just a task for Governments.

Businesses, not for profit organisations, communities and individuals need to be able to play their part.

The Commonwealth government is investing $38.8m in disaster prevention and mitigation initiatives this financial year.

These initiatives are a product of the strong cooperative partnerships between the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, non-government organisations and the private sector.

The Harden Up website is an excellent example of how these partnerships can create practical resources for ordinary Australians.

Green Cross Australia’s Harden Up Queensland Website

Both the Commonwealth and Queensland governments have contributed funding toward the development of the Harden Up website through the National Disaster Resilience Program.

The aim of Harden Up is to provide clear and accessible information about severe weather events in Queensland.

It then sets out practical steps individuals can take to prepare for such events and protect homes, families and communities.

Ready access to disaster information helps to increase people’s awareness of risk and their ability to prepare for natural disasters.

Resources such as Harden Up assist in preparing for disasters by providing information for decision makers and facilitating community collaboration.

As I have mentioned, learning from past events better prepares us for future events.

Knowing what to do and where to go to for more information is an important part of that capability.

The website is a result of collaboration between Green Cross and several organisations, including the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, the Insurance Council of Australia and the Property Council of Australia.

The Attorney-General’s Department provided further assistance to Green Cross in the development of Harden Up by contributing verified data on disasters in Queensland.

We were able to contribute this data as a result of a project the Australian Emergency Management Institute, which is part of my Department, is undertaking to produce a national online knowledge base for disaster resilience.

The Disaster Knowledge Base project will deliver a national interactive online website that provides quality verified information relating to disasters in Australia.

It will provide details of disaster events dating from the 1600s to the present day and includes details such as deaths, insured and other costs, as well as multimedia.

The Disaster Knowledge Base is scheduled to go live in mid 2012 and will be another resource to help individuals, communities and organisations prepare for the disaster risks in their region.


Making sure communities are ready, willing and able to deal with natural disasters is no easy task.

Over the past two weeks Emergency Management Australia has been holding pre disaster season briefings in every State and Territory including Queensland.

The outlook for the coming summer suggests we may be in for another rugged disaster season.

The Bureau of Meteorology assessment is that wet conditions from last season combined with warm temperatures over the past few months has resulted in substantial grassland growth in central Queensland.

Given the forecast for warm conditions, this creates a scenario for above average grass fire activity for the warmer months ahead.

The Tropical Cyclone season climate outlook suggests a 70-75% chance of an above average number of tropical cyclones - the average is 4-5.

For areas north of the Tropical of Capricorn, there is a higher chance of more rainfall than is normal.

In the southeast, the neutral to borderline La Nina conditions may mean a slight increase in the number of storms during the season.

In summary, while we all will be hoping for a quieter summer this year, especially after the trauma of our last disaster season here in Queensland, every indication is that emergency responders will be busy.

Together with the States and Territories, the Commonwealth is doing all it can to help prepare for the floods, bushfires, cyclones and other natural disasters that regularly confront us at this time of year.

The launch of the Harden Up Queensland website before the upcoming disaster season will boost the ability of individuals to make sure they and their families are also prepared for this summer and into the future.

I would like to congratulate Green Cross and all the other organisations involved in developing this very impressive resource.

Thank you