Unsafe Havens: Disaster Evacuation Centres Fail Women, Children and Non-Binary people

Violence and sexual assaults are rampant in unsafe evacuation centres post-disaster. Today in Parliament, Abigail demanded the NSW Government address and rectify the underfunding of domestic, family and sexual violence in frontline services.

Abigail said:

I give notice that on the next sitting day I will move: 

(1) That this House notes that according to the University of Newcastle in the report titled “Health and wellbeing impacts of the Northern Rivers Flood 2022” published in December 2023:

  • the floods that swept the Northern Rivers in 2022 saw widespread devastation of the physical environment and the loss of over 4000 homes and property, which caused ongoing unsafe living conditions and flood trauma at an individual, family and community level; 
  • during and after the floods, women and non-binary people reported experiencing unmanaged risks at evacuation centres when seeking shelter and support including: 
    • a lack of triaging to create discrete sections which forced women and children to share spaces with domestic violence perpetrators and sex offenders, 
    • reports of gender-based violence and sexual assaults resulting in pregnancies, and
    • lack of access to pharmacies and contraception, and severely inaccessible reproductive health services; and 
  • the government must take urgent action to: 
    • prioritise the safety needs of vulnerable populations, including women and children, at all phases of disaster preparedness and post disaster responses, and ensure that the community are engaged throughout these phases,
    • establish triage systems to identify and respond to the needs of women, children and non-binary people especially in frontline services like evacuation centres,
    • improve access to health services as a priority for vulnerable populations during and immediately after a disaster,
    • prioritise Indigenous frameworks in collective, community-based trauma informed responses,
    • collaborate with community-based services when responding to disasters, particularly those led by victim-survivors, and
    • commit to funding essential disaster related work undertaken by volunteer and community organisations.

(2) That this House further notes that this report confirms global research that women disproportionately bear the brunt of climate change induced disasters, which is largely due to disaster response and recovery plans ignoring and overlooking the needs of vulnerable people. 

(3) That this House calls on the NSW Government to rectify the chronic underfunding by successive governments of domestic, family and sexual violence frontline services by urgently investing in the sector and implementing the recommendations of the University of Newcastle’s report in full.

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