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Australia (Assisting State) Disaster Management Reference Handbook, August 2020

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Australia plays a critical role in the IndoPacific Region, leading efforts for regional civilmilitary security, economic stability and growth, and disaster risk, response, and recovery in the region. These efforts include providing disaster management and humanitarian assistance to neighboring nations, as well as financial support.

In addition, Australia takes part in several humanitarian related training and other exercises aimed at strengthening international relationships and interoperability with partner and host nations in the region. Exercises and engagements ensure that partner nations understand each other’s capabilities and systems and have trust in one another before conducting combined operations during a crisis.

The area surrounding Australia is highly susceptible to disasters such as cyclones, earthquakes, volcano eruption, natural and man-made disasters, as well as pandemics. Australia is well positioned to respond to many disasters affecting the surrounding Pacific Island Countries (PICs). Recently, Australia provided disaster assistance to affected countries after Cyclone Harold (Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga, 2020), the Sulawesi Earthquake and Tsunami (Indonesia, 2018), Cyclone Gita (Tonga, 2018), the Volcano Response (Vanuatu, 2017 & 2018) and during Cyclone Winston (Fiji, 2016). Australia is also providing support to neighboring PICs facing challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia’s COVID-19 partnerships and aid focuses on the Pacific and Southeast Asia, with the Pacific, Timor-Leste and Indonesia as their closest neighbors being their highest priorities.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is responsible for leading the Australian Government’s response to international humanitarian crises. DFAT, in coordination with other relevant Australian Government agencies, monitors the performance of the humanitarian aid program to maximize outcomes. Australia has a range of specialist capabilities to respond to humanitarian crises. This includes Australian personnel deployed to provide humanitarian expertise; providing lifesaving humanitarian relief supplies; and involves partnerships with local and international humanitarian organizations that have capacity to deliver support in line with Australia’s humanitarian priorities.

Australia faces natural hazards including bushfires, drought, cyclones, and others. The Department of Home Affairs leads the disaster emergency management response through Emergency Management Australia (EMA).
EMA delivers programs, policies, and services that strengthen Australia’s national security and emergency management capability. During a national emergency in Australia, state and territory governments manage emergency responses for their jurisdictions. When all other jurisdictional capability or capacity has been exhausted, non-financial assistance from the Australian Government under the Commonwealth Government Disaster Response Plan (COMDISPLAN) can be requested. EMA, through the Australian Government Crisis Coordination Centre (CCC) develop wholeof-Australian Government response options for disasters or emergencies within Australian jurisdictions.

Recently Australia has responded to domestic deadly bushfires as well as a pandemic. During the 2019-2020 fire season, 21% of Australia’s forested area burned and it triggered a national crisis. As a result Australia called on its Defence Force who supported state fire and emergency services across the country. In response to the spread of COVID-19, the Australian Government activated a National Coordination Mechanism (NCM) which is operating through a coordination node with the Department of Home Affairs and together with the states and territories are coordinating the whole-ofgovernment responses to issues outside the direct health management of COVID-19.