16 March 2022
Last night over 90 members and guests joined together at the BCCM Resilience Dinner to celebrate the role of mutuals and co-operatives in supporting individual and community wellbeing.
The dinner was sponsored by EML, a 109-year-old mutual insurer and the claims manager for the NSW Government’s iCare scheme.
Guest speaker, Professor Munjed Al Muderis, is an Australian trained Orthopaedic Surgeon and a Squadron Leader in the Australian Air Force Reserve. Born in Baghdad, Munjed spoke of fleeing Iraq as a young Doctor having refused the orders of Saddam Hussein to mutilate army deserters’ ears. Munjed endured a life threatening journey to Australia by boat. As an Orthopaedic Surgeon, his day-to-day work involves hip and knee arthroplasty and reconstructive surgery. He is a leading surgeon in the revolutionary technology known as Osseointegration. Munjed has helped hundreds of amputees world-wide to improve mobility, reduce pain and overall enhance their quality of life. Apart from his academic and clinical roles, Munjed is heavily involved in humanitarian work.
The vital role played by co-ops and other member-owned businesses in the east coast flood disaster demonstrates the need to include them in future policy discussions on resilience.
Addressing the Dinner, BCCM CEO Melina Morrison said the tragic losses during the east-coast floods must not have been suffered in vain.
“As heart-breaking as it is to see lives lost, homes destroyed and businesses ruined, there must inevitably be lessons learned,” said Ms Morrison.
Ms Morrison called on the Federal and State Governments to establish a National Co-operative Disaster Recovery Centre of Excellence in Lismore as a key part of any strategy to ‘future proof’ vulnerable communities.
Read Melina’s speech
Melina Morrison, CEO, BCCM at the 2022 BCCM Resilience Dinner, 15 March 2022
WELCOME & PREAMBLE
Before I hand to Pastor Ray Minniecon for the Traditional Welcome, I wish to extend our thanks to The Hon Natalie Ward, MLC, Minister for Metropolitan Roads, Minister for Women’s Safety, and the Prevention of Sexual Violence for hosting us here tonight in the beautiful Strangers Dining Room.
Welcome to our Parliamentary guests:
- The Hon Jonathan O’Dea MP, Speaker of the NSW Assembly
- The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite, Federal Member for Kingsford Smith, Shadow Assistant Minister for Financial Services
- The Hon Courtney Houssous MLC Shadow Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation
- Mr Gurmesh Singh MP, Member for Coffs Harbour and
- Mr Steve Kamper, MP Member for Rockdale
- Mr Greg Hammond OAM
- Mr Steve Anthony OAM
- Directors of BCCM and Australian Mutuals Foundation and directors and managers of EML, our deepest thanks for supporting this event as the dinner partner.
Welcome to the 2022 BCCM Resilience Dinner.
It’s wonderful to see you all tonight. Thank you for coming. The circumstances of the health crisis and the recent natural disaster of the floods in NSW and Queensland make our attendance at face-to-face events an ongoing challenge.
We’re thrilled that so many were able to come, but we also acknowledge and send our thoughts and prayers to our members who cannot be here because the crisis, especially in and around the most heavily impacted flood zones, continues to unfold.
Tonight, is about ‘Resilience’ – human, organisational and societal resilience in the face of unimaginable events and disruptions. We will hear about the power of human resilience through the profound story of our guest speaker Professor Dr Munjed Al Muderis.
We will also touch on the themes emerging from the devastation wrecked by the floods in NSW and Queensland and further afield, in Ukraine, where the country’s co-operative sector is also rallying to support the community afflicted by the devastation of war.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that community, and in particular connected community with deep roots, highly nuanced trust networks and locally embedded knowledge is at the heart of an effective and immediate disaster response, and a longer-term recovery and rebuilding phase.
Consider for a moment the battalion of Tinnies, kayaks, and self-funded chopper flights that carried out a region wide rescue of stranded people, literally up to their necks in water and mud on the worst days of the flood.
With all forms of telecommunications down, only locals caring for neighbours had the local knowledge to go where the help was needed as quickly as possible.
These informal networks formed a rescue ‘triage’ until the SES and eventually the army was on the ground.
The reflection and examinations that must inevitably follow to work out what worked and what could be done better next time should not look to supplant community action but to augment and leverage it through the power of community.
It is a truism that in a crisis, local knowledge is king. Co-ops and mutuals embody this spirit and embed it in their very DNA. I will provide two examples by way of illustration.
In the early hours of 28 February, it was becoming apparent that a natural disaster was unfolding in the very community the Casino Food Co-operative calls home. CEO Simon Stahl knew immediately that the Co-op would play a critical role in the unfolding disaster.
After the Co-op made sure all employees were safe, they sprang into action to help the community. The Co-op started offering some fresh supplies of meat and that snowballed into the Co-op being one of the only assets around in terms of power, fuel, forklifts, earth moving equipment and a helipad.
Fortuitously, the Co-op had agreed to take in the entire fresh produce of a Lismore fruit and veg shop after it was evacuated. Those 20 pallets of fresh fruit and vegetables became vital for keeping locals in evacuation centres alive.
The Co-op became the centre for air drops to the isolated and cut-off communities. The Co-op’s people were all ‘hands-on deck’ packing food hampers for the food drops and out in the field helping to evacuate and clean inundated properties.
This disaster highlights how important it is for industry and emergency services to come together for the good of the community. The Co-op delivered 90 pallets of food, using 20 helicopters and 11 trucks to 14 communities. It’s estimated the Co-op helped feed around 4,000 people during the crisis.
The CEO of Casino Food Co-op cannot be with us tonight because the relief effort is still ongoing, but Simon is certain that the Co-op was best placed to respond to this type of emergency, due to its large workforce and assets and it’s local knowledge.
In a Facebook post, Simon says, “We have logistics people that can organise things – turning our top car park into an airfield was easily done for us. Then we’ve got the cold stores and we had power. There is no manual to manage that situation, it’s gut and it’s what your common sense says, so you get on with it.”
The Casino Food Co-op decided to close its processing across both of its sites for an entire week. The closure cost the company $500,000. But the benefit to the community outweighs the financial implications for the business.
The Co-op is a big employer with 1000 workforce, that’s 5,000 people directly connected to the plant across the region. Simon believes they have an obligation to use their assets at a time like this.
Across Lismore, another BCCM member, Summerland Credit Union, set up a local banking hub for the community in co-operation with five other local customer owned banks (G&C Mutual Bank, BCU, Greater Bank, Newcastle Permanent and Southern Cross Credit Union).
Again, this response was immediate, locally informed and put community need before profit.We believe that the vital role played by co-ops and other member-owned businesses in the east coast flood disaster demonstrates the need to include them in future policy discussions on resilience.
I have mentioned just two, but the ubiquity of co-ops and mutuals in the local economy means there are many examples of community-led disaster responses from co-ops and mutuals; like RACQ’s care flights and rescue helicopter service, the disaster relief packages offered to customers of mutual banks like Heritage Bank, Great Southern Bank, Australian Military Bank and Queensland Country Bank, and the initial claim payments for flood impact local government members of Civic Risk Mutual (including Richmond Valley, Hawkesbury, Penrith, Blue Mountains, Wollondilly, Blacktown, Parramatta).
This service has previously proven to reduce the pressure on Councils and their cash flows during a stressful time and has provided positive outcomes for our members communities.
It is heart-breaking to see lives lost, homes destroyed, and businesses ruined, but hope must be restored, and the seeds of that hope have already been sown in the heroic and inspiring actions of many individuals and local businesses during this ongoing flood emergency.
Co-operatives are an under-used business model that allow communities to pool their resources, local knowledge, and experience. This has again been brought to the fore in the current emergency and will be critical to finding sustainable solutions for the housing and insurance crisis emerging post disaster.
That is why we are calling on the Federal and State Government to fund a National Co-operative Disaster Recovery Centre of Excellence in Lismore as a key part of any strategy to ‘future proof’ vulnerable communities. The Centre will study the responses of the anchor co-operatives and mutuals in Lismore and the Northern Rivers region and share those findings with the broader community especially disaster-prone regions.
Lismore is the right location for a Co-operative Disaster Recovery Centre because of the unique footprint of co-operatives in the local economy. The Northern Rivers region is home to over 30 co-ops and mutuals with a combined turnover of $1.5 billion. They employ almost 3000 people directly and have more than 27,000 members.
In a crisis, local knowledge is key. As locally owned and operated businesses, with deep connections to the community, co-ops are ideal networks to assist the immediate emergency effort and to help with the longer-term rebuilding efforts and challenges such as adequate risk protection for rebuilding and affordable housing.
Furthermore our strategy for co-operative disaster recovery would draw on the key findings of research into the actions of anchor co-operatives following the devastating black summer bushfires.
On the screen tonight you will see a slide with the web address for the Australian Mutuals Foundation. AMF is the charitable foundation owned by the mutual sector. It directs funds from co-ops and mutuals to natural disasters to help community organisations recover from these devastating events. I encourage you to give the Flood Appeal set up by AMF in the spirit of co-operation.