13 October 2021
Just two years on since the outbreak of the 2019/20 deadly bushfire season, a report by the BCCM has highlighted the role co-operatives can play in building community resilience as climate change increases the occurrence of natural disasters. The BCCM has called for the sector to be included in national resilience and recovery planning after their vital contribution to rebuilding communities affected by the 2019/20 bushfires.
The report highlights how the community relationships of co-ops and mutuals meant they could efficiently and effectively offer support both in the immediate aftermath and during the ongoing rebuilding efforts following these devastating fires.
In November 2019, when bushfires began to surpass the scale of a normal fire season, the Australian Mutuals Foundation (AMF) an Australian charity formed and funded by Australian credit unions and mutual banks initiated the Australian Bushfire Appeal to receive donations from Australian co-operatives and mutuals. After news of the unfolding disaster in Australia reached all corners of the globe, the BCCM fielded enquiries from members of the international co-operative community who wanted to help. By partnering with the AMF, the BCCM was able to assist in raising vital funds for Australian co-ops and mutuals. In total, more than $385,000 was received to support this cause—an incredible result from our co-operative community.
These funds were distributed with the assistance of the AMF, the BCCM and credit unions in affected areas, with more than 20 community organisations receiving funds to support the recovery of their communities. We are delighted to share with you some of the ways these funds have enabled co-ops to continue their vital work.
Candelo Bulk Wholesale Cooperative supports its community with fresh, affordable and nutritious food and healthy nutrition advice. A grant has allowed the co-op to purchase new equipment, enabling them to streamline their processes and more effectively support the community of Bega, which bore some of the worst bushfire impacts.
During the pandemic, Erowal Bay Holiday Co-operative has offered affordable accommodation to frontline workers and tradespeople and has provided them with a sense of community in the midst of isolating circumstances. Funds have enabled the upgrade of on-site water infrastructure, increasing the co-operative’s capacity to protect assets against future fires.
After the fires raged through their town, Batlow’s children needed somewhere they could play and reclaim a sense of normalcy. Batlow Apple Tree Learning Co-operative was able to restore and rejuvenate their outdoor play area so their young learners could once again experience the healing power of outdoor play.
The compounding effects of fires, floods and covid-19 forced a rethink of how Bermagui Preschool Co-operative Society operated Moodji Farm. Funds from the bushfire fund have supported this process and today the farm has a bright future and continues to bring all generations together. Moodji farm has become a standout example for community gardens across the nation.
Funds received by Organic & Regenerative Investment Co-operative (ORICoop) allowed them to step in to help heal both ravaged organic farmland and the weary souls of those in the organic farming community. ORICoop’s disaster response is examined in the BCCM’s new report on the disaster resilience of co-operatives.
After the fires, TAFCO knew a multi-faceted approach was needed to support their members, especially the wine grape growers whose crops were rendered unusable by smoke damage. They focused on offering emotional support to impacted farmers while also reducing membership costs and stall fees at their 100 per cent farmer owned market. The grant funds have also enabled them to embark on a social media and industry marketing campaign to promote the wonderful produce of the region. See how TAFCO has built a reputation for looking after its community.
The enormous task of rebuilding that faced the residents of Cobargo and surrounds meant an increased demand for tools. Using their grant funds, Cobargo Co-operative was able to fit out a suitable shed to house a tool library, which has allowed free access to the tools they need. BCCM’s disaster recovery report examines how Cobargo Co-op has supported the local community through the bushfire crisis and recovery period.
One of the biggest challenges facing communities after the bushfires was the social isolation that results from disrupted living arrangements. Using funds from the AMF grant, Cudlee Creek Co-Operating Ltd was able to purchase a mini-bus to provide much-needed transport to locals, keeping their social networks alive and ensuring they could support local businesses.
Disasters and catastrophic weather events will always be with us. More than ever, we need to build resilient communities who can collectively bear risk, build strong interpersonal relationships and work together towards positive social, environmental and economic outcomes.
The BCCM’s report, Primary Producer Co-operatives: the beating heart of Community resilience and recovery, make a series of recommendations to include co-operatives and mutuals in disaster planning and recovery. Read our media release.