End User representatives
This project, currently under development, will begin on 1 July 2017. It aims to understand how diversity is understood and practiced in the emergency management sector, identify the constraints and enablers in implementing inclusion activities, and understand how diversity can serve to enhance the current operational environment and systems in order to provide a practical evidence-based framework tailored to the emergency management context that supports development and implementation of diversity programs.
Cultural diversity in the emergency management sector encompasses gender, race, disability and cultural diversity. Currently, there are low rates of participation for women and participants from diverse cultural backgrounds in many areas of emergency management. This has ramifications for the capacity of the emergency services to modernise and build human service capability. The 2011 National Strategy for Disaster Resilience rightly identifies the importance of culturally and linguistically diverse variables, the need for disaster services to understand the needs of such communities, and the critical importance of community consultation and partnerships. The strategy also stresses the importance of "more action-based resilience planning to strengthen local capacity and capability with a greater emphasis on community engagement and better understanding of the diversity, needs, strengths and vulnerabilities within communities". Key components of the response are to build trust and understand how natural hazard risks function.
One in four Australians – or some 5.75 million people – were born overseas. Many members of recently arrived culturally and linguistically diverse communities may not understand Australian natural hazards or the information relating to them, and may also have different levels of trust relating to officials in uniforms. Emergency management personnel need to become culturally competent, and aware of the different aspects of local communities to be able to support and respond to their needs. It is also critical to understand what barriers to resilience may exist amongst diverse communities. Diversity is also an untapped area of potential that can have benefits – not only for emergency service agencies, but also for the broader community. Recent initiatives such as the CFA Koori Inclusion Action Plan 2014–2019 have recognised this. It is important to understand how existing forms of community resilience, knowledge and resourcefulness can be harnessed and strengthened, and how the benefits derived from diversity add value, and what that value is.
This project will identify relevant strengths throughout the emergency management sector, identify and value the benefits of diversity, and investigate what underlies current organisational behaviour. The research will also develop a guidance framework that supports organisations to undertake such work. This will enable organisations to implement diversity management strategies, and to build business cases to support program development in their own contexts. It will also provide case study examples of current best practice in this area, which are transferable into the Australian context to assist this process. Through developing a framework and then rigorously testing it in different communities, the project will be able to take the different needs across the levels of emergency management organisations into consideration, and provide an evidence-based pathway for building more diverse and innovative work cultures for the future.