The ‘Black Summer’ of 2019-20 saw bushfires raging across Australia for months, with devastating loss of life, biodiversity and property. In the aftermath of the disaster, the South Australian Bushfire Legal Project was piloted in select regional areas in South Australia to aid survivors with the multitude of legal issues faced by communities post-disaster. An evaluation of the legal services delivery program was undertaken by the Climate and Sustainability Policy Research (CASPR) Group, commissioned by the SA Attorney General’s Department.
The South Australian Bushfire Legal Services: Review of current practices report has just been released. Lead researcher Associate Professor Cassandra Star took a three-pronged approach to reviewing the project, consisting of international benchmarking, interviews with community and project staff and quantitative data analysis.
CASPR’s review identified that international best practice in post-disaster service delivery is shaped by three interlocking factors: best practice, service delivery, and the importance of tailoring the delivery across the disaster lifecycle. When the key elements of these features combine, the type and standard of service provided is going to be of the highest level. The Legal Project was benchmarked against a framework informed by these findings.
Semi-structured interviews with project staff and community members provided key insights into the achievements and challenges and suggested future improvements to the trial model. The Legal Project’s most commonly noted achievement was the effective engagement of the community. In particular, outreach activities and commitment to community integration was applauded.
“The importance of trust was repeatedly highlighted in client interviews. The vulnerability that people experience post- flood, bushfire and other disasters also demonstrates the critical importance of trauma-informed practice and cultural sensitivity,” says CASPR Group director Associate Professor Cassandra Star, from the College of Business, Government and Law at Flinders University.
The South Australian Bushfire Legal Services review was overall found to have excellent feedback and impact across communities. Respondents were very satisfied with the project team and the services they provide, and would simply like more of them. The recommendations laid out in the report can guide future implementation of both pre- and post- disaster services. The report adds to CASPR’s body of research into climate and disaster resilience, which looks to build resilience to the effects of climate change at all levels from community, to federal government and international partnerships.
For more information – download the report here.