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Australian Resilience Corps volunteers clearing weeds. Image: Daniel Carson

Building resilient communities

A NEW pilot program launched in Wooroloo last weekend hopes to raise an army of volunteers to help Australians become more bushfire ready and resilient.

Volunteers and groups from Gidgegannup and Wooroloo came together over two days to learn about how the Australian Resilience Corps (ARC), an ancillary of the Minderoo Foundation, aimed to reduce the impact of fire and flood disasters across Australia through the project.

Project lead Nadine De Santis said the initiative provided a framework that brought together community stakeholders to empower communities.

“Traditionally when everyone talks about resilience it’s mixed up with recovery,” she said.

“That’s short term thinking but what we want to change is the culture to long term planning.

“We’re looking to make a behavioural change across the country so that fire and flood is something we automatically prepare for year on year, on year.

“Communities generally do know what they need to do, it’s about that cohesion and getting them to work together and putting them in the centre of that decision making.”

ARC is helping the Wooroloo Community Team, an action group formed after the 2021 Wooroloo Bushfire, to grow and expand on its mission to equip its community with the necessary tools to become the masters of its own bushfire resilience.

“We are working to fill the gaps in fire preparedness to show in a practical way that if everyone does a little bit and helps each other our community will thrive,” community volunteer and local Vanessa van der Swaagh said.

“ARC have really promoted this being a community-led initiative.

“They’re allowing us to have access to a network of volunteers that we wouldn’t have had before.

“They have been nothing but supportive and it’s been amazing, their open mindedness and wholehearted support has really been refreshing.”

With support from the Shire of Mundaring and City of Swan, the event brought together the Wooroloo Community Team, Parky Care and Rotary WA to discuss how the community was recovering from the 2021 Wooroloo Bushfire and to conduct bushfire preparedness activities.

Preparedness starts at ground level

WHEN most people think about bushfire preparedness, removing weeds isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

But weeds, or more specifically their removal, is what is strengthening the community and environment to become more resilient against the threat of bushfire, says Parky Care’s Bruce Watkins.

Parky Care, a partner of Australian Resilience Corps, undertook a bushfire fuel reduction activity last weekend to help educate the community on the role introduced flora plays in fuelling bushfires.

“In its simplest form, [participants] were pulling weeds and raking up dry matter, but this is actually helping showcase to a community what they can do to help build a resilient community and environment.

“Right through the hills area, the Flinder’s Range wattle (Acacia iteaphylla) is flowering beautifully.

“To the unaware, it’s a native, (the wattle is introduced from south Australia), but it grows prolifically, it’s highly flammable and it competes with the native flora.

“Then you have the bugle lily (Watsonia meriana) which if you let get ahead creates a lot of dry ground matter.”

Mr Watkins said there was often an expectation that reducing fuel load on public land was the responsibility of state and local government agencies, but everyone was accountable for being bushfire prepared.

“As particular needs in the community intensify or become more prominent it’s difficult to expect all these new and emerging needs to be assessed by local or state government,” he said.

“Putting structures in place to help the community become self-reliant is a natural part of what we’re doing to fill those gaps and provide support from partnerships like Rotary and ARC.

“That gradually changes the mind-set of the community and when they get on board they’ll see that we have a worthwhile role.”

The formation of a new Friends of Reserves group is allowing the ARC project to operate and conduct weeding work on public land.

At the muster event last week volunteers removed 25 trailer loads of material from the KEP track heritage trail and reserve behind the Wooroloo Hall.

By Claire Ottaviano 

About The Editorial Team

Echo News gives readers an alternative to other media outlets in WA and enjoys a very high rate of readership in its distribution area. Our Echo News team are a small group of devoted individuals who work hard to give the local community an easy to read, yet intelligent mix of local community stories.

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