Disaster Relief Australia (DRA)

Disaster Relief Australia has been selected as Charity of the Year in The Australian Charity Awards 2023. The Australian Charity Awards program recognises charitable organisations that have achieved outstanding results through initiatives that have significantly benefited charitable causes. The Australian Charity Award for Outstanding Achievement [OAA] is presented, culminating in an overall winner for The Australian Charity of the Year [CHY].

At Disaster Relief Australia, we’re passionate about supporting communities in recovery and just as importantly preparedness through our Operational Big Map exercises.

We strongly believe that every community has a voice. Building evidence, intelligence and insights to empower communities, leaders and stakeholders to make effective decisions at the core of the ‘Big Map’.

It’s truly gratifying to see that dedication recognised.

I’m immensely proud of our exceptional team and their passion for assisting communities after an event and delivering Big Maps to communities across the country.

Shari Bent, Resilience Manager – Disaster Intelligence Services, Disaster Relief Australia

Disaster Relief Australia (DRA) aims to empower communities with projects that build resilience and foster a sense of community pride, backed by the skills and experience of military veterans, emergency service specialists and an army of dedicated volunteers. This includes disaster relief capabilities immediately after the disaster response period, plus a nationwide, multi-phase community engagement project – Project Resilience – developed to provide Australian communities with the tools to prepare for, respond and manage natural disasters.

A DRA flagship capability, the ‘Operational Big Map’ exercise sits at the heart of Project Resilience, a multi-phase Disaster Relief Australia initiative designed to empower and educate communities to prepare for environmental disasters. The initiative is integral to DRA’s work with communities in identifying the potential risks and hazards they face and providing solutions to mitigate and manage the impact of those risks and hazards.

The ‘Big Map’ is a large cloth map – usually between 10m x 10m and 15m x 15m – that profiles a particular community or area. It is created via the deployment of aircraft drones piloted by trained specialists into the field to conduct post-disaster aerial operations of an impacted area safely. The information and aerial images gathered are then analysed and transformed into maps/ aerial intelligence and used to highlight to the community via a Big Map session how to prepare for natural disasters in the future.

The ‘Big Map’ Capability aims to combine local knowledge with DRA’s disaster management expertise to better understand a community profile based on the community’s exposure within an all-hazard environment. Understanding how, when and where this region is impacted by fire or flood is vital to those who live here. Not just for safety but for protecting livelihoods, property, and people.

As an organisation, Disaster Relief Australia has the mission to take veterans’ unique skills, experience and abilities, pair them with first responders and motivated civilians, and apply these skills to a disaster recovery and preparedness setting. This approach shines through in the method the BigMap exercise has adopted for engagement.

Businesses within the region must also know how it works to make risk-informed investment and operational decisions aligned with future Local Council objectives. Managing flood/fire risk is a cooperative and coordinated effort between all community sectors, including individuals, businesses, non-government organisations and governments.

Local Government representatives, operational staff, key partners, other stakeholders, and community members typically attend an Operational Big Map. The session is open to anyone in the community with an interest in local disaster preparedness. The exercise runs for a day and is sectioned into key activities including, but not limited to; discussion on previous weather events; walking the map and resilience in action. During the activities, attendees highlight the importance of a catchment response, identify critical infrastructure in their area, and discuss and raise issues for recovery.

The outcome of a Big Map exercise is an empowered community, with residents, business owners and community leaders equipped with the tools and opportunity to effectively prepare for, manage and respond to an environmental disaster. Attendees of an Operational Big Map exercise have highlighted the opportunity the exercise has given their community to be involved and set up for a more sustainable future.

To find out more about Disaster Relief Australia, visit disasterreliefaus.org

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