Pictured: Mossman Support Services after Cyclone Jasper.

After Queensland was hit by a cluster of disasters between October 2023 and April 2024, 28 Neighbourhood Centres were formally activated with Community Recovery (Queensland Government) as Recovery Hubs. Other Centres provided support to communities as increased scales of regular operations. These disasters included the Western Downs bushfires, SEQ severe Christmas storms, Cyclone Jasper and Cyclone Kirrily.

This mass activation of Neighbourhood Centres as Recovery Hubs is the highest level of formal recovery activation ever seen in our sector. On one hand, Neighbourhood Centres have welcomed the resourcing support of funds and external agencies to address the increased numbers of people in need of support after the disasters. On the other hand, there have been many learnings and concerns Centres are voicing.

Neighbourhood Centres Queensland (NCQ) has been supporting Centres to collectively share these concerns and recommendations to the state government. The most widespread impacts of these severe weather events occurred in Far North Queensland after Cyclone Jasper, with 50% of activated Centres located in this region. The FNQ Neighbourhood Centres Network expressed significant concerns and saw many resources removed after the SEQ Storms. The network decided they needed to speak with the most senior person available in the Queensland Government in-person about their concerns. NCQ sought Brett Matthews, Director Statewide Service Delivery, Community Recovery, to meet the network at the worst affected Centre, Mossman Support Services. Neighbourhood Centres were able to have their concerns heard and responded with greater clarity on some points and other points flagged for further consideration in a debrief process.

NCQ has initiated a debrief process with the most senior staff in Community Recovery, where recovery-activated Neighbourhood Centres can voice their feedback and recommendations from the recent severe weather events. This process has included a simple survey, based on pre-collated key points raised by Centres, and online meeting of Centres and NCQ prioritising points in preparation for workshops directly with Centres, NCQ and Community Recovery to work towards improved recovery processes and resourcing. This is a first for this scale of relational advocacy with Neighbourhood Centres with the disaster sector.

NCQ has also ensured Neighbourhood Centres are formally considered in the recent submission to ‘Review into the 2023-24 Severe Weather Season’. This included NCQ collating key points raised from the FNQ Neighbourhood Centres Network into a regional network submission. NCQ also collated key messages gathered from continual engagement across the state to form an NCQ submission. Available here.

Stay tuned for further progress on this collective relational advocacy.