Increase awareness of existing Commonwealth support and assistance for drought-affected communities and North Queensland flood-affected communities.
Develop a whole-of-government communication approach for engagement with affected communities, both to provide information and to receive feedback.
The Agency chairs the Drought Communication and Engagement Cross-Government Group to ensure consistent communications.
Delivery of an initial capability to simplify and improve access to services across all levels of government as well as charities, using a location based online tool.
Within the constraints of COVID-19 travel restrictions, the Coordinator-General, Agency staff and regional recovery officer network undertook extensive travel across Australia to regional communities to raise awareness of Australian Government flood and drought assistance measures and connect people with the relevant Agency to make applications or receive further information and advice
Establish a network of regional recovery officers throughout Australia.
15 RROs have been employed, with further 8 officers to be engaged in 2020-21.
PM3) Impacted parties report a heightened level of awareness for Australian Government assistance
PM4) Affected communities report a heightened level of awareness for ways in which they could be better prepared in relation to future droughts and natural disasters
2019–20 Drought and Flood Agency Corporate Plan, page 14
2019–20 Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements, under Prime Minister and Cabinet, page 74
ANALYSIS OF PERFORMANCE
The Coordinator-General, Agency staff and the RRO network travelled extensively across Australia, within the constraints of COVID-19 travel restrictions, to talk with communities affected by drought and flood, listen to their views and experiences, provide information about existing Australian Government support and assistance measures, link those impacted with the relevant program and application information, and ensure a direct line of communication between people in the regions and the Australian Government. In 2019–20, the Agency and RRO team visited 153 communities across Australia.
The Agency took over leadership of the Drought Communication and Engagement Cross-Government Group in 2019–20. The group comprises 49 members representing 10 Australian Government departments, seven state government agencies, and four non-government organisations. The scope of the group was expanded by the Agency to ensure consistent communications and information across Australian Government and state governments, the NFF and charities. Agencies also worked together to cross-promote drought initiatives on their respective social media channels, through newsletters and at community events. In 2019–20, the Agency attended 12 meetings (hosting four of them).
The Agency employed 15 RROs in 2019–20 to work directly with rural communities across Australia. The RROs work closely on-the-ground with other Australian Government agencies, such as the Rural Financial Counselling Service, Australian Taxation Office, Regional Investment Corporation, and Services Australia to coordinate activities and assist with access to grants and information. Travel restrictions were implemented in early 2020 due to COVID-19 and a number of these activities were moved online, with promotion through local media, social media and various stakeholder newsletters.
The Agency enhanced its website and used social media channels to increase awareness of Australian Government assistance for drought and flood affected communities. This included posts on:
information from other Australian Government and state departments and charities
drought and flood assistance available and how to apply
local stories to demonstrate the positive outcomes for people who have received assistance
the RRO network and how to find the nearest RRO
updates from the Coordinator-General and Agency staff travelling in the regions.
Through this work, the Agency recognised that data and information are key to our role. In 2019–20, the Agency initially undertook a high-level assessment regarding its ICT capability and started its journey down a capability development pathway to ensure that it could better meet the needs of its stakeholders and staff.
Performance Snapshot— Regional Recovery Officers
The Drought and Flood Agency’s Northern Territory RRO, Jane Mack, has an area to cover that is five times larger than the United Kingdom. Being part of a national response to nature’s unpredictable cycles takes on a whole new reality when you discover that your office is a four-wheel drive traversing a sixth of Australia’s landmass.
Jane spends much of her time on the road talking to farmers and communities to find out what can help them in the face of the challenges that have come about through lack of rain in the southern regions and to talk about future drought preparedness through innovative land management practices.
It’s remarkable seeing the innovative way farmers are dealing with drought issues and speaking with, not only them, but government advisors and staff from various organisations across the NT. Having these conversations has been hugely beneficial to understanding issues that have existed in some cases for years, alongside new challenges such as COVID-19, which has affected every aspect of their livelihoods.
With the enthusiasm that drives her in her new role and the knowledge she is making a difference, Jane is mapping out a program of visits to businesses, communities, landholders—from families and companies —and to government representatives to let people know how to access Australian Government assistance measures and provide feedback from on-the-ground directly back into Canberra.
Performance Snapshot — Data and Information
NATIONAL DROUGHT MAP
In 2019–20, the Agency assumed responsibility for the National Drought Map.
Quality, clear and accurate data helps drought-affected farmers and communities make decisions that help them respond to, recover from and prepare for drought. Since assuming responsibility for the strategic leadership and oversight of the drought response, the Agency has worked to build and transform the Map to ensure information is readily available for those who need it most. Importantly, the Map also provides a tool that supports government to make informed decisions about the provision of drought support, ensuring the right people, in the right regions, are targeted.
The map brings together a range of data and information on climate conditions and government initiatives. The Agency has also worked with CSIRO’s Data61 to better ensure user expectations are being met. The Map is being developed alongside Recovery Connect, which will provide location-specific information to people in need so they can access charity and mental health assistance, government programs, and better understand support that is available.
During 2019–20, the Agency engaged Services Australia to enhance the Recovery Connect online tool to better support those impacted by drought and floods. This is a location-based service finder connecting users to a one-stop-shop of government and charity services based on their address or device location. This tool complements the Map by providing a single source of information on available programs and services. From the outset this capability has been designed to accommodate future disaster recovery assistance in conjunction with the National Bushfire Recovery Agency and Emergency Management Australia.
CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
The Agency has commenced development of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. The CRM will improve the Agency’s capability to engage meaningfully with stakeholders by providing a consolidated depository of our interactions, enabling the Agency to better tailor future communications and regional engagement activities. The CRM system will be implemented by early 2021 and is designed so that it can support a broad range of recovery activities.