Yesterday I presented at an Emergency Management workshop at the Australian Emergency Management Institute for the last time. You see, in order to save $900,000 a year, the Federal government decided to deprive Australia of its emergency management institute.The institute barely survived Ash Wednesday back in 1983. It served as a relief centre for the heavily traumatised residents of Mt Macedon.
Sure, some of the content was a bit stiff and staid, and the shackles of being a registered training institute didn’t help flexibility. But staff were committed to the place, to be able to make a difference. And it was about creating a place to be, rather than to do.
I’ve been associated with the place since 1998, through attending and running courses, workshops, projects, I even applied for a job there once. The first workshop I went to in a new job, i decided to ride from Sunbury (about 30km away) all was fine until I had two flat tyres. The story became part of the many myths and legends.
Of course the standard line is that it’s the 21st century, and there are different methods of teaching and learning, and we must take advantage of new technologies. All good. But there is nothing like having experts and people with experience sharing their stories, stuff that they have mainly learnt the hard way. And for those us so called experts it also keeps us fresh and on our toes, and we learn as well. As it is residential, it allows people to relax and share stories, ideas, info, and good times. Many pieces of good Emergency Management policy have been hatched in the bar there. Of course being residential, there has also been a lot of naughty behaviour there as well.
On one of the courses I helped run, as we were doing the introductions, a woman in the middle rows told us her name, that she was the local librarian, and that someone had handed her this thing (held up a pager) and said you are now the municipal recovery manager. She asked the group what did the title mean, and how did you use the pager. WIthin a few months she had to deal with an extraordinarily complex emergency. Talking to her afterwards, she said that the course reassured her that there were many people in her shoes (as recovery is always not written into job descriptions), and that with a deep breath, she could get through it.
I wanted to teach at the institute, as i think it is incumbent on the likes of me who have had experience to share it with people. It’s not a field that you can easily get practice (not something you wish for). I’ll miss the place, and the donuts. I was fortunate enough to have one or three donuts yesterday. It’ an end of an era, and perhaps another generation will say after a mega disaster, we really need a state of the art, high quality residential teaching institute. WE may learn the hard way that virtual institutes don’t prepare you for real disasters
From 1998,the incomparable Miss SHirley Bassey