vale Macedon

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


5 thoughts on “vale Macedon

  1. Such a sad time, John, and a real disgrace that we’ve lost an amazing institute like AEMI. Like the donuts (and the roast lunches on Wednesdays) the discussions were robust, the networks we fed into were world class and, most importantly, if you weren’t walking through the doors of Macedon already passionate about what you did, you certainly left that way. A few days at Macedon – even for NRIS meetings! – sent me away feeling refreshed and enthusiastic about my job and what I could achieve. It’s a huge loss to Australia.


  2. As only a recent attendee to Mt Macedon – in the last 2 years – the connection with the evolution of emergency management in Australai was clear.

    To be able to connect socially with staff, trainers and fellow students is extremely important for immediate learning, and building relationships. And to be able to conduct group work over dinner, or after dinner seemed so much easier in that place.

    A great loss.


  3. Thanks John,
    My association with AEMI goes way back to when it was still called The Civil Defence!! I actually went to school just up the road at Mt Macedon PS and I was a Brownie at Macedon. We used to use the grounds to learn simple survival skills and undertake activities to be awarded our badges!!
    I’m very sad to see the college closed and I agree with all you’ve said about the value to the EM community.


  4. I agree it’s a great loss to the sector. Whilst there are other ways for participants to learn the theory what AEMI offers in addition to theory is the chance to reflect on past and future practice with others who have been through a variety of events. This can only assist our nation to have the capacity to respond to any event that threatens our citizens. Just like the librarian I was given the MRM role with nothing more than a couple of phone numbers! I have now advanced EM significantly at the organisation where I work all thanks to my learnings and connections made at Mt Macedon.


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