Diversity in disaster conference. Day 1. Leaps and bounds

Normally I come to the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch the football (although my last visit was not a happy one). But today I’m here for the Diversity in Disaster conference. This conference has been a while in the making, in some respects, probably decades. And what a conference. Tackling all the challenging issues of Emergency Management.

Up until about 5 -10 years ago, if you were white, able bodied, middle class, middle aged, and male (and generally overweight-a bit like myself), then that summed up the comfort zone in which emergency management operated, from its staff and volunteers, to the targets of its preparedness programs. Recovery was, of course, the domain of women. Kaftan wearers, we were referred to more than once. Or as my friend Kate Brady heard it referred to as “hippie chicks and men in black polo necks”. But we have seen an explosion in mainstreaming of unspoken about issues; homelessness, anger and violence, disability, LGBTQI, gender. And good, quality research and practice to support it.

We’ve also seen the UN through the Sendai Framework, completely flip the notion of vulnerable groups on its head, to call for drawing upon the knowledge and experience of different groups in society, to assist their participation in planning for, and managing emergencies.

Reflecting on the venue, football and emergency management share many similarities. Both are steeped in deep masculinity, in hero worship, and of little tolerance for difference. But, in recent years, the AFL has been making huge strides in addressing diversity issues, Dreamtime Round, Pride Round, Multicultural Round, women’s round, and getting right behind the AFLW (if you want a hilarious take on Australian Rules, check out my friend, Damien’s podcast, the merger, where a group of asylum seekers join the bodgy creek roosters). But I digress.

The conference has an embarrassing riches of presentations. It’s going to be hard to choose. Normally at EM conferences, you can chose between innovations in flood boat rescue, and best practice in fuel reduction burning, and psycho-social topics. Not here. Not a flood culvert in sight

As Helen Riseborough, the CEO of the Women’s Health Network in the North, said in her opening, though, there is much to do. And this is the place to continue to push those conversations for equal rights.

So, I am going to try to do something different, and live blog from the conference. Let’s give it a go!

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