Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre awarded grant to build bushfire resilience

Funding boost: Janet Shepherd and Morna Colbran at Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre.
Funding boost: Janet Shepherd and Morna Colbran at Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre.

Following the devastating Blue Mountains bushfires of October 2013, Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre manager Morna Colbran was struck by how many women were unprepared for a natural disaster.

“I was sitting here talking to many women who were home [when the bushfires hit] and the same thing came up all the time – they didn't know how to start a generator or they didn't know whether they should stay or go,” she said.

“They were getting phone calls from their husbands or partners and some were saying ‘go’ and some saying ‘stay’. They had no idea and it was very traumatic for them as they had no skill set to face it.”

But Ms Colbran now hopes to change this situation thanks to a $68,000 state government grant for a project, titled “Women: Skilled and Ready”. It will involve a series of practical workshops in partnership with the Winmalee Rural Fire Brigade.

“The aim is to try and skill those women so that next time they'll be informed, to the extent if they want to leave early they'll make confident decisions for themselves and their family,” said the centre’s Janet Shepherd.

NSW emergency services minister Troy Grant said the Community Resilience Innovation Program (CRIP) funding will help communities to build and strengthen resilience to natural disasters.

“While our emergency service agencies like the SES, RFS and Fire and Rescue NSW do remarkable work protecting and supporting communities in times of need, we all have a responsibility to think ahead, get ready and be as prepared as possible,” he said.

“The CRIP funds communities to prepare for emergencies and build up resilience for times of need, especially for the most vulnerable members of the community.”

Dates for the first series of workshops are yet to be finalised but they are expected to take place around September and October.