After battling bushfires, floods and the global COVID-19 pandemic, Bega Valley Shire Council has had its work in disaster recovery and response recognised for excellence by its peers.
Council was honoured with the Disaster Recovery/Emergency Response Management (Population Under 100,000) Award – largely for its work during and after the Black Summer bushfires – at the NSW Local Government Excellence Awards held in Sydney on Thursday, 3 June.
Bega Valley Shire Council Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said the award highlights the dedication and quality of the staff response to the many challenges of 2020, during which the region was the most disaster-affected area in the country.
“We took the lead in advocacy and regional recovery by partnering with the NSW Office of Emergency Management – now Resilience NSW – to create a regional recovery approach, setting up the Bega Valley Local Recovery Committee and piloting a regional recovery plan,” he said.
Mayor Fitzpatrick offered congratulations to all staff for their commitment to ensuring the ongoing safety and wellbeing of the community through the ongoing challenges the region is facing.
Especially commended was council’s Recovery, Resilience and Leadership program that aimed to assist people providing support for the community.
“The program delivered training and development in critical incident debriefs; trauma informed care and practice; being an accidental counsellor; resilience in the workplace; managing mental health and wellbeing; and managing conflict,” said Mayor Fitzpatrick.
“To support our community, we knew we had to support our people to develop skills they might never have expected to need.”
Bega Valley Shire Council general manager Leanne Barnes said the program was an extension of a whole range of initiatives that aimed to bring together all of the services inside council that looked at recovery, rebuilding and resilience works.
“We learnt from our experiences with the bushfires in Tathra-Reedy Swamp, in 2018, and asked what we needed to do in order to support our own organisation and those who work with us to serve the community,” she said.
Ms Barnes explained it included restructuring how staff were set up in their teams and how they were working together, and providing critical incident debriefing to staff who were working in emergency response teams.
“It’s good to know that us working together in a very challenging environment and providing support is being recognised,” she said.
“It’s recognition for all of the staff who have done so much that things are moving in the right direction, even if we acknowledge it is a long journey.”
The annual awards, managed by Local Government Professionals NSW, are designed as peer recognition of outstanding achievement, innovation and continuous improvement across the local government sector.
Bega Valley Shire Council also received a highly commended award in the People, Workplace, Wellbeing category for its Recovery, Resilience and Leadership program for staff, and was a finalist in the Environmental Leadership category.