Bushfire Response: Information & Resources

8 January 2020

The national bushfire crisis is devastating, and our hearts go out to all affected. The ACA is committed to supporting the efforts of those who are helping others in need, including many of our members across the nation. We offer the following information as a starting point, and will develop further resources and publish more in-depth information over time.

Fair Work and Employers’ Obligations

The architectural profession’s focus on our physical environment means we are well placed to support recovery efforts, and it is anticipated that there will be considerable interest in helping through volunteering. The ACA encourages employers to understand their award obligations and to consider offering special leave entitlements, community service leave or flexible work arrangements to those wishing to provide support as appropriate. The Fair Work Ombudsman provides comprehensive information about community service leave.

The Fair Work Ombudsman also provides detailed material on employment conditions during natural disasters and emergencies. This includes information about what to do if a business has to close temporarily, alternatives to standing down employees, and personal / carers leave and compassionate leave available to those who have to take time off to care for themselves or others.

Are You Ok?

With so many of us affected, either directly or indirectly by this disaster, it’s not uncommon to feel sad, confused or helpless. For 24-hour counselling services or to just talk, you can check out a range of resources here.

Government Action

In a country where Federal vs State action is often lumbered with bureaucracy and blame, we need to stand firm on the appropriate course of action from government. The ACA is committed to engage with Federal, State and Territory governments and call for an urgent response on the climate crisis. This will include outlining how architectural practices can help and supporting the Architects Declare movement.

Other Resources

Organisations across Australia are doing incredible things in response to this crisis, from organising volunteers, offering pro-bono work, managing fundraising opportunities and providing resources. Please take the time to look at some of the resources, pertinent information and help available through the following:

Architects Assist and the Australian Institute of Architects

The Institute is managing Architects Assist, an initiative set up by Atelier Jiri Lev in early January. This online register provides a platform for registered architects to offer pro bono assistance, and a means for those in need to request help.

As part of its bushfire response, the Institute has made relevant Acumen resources available to all. This includes information on undertaking pro bono work, post-disaster rebuilding and working in bushfire-prone areas.

Volunteer Register

Victorian practice Irons McDuff has put out a call for architects, landscape architects and other built environment practitioners to register to assist in future rebuilding. They write: “Past experience with CFA has taught us it is better to be on the ground, present and listening. Sometimes it is simply guiding people, sometimes consulting, sometimes getting hands dirty. While we determine when and where, please put your hands up to help.” In the first instance, they are collecting expressions of interest via email at bushfires2020@ironsmcduff.com.au.

Read the thoughtful interview with Kim Irons on ArchitectureAU. As part of this she suggests those keen to help might start by considering registering with Blaze Aid. This volunteer-based organisation works with rural families and individuals “helping to rebuild fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed.”

Architects Declare

We encourage members to familiarise themselves with the organisation, Architects Declare.

The ACA Platform

This is our response today, but the ACA is here for the long term. We will not let these efforts be forgotten when the immediate crisis is over and the recovery well underway.

The ACA will continue to advocate and support architectural practices through creating awareness and promoting the benefits of taking action. We will consider the development of tools and resources to support best practice in prioritising climate change effects.

Image: State Government of Victoria. Article updated 4pm, 8 January.