Scenic Rim among five councils funded to employ bushfire recovery specialist

FIRE RECOVERY Canungra firefighters take a well-earned break during last year's devastating fires. Photo: Larraine Sathicq
FIRE RECOVERY Canungra firefighters take a well-earned break during last year's devastating fires. Photo: Larraine Sathicq

Communities across southern and eastern Queensland impacted by devastating bushfires last year will receive funding to employ community development officers to help lead long-term recovery efforts.

Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud yesterday announced that five local councils would share in $3 million over the next two years under the Community Development Program to help communities rebuild and recover.

The bushfires that swept across parts of southern and eastern Queensland last year had a significant impact on many communities and many Queenslanders, he said.

Community development officers play a vital role in the long-term recovery of communities, working to identify their needs and aspirations, facilitating developmental opportunities, arranging community planning days and supporting community recovery and resilience projects.

Scenic Rim Mayor Greg Christensen said it was good news for the region.

"Scenic Rim Regional Council welcomes the announcement of funding for a community development officer to assist in its recovery from the social impacts of the bushfires which devastated our region late last year," he said. "The community development officer will work with members of our bushfire-affected communities to identify needs, prioritise projects and assist with skills development relating to human and social recovery in the rebuilding and renewal of our region.

"The role will also be focused on building community resilience and, as well as disaster recovery, preparation for the future through the development of local community recovery plans."

Communities Minister Coralee ORourke said the blazes had damaged homes, isolated communities and displaced people from their homes from Cobraball near Yeppoon to Noosa and Stanthorpe.

These were some of the most significant bushfires we have ever experienced in Queensland and we know that the communities impacted will need ongoing long-term support to recover, she said.

The Community Development Program provides longer-term support to disaster-affected communities, aiding the community to recover and build resilience.

This comes as a federal government-funded study into the long-term health impacts of bushfire was announced by the Centenary Institute and University of Technology in Sydney.

The Centenary Institute's Professor Phil Hansbro said he would be leading a team of specialist respiratory disease researchers and clinicians on the project.

The true extent of bushfire smoke on people is still largely unknown, he said.

We just dont know the full impact on people resulting from prolonged smoke inhalation or if short term effects resolve after the exposure ends. There is a real knowledge gap as to what level of smoke exposure is likely okay and what level may lead to adverse health effects, particularly for the more vulnerable in our society.

Professor Hansbro said the researchers would examine how bushfire smoke affects the airways, lungs and other organs and what the long-term consequences of this exposure could be and evaluate new prevention strategies and treatment measures

Bushfires and smoke are a constant feature of the Australian environment and will continue to impact many of us, whether in the bush, towns or larger cities. Our research will lead to improved knowledge in this critical area ultimately leading to improved health and wellbeing outcomes for many Australians, he said.