Alexandra Williamson, Queensland University of Technology & Diana Leat, Independent Consultant and Visitor Professor at Cass Business School
If, as Oscar Wilde remarked, losing one parent may be regarded as a misfortune but losing two looks like carelessness, the same might be said of disasters. For Australian nonprofit organizations and philanthropic foundations scrambling to frame and action responses to the unprecedented damage caused by 2019-20 bushfires in four states, the advent of coronavirus seems worse than unlucky. But does Australia’s double experience of misfortune offer any useful insights?
While it is obviously too early for comprehensive national data on giving by individuals, corporates and philanthropic foundations, there are some key themes and reflections on the similarities, differences and challenges of Australia’s philanthropic response to disaster overload.
Unlike some disasters that happen almost instantaneously or with only a few days’ warning, both the bushfires and COVID-19 built over a period of months. Similarly, neither the bushfires nor COVID-19 could be simply ‘put out’ but had/will have to run their course (given our current state of knowledge on a vaccine). In another temporal dimension, both disasters require responders to think beyond immediate short-term response to longer-term recovery. Both disasters take a greater toll on those who are already disadvantaged, with a disproportionate impact on physical and mental safety, social and financial wellbeing. Lastly, both disasters restrict movement and access of and to people and resources. Nonprofit responders and funders cannot go into the field to observe and understand for themselves under COVID-19 lockdown conditions or bushfire emergency evacuations. Continue reading ““Double Disaster”: What can global philanthropy learn from Australia’s consecutive bushfire and COVID-19 crises?”