Sunday, 31 December 2023
Media release

Defence veterans called in to help in storm aftermath

The Albanese Government will deploy a squadron of up to 70 defence force veterans and retired emergency service workers across South-East Queensland to assist with the damage cleanup from the recent storms.

At the request of the Queensland Government, the Federal Government has activated Disaster Relief Australia (DRA), a not-for-profit organisation that unites the skills and experience of military veterans with first responders and civilian volunteers to aid disaster recovery operations around the country.

In its first budget, the Albanese Government committed over $38 million to DRA to assist them boost their ability to help communities recover from natural disasters.

They have previously assisted with the recovery from major disasters including the North-West Queensland floods, the Lismore floods as well as flooding in the Kimberley in Western Australia.

DRA is one of the steps the Albanese Government has taken to enhance the Commonwealth’s disaster response capabilities, beyond the Australian Defence Force. 

Further steps are being considered as part of the review into enhancing the Federal Government’s capability and reducing reliance on the ADF, except for the most extreme emergencies.

This year’s Defence Strategic Review recommended the development of alternatives to the ADF for disaster response, given the increasing number of climate-related natural disasters and Australia’s complex geostrategic environment.

It is expected that DRA personnel will assist State emergency services with the removal of fallen trees and vegetation debris, stabilisation of damaged trees and buildings and the clearance of debris from roadways and access to homes and buildings.

Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said DRA would hit the ground running in the worst affected areas, including around the northern Gold Coast, Mt Tamborine and Jimboomba.

“Disaster Relief Australia bring defence expertise to a recovery operation through their veteran volunteers,” Minister Watt said.

“We have seen them successfully respond to disasters for the past six years now right across the country, from the Gulf to Lismore and plenty of places in between.

“I have no doubt that they will provide great value in assisting the Queensland Government to cleanup after such damaging storms, and hopefully get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”

Minister Watt said our Defence Force has an important role to play in keeping our nation safe and we want them to keep that as their primary focus.

“Of course they will always be on standby as a force of last resort when people are in danger, as we saw when they were recently deployed in response to the Far North Queensland floods.

“But it’s important we supplement the work the ADF currently does, to ensure they can remain focused on their core role of defending Australia.

“The important work DRA does will not only get communities back on their feet sooner, but also keep us safer.”