Although we are still well off compared with some other parts of the world, our communities have experienced some very difficult times in the last few years. Drought, floods, bushfires, pandemics, catastrophic accidents and terrorism have presented major challenges for Australian communities in terms of both immediate and more long term recovery.

Mental health issues have been a specific concern, and these are particularly significant for older people, who may be more likely to live alone, have reduced mobility and find it more difficult to access help and support.

So how do communities survive difficult times, and make sure that the more vulnerable among us are looked after?


Ivan Peterson, a distinguished community leader who is currently the Chair of the Whittlesea Township and Surrounds Community Resilience Committee. Ivan knows the power community brings to preparing for and recovering from disaster. Following the devastating 2009 bushfires in Victoria, he chaired the Community Recovery Committee and lead his community in moving forward from a very distressing experience. Ivan shares his lived experience of disaster to help us all understand the crucial need for preparation.

Elizabeth Gardiner, a Community Capability Officer with the NSW State Emergency Service. Elizabeth has over 35 years of emergency management experience as a volunteer, in the field and in operations, and now works on the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley Flood Risk Management Strategy with Infrastructure NSW to raise community awareness, preparedness, and resilience for flood emergencies. She has also had over 25 years of experience in the transport and logistics industry and eight years in education.

Sarah Judd-Lam is the Executive Manager Policy, Development and Research at Carers NSW and coordinates Carers NSW policy responses to State and Federal Governments and oversees development and delivery of key projects.

Robyn Wilms is the Team Leader of the Recovery Support Services at Peppercorn Services, which assists the Hawkesbury community to develop person-centred emergency plans. She has many years working with the community, coming from an adult education background. She will share what the RSS team are doing in the space of recovery and how this work leads into conversations about preparedness and the tools that we have available to support the community in being prepared.

Maree Fayne is the Team Leader of the Person Centred Emergency Planning Program at Peppercorn. She has many years in community services and is passionate about supporting people in the community, especially after the recent floods and ensuring that people are preparing for not only natural disasters but any type of emergency that can occur. Maree will provide information about her experience / findings when holding conversations and the importance of being prepared.