‘Sad truth’ for flood, bushfire victims

The NSW Premier has flagged the state needs to improve how it responds to natural disasters, saying “Queensland does it better”.

Sky News host Peta Credlin has blasted the “sheer gutlessness” of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s attacks on Australia Day which have “really ticked people off”.

The Premier made the comments to reporters while visiting the flood-hit town of Eugowra in NSW’s central west on Tuesday. Mr Minns opened the temporary Eugowra Community Childcare Centre after it was severely damaged by flash flooding in November 2022.

The natural disaster led to the evacuation of more than 700 residents, with about 200 homes severely impacted.

Mr Minns said NSW needed to improve the speed in which emergency funds were distributed to victims after natural disasters.

“I hate to say this, and I often get really frustrated, but when we’ve got layers of bureaucracy and red tape, and you’ve got mayors and local civic leaders that just want to get on with it, I think we can be more responsive,” he said.

“Queensland does it better. The reason Queensland does it better is they’ve got a longer history of major natural disasters.”

The small town of Eugowra in NSW’s central west was hit with severe flash flooding that led to more than 700 residents being evacuated from their homes. Picture: NSW SES

The Premier added that climate change was set to worsen the impact of natural disasters.

“The sad truth is we can expect more bushfires, more floods, more natural disasters as a result of global warming, so we’ve got to get better at disaster management in the state,” he said.

Visiting Eugowra alongside Emergency Services Minister Jihad Dib and Orange MP Phil Donato, Mr Minns announced locals would be consulted on the design of a $40m housing program, which could include raisings and retrofits to floodproof existing dwellings or buybacks and relocations.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (right) visits Eugowra alongside Cabonne Mayor Kevin Beatty (second from right) after it was ravaged by floods in November. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Steve Gosch

On Tuesday, a new report from the University of Newcastle also found “unmanaged risks” during the implementation of evacuation shelters during the Northern Rivers floods led to gender-based violence and sexual assaults.

Out of a study including 24 women, seven participants reported experiencing sexual assault in the aftermath of the floods.

Some of these incidents resulted in pregnancies that were in part due to a lack of access to “pharmacies or contraception and inaccessible abortion services”.

“An absence of triaging to create discrete sections resulted in women and children sharing spaces with domestic violence perpetrators, sex offenders and those withdrawing from addictions,” the report found.

Mr Minns said the findings were “extremely troubling”.

“We’re taking it seriously at the highest levels of government (and) if there’s a criminal justice response, of course that will be launched,” he said.

“We want to make sure that we learn lessons for communities like the Northern Rivers so that those appalling reports are not repeated.”

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