Children’s voices need to be heard ahead of another worrying disaster season

On International Day for Disaster Reduction, Save the Children is calling on the Australian Government to formally consult with children and young people on climate change and disaster planning.

This comes as the Bureau of Meteorology on Monday released its severe weather outlook for October to April, revealing another worrying disaster season ahead. It warned there would be an increased risk of flooding in eastern Australia and tropical cyclones in the north, largely due to the La Nina weather pattern.

The first cyclones are also slated to arrive earlier than normal, while the bushfires season is expected to be average across most of the country.

“Last summer, large swathes of Australia were devastated by bushfires. This summer, more cyclones are on the horizon, and we know the frequency and severity of disasters is increasing due to climate change,” Save the Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds said.

“Not only do we need to better support the needs of children in disasters, but we also need to listen to their views.

“Just last week, the UN passed a resolution requiring governments to consult with young people on decisions about climate change, which was backed with strong support from Australia.

“Despite representing children strongly at an international level, the Federal Government has been silent when it comes to giving children a voice on climate policy here at home.

“Australia is set to appear before the Human Rights Council on 25 January 2021, where foreign governments will put the spotlight on Australia’s climate change performance and the need to listen to children’s voices.

“We know that a mammoth 90 per cent of young people said they do not feel heard by leaders in government on issues of the environment when we spoke to them directly through the recent ‘Our World Our Say’ survey.

“Our challenge to the Australian Government is to formally undertake consultations with young people on climate change and disaster planning. Ultimately they will inherit the planet and their voices must be heard.”

During the Black Summer bushfires in 2019-20, more than 14,000 children in Australia were forced to flee their homes.

In its submission to the bushfires royal commission and other inquiries, Save the Children warned that children’s needs were systematically overlooked at a range of levels during the first, causing undue harm.

“We need a more systematic approach to support children’s social and emotional needs during this disaster season and beyond, including during the immediate aftermath and in the recovery process, which can take many months or even years,” Mr Ronalds said.

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