Supporting clubs to provide refuge during heat and smoke events

Local community clubs will become designated refuges where Canberrans can seek respite during an emergency, such as heat or smoke event, under a new law introduced today.

“Due to climate change, Canberrans are going to endure more extreme weather events in the years to come,” Minister Shane Rattenbury said. “Canberrans can still remember the extreme smoke that choked the air during the 2019/20 summer bushfires and the record-breaking temperatures, as vulnerable members of our community struggled to find respite from the smoke and the heat.

“Heatwaves kill more Australians than any other natural disaster. Heat stress can exacerbate existing health conditions including diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease. In Canberra, there were nine days that reached 40 degrees between 1913 and 2006. In the 15 years since 2007, Canberra has topped 40 degrees 21 times.

“That is why it is vital that residents, particularly vulnerable Canberrans, can find refuge in venues across Canberra to reduce to risk of heat and smoke related illness.

“The ACT Government has chosen to include clubs as refuges because they are spread out across the territory and therefore can offer good access and ready respite to many community members. Many of these club venues provide our community with access to ventilation and air-cooling systems that many people just don’t have in their own homes.

“Club refuges will form part of a range of refuge options available to community members during extended exposure to hazardous smoke and extreme heat. Other options include libraries, child and family centres and community centres.”

A club will be activated as a refuge by Ministerial declaration, following assessment of the suitability of the club by a panel of ACT Government Directorates. While a club refuge declaration is in force, clubs will be allowed to claim certain expenses as community purpose contributions under the Gaming Machine Act.

Venues will be required to have an area separate from both gaming machines and an open bar, so that it is suitable to be used as a heat and smoke refuge.

Members of the Heat and Smoke Refuge Working Group – which is led by two gambling harm reduction experts and two club representatives from the Community Clubs Ministerial Advisory Council – will assist the ACT Government in developing the refuge program.

It is expected that the program will be in place for the Canberra community by December 2023.

This initiative fulfills an ACT Greens 2020 Election commitment and progresses a commitment of the Parliamentary Agreement of the 10th Legislative Assembly by the ACT Labor-Greens Government.

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.