Community resilience and recovery

The BCCM report, Primary producer co-operatives: The beating heart of community resilience and recovery, highlights the role of co-operatives in helping communities bounce back from the 2019/20 bushfires.

The report, released as part of its successful Co-operative Farming program, has found that the existence of strong co-ops helps in building community resilience as climate change threatens increasing natural disasters, especially in rural areas.

The co-operative structure provides skills and familiarity with communal self-help and a platform for the effective long-term recovery of impacted communities. Co-operatives are key community institutions, able to adapt to solve a range of challenges.

The report focuses on the experience of four co-operatives that have responded to recent disasters. These local co-operatives have been the backbone of community resilience and recovery following disaster. It found that in many cases co-operatives are not just involved in, but leading their community’s economic, social, and environmental recovery.

These case studies demonstrate a pattern of community spirit, fairness and equality. They provide insights into real life stories and the grassroots resilience that these co-operatives have led.

Co-operatives have given farmers, and their rural communities, a greater sense of security and confidence, especially in economic downturns or when dealing with natural disasters, such as drought, fire, cyclones and flood.

Co-operatives keep the benefits within their local community, building stronger local economies that have, in many examples, grown post disaster. Co-operatives provide an economic model for small producers to hedge against risks associated with farming such as crop failure due to circumstances such as drought, fires and floods.

Co-operatives have the reach and muscle to be a central player in building a more resilient Australia. They provide a fairer and more resilient model to face the challenges that are coming our way in the future.

Report foreword

Professor Mary O’Kane, co-chair of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry, endorsed and wrote the forward to the report: “The 2019-20 bushfires have changed the conversation on our collective security as a nation when facing the risks posed by the increasing numbers of extreme bushfires.”

“We observed through the Inquiry that communities that had good knowledge and ownership of their risk and strong social bonds were able to pull together well in the initial emergency response,” Professor O’Kane said.

“I see the role of co-operatives in rural communities being a major catalyst for the retrofitting of our vulnerable regional communities as they adapt to face bushfires, floods, storms and other disasters.”

Australia has more than 2000 co-operatives, of which around 230 are agricultural. The top 100 Australian co-operatives and mutuals have a turnover of more than $31 billion and 8 in 10 Australians are a member of at least one co-operative or mutual.

The report primarily looks at the example of four Australian case studies selected due to the known role they have played in the recovery and ongoing resilience of their communities experiencing one or more disaster events in recent years.

The Cobargo Co-operative (NSW)

The Cobargo Co-op led the first response and ongoing recovery of their small rural community after the New Year’s Eve bushfires swept through the community in the early hours of 2020.

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ORICoop (National)

ORICoop provided personal support to organic farmers after the 2019-20 bushfires, 2020 floods and recent storms in Gippsland.

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TAFCO pivoted the structure and purpose of the co-operative to a more resilient model in response to the closure of the tobacco industry.

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Sweeter Banana Co-operative (WA)

Every single grower returned to business after the 2015 cyclone, even with an 18 month shut down in production due to the longer growth cycles of smaller banana species.

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Report launch

Watch Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie’s introduction at the virtual report launch.

"ORICoop has come into its own since the fires."

Carolyn SuggateFounder and Director