Resilience Community of Practice – Preparedness, Disruptions and Impact

Community of Practice – Resilience

Compelling narratives to showcase the power of resilience in action

In September, the Resilience Community of Practice explored how forward-thinking organisations:

  • Proactively prepare for disruptive events
  • The challenges of around real disruptions and how they can be overcome
  • The critical role that resilience and preparedness play in mitigating customer impacts.

Speaker Fiona Dunk, Group Manager, Business Resilience for Signatory Jemena unravelled the compelling narratives to showcase the power of resilience in action.

As a starting point, Fiona pointed to the preparedness as the foundation of proactive Resilience noting that,

“In the face of uncertainty, preparedness is the compass that guides us through the storm.”

She highlighted that preparing well is the ability to recognise precedence, have strong situational awareness and foresight,

“We can’t rely on the playbook from last year – we need to prepare for this year.”

Preparedness is also about never loosing site of the opportunity to capture and implement lessons learnt. Every disruptive event offers an opportunity to learn and improve.

Resilience blog Oct 2023 - Learn from experience

Regardless of the type of disruption, Fiona encourages a focus on community-centred resilience to achieve better outcomes for those impacted.

In simple terms, this means:

  • Providing empathetic and proactive customer service during disruptions to maintain trust
  • Rallying communities to support each other to minimise hardship during disruptions
  • Prioritise the needs of vulnerable customers during disruptions through outreach and assistance.

Part of this respecting and empowering your connections,

“Communities have vast resources and capacity to empower their people and respond to emergencies when you enable collective action. Provide the space and respect local partners.”

Key takeaways

  • Preparedness is the foundation
  • Disruptions are inevitable
  • Community-centric focus matters
  • Learn lessons for the future
  • We are always, #BetterTogether.

Participant reflections

Following the presentation participants reflected on the below question and encouraged others to do the same with colleagues:

  • Where are you getting your foresight for this year’s risks and what are you putting in place to share and prepare?
  • Supporting responder mental health through disaster is essential, how are you preparing to manage fatigue in teams, especially considering cumulative and compounding events are becoming more frequent?
  • Coming into a potentially very difficult year weather-wise, how are you working with your Board and Leadership to drive Resilience outcomes now. What do you have in place to track customer and community outcomes?
  • What do your simulations/preparedness events look like and how can you bring in other parties to ensure preparedness at a collaborative level?
  • In the context of resilience, what do you do in practice to create psychologically safe spaces for teams and communities?
  • How do you hear from communities on what they need from you? How are you brining these voices into your decision making now and in-disaster? 

Session resources 

About our speaker

Fiona Dunk has more than 30 years of experience in Crisis & Emergency Management, Security and Resilience most recently as the Group Manager, Business Resilience for Jemena.

Fiona holds a Masters Degree in Business Technology from the University of New South Wales and has held roles in the Royal Australian Navy, Marine Safety Management, Port Emergency & Security Management, Crisis/Emergency management Consultancy and Project Management. 

About this event

This event is part of the Energy Charter’s Resilience Community of Practice dedicated to helping customers and communities better prepare, respond and recover from disaster events. 

Every second month, the Energy Charter host a Community of Practice, including expert-led discussions building on the topics covered in the Energy Charter’s Disaster Response Playbook:

  1. Communication and Education – where do communities get information, how is it delivered and who needs to know? This includes sharing learnings on successful communication and education campaigns as an essential aspect of disaster preparedness, response and recovery.
  2. Coordination and Collaboration – what are the opportunities to better work together across the energy sector and within the broader eco-system? This includes better practice case studies on successful collaboration.
  3. Planning and Preparedness – what is our role in building community and individual capacity to plan and prepare for a disaster? This includes opportunities to build resilience ownership and literacy within communities, so they can better respond in a disaster.
  4. Learning loops – It’s essential to share back to enable continuous improvement. This includes sharing insights from recent disaster events and building a resilience learning library.
Learn more on the dedicated Resilience Community of Practice page here.

Register for the Energy Charter CEO Forum – Charting a Better Energy Future!

Join our panel of Energy Charter CEOs from across the nation on 6 December 2023 for our CEO Forum: Charting a Better Energy Future, hosted by Cath Smith, Chair of the End-User Consultative Group for the release of the Energy Charter Annual Disclosure 2023.

About the CEO Forum

Together we will review and reflect on the collective achievements for customers and communities through the #BetterTogether initiatives in response to our priority areas: cost-of-living crisis and energy transition.

We’ll also dive into the critical role of authentic accountability and transparency in enabling continuous improvement, as well as focus on the future opportunities to continue building towards creating a better energy future for all Australians.

We look forward to your engagement and participation in this CEO Forum to help shape better outcomes for customers and communities today, and into the future, as we transition to a more sustainable, reliable and affordable energy future.

Introducing the host + panellists

Community of Practice – Stories from the frontline of the cost-of-living crunch

Stories from the frontline of the cost-of-living crunch

In our October Know Your Customers + Communities – Community of Practice, we heard firsthand from financial counsellors across Australia about how customers are managing the cost-of-living crisis specifically their energy and water bills.

Firsthand insights into the cost-of-living crisis with Financial Counselling Australia (FCA)

Leading the discussion was Fiona Guthrie, the CEO of Financial Counselling Australia (FCA), the national voice for the financial counselling profession in Australia.

To gain insights into cost-of-living crisis across the country, the panelists included:

  • From NSW: Vanessa Emergy, Financial Counsellor and Team Leader at Wesley Mission NSW, who represents FCA on the Australian Energy Regulator Consumer Consultative Group
  • From QLD: Rose McGrath, Financial Counsellor at YFS QLD
  • From Tasmania: Danielle Slade, Financial Counsellor at Anglicare TAS and President of the Financial Counsellors Association Tasmania
  • From Victoria: Andrea Osborne, Financial Counsellor at Uniting VIC as well as participates in the Utilities Working Group for FCA.

What does a Financial Counsellor do?

Financial counselling is a free service run by not-for-profits, offering information, options and support in regard to debts. 

One of the key benefits of a financial counsellor is they can provide information on benefits, concessions and entitlements including “concessions regarding energy, which is particularly important these days because a lot of people don’t know what they’re entitled to.”

A lot of financial counsellors are also trained in counselling and can offer emotional support.

“We provide information so customers can make informed choices and decisions and have ownership of their own situation. We don’t want to be telling them what they have to do, we want to give them the information so they can make decisions for themselves. It’s really important that they have control of their situation.”

To learn more, watch the short video where Andrea Osborne explains the wide range of services a financial counsellor can provide.

What are customers experiencing when it comes to energy and water costs?

Taking the time to listen to what financial counsellors are learning from their casework can offer valuable insight into the financial challenges people are facing. Below, the panel explores what they’re seeing firsthand when it comes to why customers are not able to pay their energy and water bills.

The gap between energy and other life essentials

Danielle Slade, who works for the National Debt Helpline 5 days a week, explains that “the biggest thing we’ve seen is extraordinarily large debts,” where in some cases, people can barely cover their current usage let alone also contribute towards old energy bills.

Danielle continued on to provide insight into the essentials that help create a comfortable life, including:

  1. Rent or housing
  2. Food
  3. Transport
  4. Medications
  5. Telecommunications
  6. Power

“I say power last because [in the eyes of the customer], that’s the only bill this fortnight that I can skip if I just don’t have enough money. If I don’t pay my rent, I get evicted. I have to eat. I can’t walk my children to school if it takes us 2 hours to get there. I can’t not take medication. So, the only thing that’s left that I can skip this fortnight is power. So, a lot of people leave it to that 3 month bill and then we get a debt that’s just so unmanageable.”

The link to housing and water costs

There has also been recent casework where customers are struggling to pay their water bills.

Rose McGrath explained, “For renters, they pay the landlords directly. They don’t have a direct billing relationship with the water company or with the council. So, water arrears are very much tied up with rent arrears and because rents have increased so much, people are really struggling to pay their water and rent. As a result, partly, they are being evicted for non-payment of their water.”

Rose goes on to explain that in some cases, there is such high demand for rental subsidies and rental arrears, it takes up to 2 months for people to receive them where they can be evicted within that time.

“With water, there are no hardship provisions like there is in energy. There is no hardship framework and there’s no concessions for renters.”

What can the energy sector do to help with the cost-of-living crunch?

When it comes to supporting customers with their energy and water bills, the panel provided insight into what’s currently working and what could be improved to help customers regain control of their financial situation.

  • Continue educating customers on ways to reduce their power bills, where Andrea mentions that once customers are given this information, “12-24 months down the track, we had observed their energy bills and they dropped hundreds [of dollars]. Just a bit of information and they were able to change their ways and reduce their bills.”
  • Continue energy audits for vulnerable customers as well as further to current government initiatives, there could be potential to replace faulty appliances causing higher energy bills.
  • More reference to the National Debt Helpline to ensure customers know where to go for financial help (for example, as shown in the Keep the money. It’s yours. National concessions campaign).
  • Matched payments, where possible, as Danielle explained that customers start to think “the energy provider is going to help me pay off my debt?” which helps to shift the mentality to ‘we’re in this together’ (acknowledging this may not be the case for all retailers).
  • Potential to introduce debt waivers, including an automatic debt waiver when there’s family violence.
Want to watch the full recording of ‘Stories from the frontline of the cost-of-living crunch’ session?

Listen to the full session to gain further insight into what financial counsellors are seeing in their casework and the impacts the cost-of-living crisis is having on their energy and water bills.

About this event 

This event was part of the Know Your Customers + Communities – Community of Practice dedicated to building capability around robust and fit-for-purpose customer, community, and stakeholder engagement, and building organisational cultures that value the customer voice in decision making. 

Know Your Customers + Communities is a collaboration with between the Energy Charter and Water Services Association of Australia under our Collaboration Memo of Understanding (MoU). 

To become a regular member of this Community of Practice, please contact Bec Jolly, Director Collaboration 

The story of energy – An artwork is by Ngarrindjeri artist, Jordan Lovegrove

The story of energy - An artwork is by Ngarrindjeri artist, Jordan Lovegrove

More about the art and the artist, Jordan Lovegrove…

Jordan Lovegrove

Jordan is a Ngarrindjeri visual storyteller and artist known for his captivating contemporary and abstract art. You can see more of his work here.

With 12 years of experience, Jordan has developed a vibrant and dynamic style, drawing inspiration from his Ngarrindjeri heritage, his artwork showcases cultural symbolism and a unique artistic vision.

Alongside his art, Jordan is also skilled in graphic design, specializing in creating visually appealing reports, Reconciliation Action plans, logos & branding. He seamlessly blends traditional and modern techniques to produce visually stunning and contemporary designs.

The artwork by Jordan produced for the Energy Charter tells the story of energy, how it connects all of Australia and the Energy Charter’s commitment to create a better energy future for all Australians.

The centrepiece of the artwork represents the Energy Charter’s five core principles dedicated to better outcomes for customers and their communities. 

TEC579 Artwork Final-09

The three coloured sections and symbols represent the transition to a cleaner future; blue is hydro, orange is solar, and green is wind.

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The meeting places around the outside and pathways that connects them represents like-minded energy organisations across Australia collaborating and connecting people together for the betterment of communities.

These communities are represented by the pattern on the inside of the artwork.

Jordan was brought to us by Ochre Dawn, a 100% Australian Aboriginal owned and Supply Nation Certified, company. Company founder and proud Peramangk and Ngarrindjeri woman, Rebecca Wessels, explains…

“As Aboriginal people, we are natural storytellers – it’s part of our makeup. As an Aboriginal-owned branding and marketing company, storytelling is our business”.

Ochre Dawn helps others to tell their story in visually captivating ways. They do this by being the hands that write, that paint, that create; being the minds that ideate, being the voices that declare true identities and unleash a truly Australian existence.

For more information visit their website