We have the technology

Thursday 12 May 2022

The Vinnies Bushfire Community Development Program is helping people affected by the Black Summer fires build up resilience, in the event of another disaster.

One of the ways the $2.2 million scheme is doing this is by training people in better use of everyday technology to help them be aware of fires and other dangers through the use of their smartphones.

The initial training consists of two linked portions:

1. Two days of digital skills training, fully funded by the Bushfire Community Development program

2. Digital mentors training, funded partially by the Federal Government’s Be Connected program and supported by The Good Things Foundation.

The training was delivered by the team at The Tec Exec and Vinnies organised so that they could run these two separate topics as a package.

“It’s about connecting people who have a little bit of knowledge about technology, so phones, iPads, and it can go into computers as well – breaks it right down.

“It teaches people about technology but it teaches people who know technology how to teach someone to use it,” Tracey Doherty, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW Coordinator of Bushfire Recovery and Community Development, said.

“We’re going to have our first catch up with the mentors that went through the training in three weeks – just to go ‘How are going, have you put any of these skills that you learnt into play in your communities, how else can we support you?’

“So, we’re going to make sure that we’re actually fostering that knowledge building for them,” Ms Doherty said.

The training was developed in order to be understandable by people who are beginners when it comes to technology.

“It’s an opportunity to be able to expand and share that knowledge of how to use digital technology but also introducing then the benefits of being able to use a smartphone when it comes to disaster preparation and preparedness and the recovery component.

“It’s about staying safe and introducing things like the apps like fires near me and traffic NSW and how to pull out the information to make you more resilient in the lead-up to, during, and in the recovery from a disaster,” Ms Doherty said.

“I watched people in that course flourish.

“If you fully understand the capacity and capability that your device has, then finding assistance, being able to keep you and your family safe – that sense of accomplishment because you’ve been able to go and find something that you’ve been looking for,” Ms Doherty said.

“My hope is that they will then continue in the communities long after the Bushfire Community Development Program is gone.

“It’s about setting these communities up for success and leaving some really useful, on the ground skills that don’t require someone to be there constantly to run them.

“So, having people in the communities who can go, ‘Yes, I can show you how to do this on your phone.’

“And the importance of getting them to actually do it rather than going, ‘Oh here give me your phone and I’ll do it for you.’”

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The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW has been alleviating the hardship and disadvantage of thousands of people every year for more than 140 years.

Learn more about our response to the Black Summer bushfires here.