Ombudsman to probe small businesses’ disaster resilience

A federal inquiry into small business natural disaster preparedness and how to improve the resilience of small and medium-sized enterprises has begun.

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) inquiry will examine and make recommendations to improve education and engagement programs to best target and assist small businesses in preparing for fires, floods, drought, and other natural disasters.

It follows a recommendation in the 2020 Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements that “State and territory governments should continue to deliver, evaluate and improve education and engagement programs aimed at promoting disaster resilience for individuals and communities”.

Ombudsman Bruce Bilson said the impacts of natural disasters on small businesses could be potentially devastating.

“It can mean damaged and destroyed assets, reduced production and revenue streams, and sadly, a business-ending event in some cases that can have devastating personal impacts.

“Recovery can be lengthy – taking a heavy toll on small business owners, their staff and the broader community, but [it] can be greatly assisted by good preparedness [including] taking sensible risk and impact mitigation actions, and bolstering resilience.

“Governments at all levels have a key role to play in ensuring people have the information they need to make informed decisions about how to manage the risks they face from natural disasters and how to be best placed to recover after an unavoidable event.”

The Ombudsman will host feedback sessions in natural disaster-hit areas across the country in the coming weeks.

He will report to the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Stuart Robert, no later than 18 March 2022.

Read the full terms of the inquiry here.