Episode 35: With George Karagiannakis, on challenges associated to natural disasters and risk management

E35 George Karagiannakis

As the title suggests, this podcast is all about unearthing a new perspective on risk.

My guests are experts in their fields where they impact risk either directly or indirectly. My interviews aim to lift the lid on risk and rip it apart to give you a whole new perspective on it.

My name’s Lisa Sisson and I am founder of risk consultancy, Unearth. I’m also becoming known somewhat as a “Risk Rebel”.

At Unearth we believe that risk starts and ends with people. Equally, we believe that opportunity starts and ends with people. So if you’re not looking at risk with, through and by your people, then you are not only leaving your organisation exposed to risk, you are also not opening up the opportunities that a people-centred risk strategy will deliver.

In this episode, we are joined by a very special guest, George Karagiannakis, the Executive Manager of Government Relations for Insurance Australia Group (IAG). George’s work sees him manage the interaction between IAG and the political world in Australia, at a Federal, State Territory Governments, and to some extent, Local Government. Over the past 24 years George has seen a lot of change in that time, both within the company or within the insurance industry. And on the subject of natural disasters and risk management, George and Lisa explore this topic through the lens of the insurance industry, and also from the various governments perspective.

Over the past couple of years, George and Lisa have had a number of discussions on the challenges Australian’s are facing in relation to the intensity associated with natural disasters, the changing whether as a result of climate change, and the ongoing challenges associated to the response and recovery for communities after a major event. So, they thought it would be a good idea to do an episode and share some of the areas they have spoken about and provide you with insights, especially with George’s unique perspective based on his experience.

Lisa was eager to have this discussion because anyone who has met Lisa, knows that community safety is something she is passionate about, and sets are the heart of her purpose, to create a safe world. She believes it is imperative we are brave and transparent in the tough discussions that are needed, but more importantly, we need to do better in both our approaches to decision making and the actions taken.

Living in our beautiful country also means we are all going to be affected either directly or indirectly on disasters that happen. No one is immune, and we are all part of communities, so we all have a part to play in how we protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. We also know that Government (all levels), industry, non-for-profits, and charities each have a part to play.

Over the years we have seen a lot of frustration captured through community groups and the media as to how the effectiveness of our response and recovery to major natural disasters. As a country that has so much experience with Natural Disasters, so why are we still missing the mark? And considering our country is a large continent with a small population, why don’t we have a unified approach? After all natural disasters don’t stop at state boundaries. Is our bureaucracy getting in the way of how communities are being supported through and after an event?

Lisa and George cover a number of points including:

  • George’s thoughts on the development of Government policy and initiatives on natural disaster risk reduction since the 2010 Qld floods, including since the Royal Commission.
  • The National Action Plan for natural disasters.
  • The forming of NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency) last year.
  • How do we plan for climate change? Weather patterns changing, meaning new types of risks to established communities (e.g. cyclones moving south).
  • When do we start exploring and acting on potential implications, before they happen or wait until after the event (e.g. need for changing in building codes).
  • The importance of data and how it’s used, especially to build confidence.
  • Understanding risk and reducing risks.
  • Communities that are vulnerable of repeatable exposure to harm, and why future land planning needs a rethink and more accountability.
  • The role we all have to play… governments, industry and personal responsibility as homeowners.
  • The need for a unified response and common language.
  • Planning under blue skies and the need for a playbook, specifically create for that community.
  • Complacency creating issues – the ease of forgetting, as we move from floods issues to upcoming bushfires
  • The need to do better moving forward. Is there hope?

There is a need to do better as we move forward, move beyond the many types of reviews, and truly learn from our past experiences, but also prepare early for the changes that are coming. We all know that we need to improve, all the reviews have shared that; so, is there hope that we finally will? Can we come together as one country and find commonality so we can improve how we can all contribute?

We all have a part to play… do you know your role?

If there is anything from this episode you would like to discuss or questions you have, then we would like to hear from you. And maybe we can get George back in for another discussion based on some of your questions.

Remember, now is the time to coordinate, ‘under blue skies’.

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