Department of Human Services

About State Recovery

Disaster recovery information on this page

On this page, we

  • provide general information about what disaster recovery is
  • explain how we contribute to disaster recovery
  • publish reports and resources about disaster recovery.

On this page

What is disaster recovery?

Disaster recovery is the coordinated process of supporting communities that have been affected by a disaster in the reconstruction and restoration of psycho-social, economic, built and natural environments.

A new plant growing after a bushfireThe SA Emergency Management Act 2004 defines recovery operations as:
"the conduct of any measures (such as human, economic and environmental measures) taken during or after an emergency, being measures necessary to assist the re-establishment of the normal pattern of life of individuals, families and communities affected by the emergency and includes–
(a)  the restoration of essential facilities and services; and
(b)  the restoration of other facilities, services and social networks necessary for the normal functioning of a community; and
(c)  the provision of information, material and personal needs; and
(d)  the provision of means of emotional support; and
(e)  the recovery of the natural environment; and
(f) support to assist the recovery of business."

National principles for disaster recovery

Successful recovery relies on these six principles:

  • understand the context
  • recognise complexity
  • use community-led approaches
  • coordinate all activities
  • communicate effectively
  • recognise and build capacity.

View the national principles for disaster recovery

State Recovery Office

The State Recovery Office is a unit of the Department of Human Services that:

  • works across government and non-government sectors to increase the state's disaster recovery capacity and understanding
  • supports the State Recovery Committee and State Recovery Coordinator (the Chief Executive of DHS)
  • supports Zone (local) Emergency Management Committees.

During a disaster, the State Recovery Office:

  • coordinates state level recovery functions
  • provides management and administrative support to the State Recovery Committee
  • advises and supports the State Recovery Coordinator / Assistant State Coordinator – Recovery
  • supports and assists local recovery efforts.

Contact State Recovery Office

Phone 1800 302 787

Emergency relief

The Emergency Relief Functional Support Group identifies and coordinates the provision of practical advice and personal support services that individuals, families and communities need.

The SA Housing Authority is the lead agency for the Emergency Relief Functional Support Group. It may be supported by other agencies including Commonwealth Department for Human Services, Lions International, Disaster and Recovery Ministries, Rotary International, Australian Red Cross, Insurance Council of Australia, Uniting Communities and Foodbank.

The SA Housing Authority establishes relief and recovery centres to support the affected community towards management of its own recovery. Relief centres provide short-term shelter, information and personal support services such as food and temporary accommodation. Recovery centres provide affected people with information, financial assistance and referral to the wide range of recovery services. Other agencies contribute services such as basic first aid and interpreter services.

The Emergency Relief Functional Support Group also reaches out to the community through home visits and phone calls.

Contact Emergency Relief Functional Support Group


State Emergency Relief Fund (SERF)

Australians respond generously when disasters occur. Any money collected by the State Government in a public appeal for disaster relief must be paid into the State Emergency Relief Fund (SERF).

DHS provides administrative support to the SERF committee which manages this fund. The committee ensures appropriate and fair disbursement of publicly donated money.

How to donate money and goods during emergencies

Managing donated goods following a disaster

Money is the best donation but some people prefer to donate goods in an emergency. This takes time Piles of excess donationsand resources away from the important work of helping those affected by disaster. Donated goods need to be transported, stored, sorted and distributed and unneeded or inappropriate goods disposed of.

The South Australian Government has appointed St Vincent de Paul Society to administer, manage and distribute clothing, furniture and household goods donated during and after a disaster.

DHS, with the support of National Emergency Management Project funding, has produced the following fact sheets on managing donated goods after a disaster:

People with vulnerabilities in disasters

The State Recovery Office, with funding from the Natural Disaster Resilience Grant Scheme, undertook a project to examine the issues of people with vulnerabilities in disasters. The project report includes vulnerability and hazard definitions, maps, statistics, research, services and findings.

People with vulnerabilities in disasters — Environmental scan and gap analysis of projects/programs for people with vulnerabilities in disasters (2013) (PDF 5.6 MB)

Another product of the project is an interactive mapping application showing the numbers of people with different types of vulnerabilities within different areas and various hazard zones.

Please note that the report and interactive mapping application do not include mapping of extreme heat vulnerability. This work has been undertaken by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility which has produced: A spatial vulnerability analysis of urban populations during extreme heat events in Australian capital cities.

Council disaster recovery planning

The State Recovery Office, with funding from the Local Government Association, produced the Disaster Recovery Guide for Councils. The guide helps councils to understand their role and contribution to disaster recovery and to develop their recovery plans and arrangements.

Disaster Recovery Guide for Councils (PDF 7.9 MB)

Reports on disaster recovery operations

2015 Pinery Fire Recovery Report (PDF 1.7 MB)

2015 Sampson Flat Bushfire Recovery Report (PDF 760.2 KB)

2005 Eyre Peninsula Bushfire Report - Collaboration is the Key - Report (PDF 1.3 MB)

2005 Eyre Peninsula Bushfire Report - Collaboration is the Key - Appendix (PDF 392.3 KB)

2005 Eyre Peninsula Bushfire Report - Collaboration is the Key - Recovery Diary (PDF 749.3 KB)

2005 Gawler River Flood - Virginia Community Development Project Report (PDF 1.2 MB)

Related information

State Emergency Management Plan (SEMP)
The State Emergency Management Plan (SEMP) outlines responsibilities, authorities and the mechanisms to prevent, or if they occur, manage and recover from, incidents and disasters within South Australia.

Emergency Management (SAFECOM site)
Information about Emergency Management in Australia and, in particular, South Australia.

National Emergency Management (Department of Home Affairs)
National emergency management plans, programs and projects.

Disaster Assist
When Australians are affected by an offshore or onshore disaster this Australian Government website will have up to date public information messages, relevant free call numbers, information on Australian Government Assistance Packages and links to other relevant websites and information.

Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR)
AIDR is a disaster resilience knowledge centre which coordinates and promotes the development, sharing and use of information for anyone working with, in, or affected by, disaster.

Page last updated : 23 Dec 2019

State Government of South Australia © Copyright DHS .[sm v5.4.7.1]