By TILEAH DOBSON
While residents of NSW and Queensland are dealing with extreme weather, those who have been directly affected by the flooding have another battle to come. Despite already dealing with the clean-up of their homes and businesses, flood victims also have to fight with insurance companies.
Many victims are finding themselves in greater financial hardship than expected. The cost of insurance against disasters has skyrocketed in recent years, with the average building and contents insurance now standing at $144 a month.
Some are not covered by insurance at all, finding the cost of premiums prohibitive. The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has estimated that 23 per cent of Australian households don’t have building or contents insurance.
The lack of affordable home and contents insurance is why the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has called on the federal and state governments for a national review into affordable, easily accessible insurance; a call ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said must be answered urgently, with the incidence of natural disasters increasing due to global warming.
“The rise of devastating floods and fires experienced in recent years across Australia is set to become more frequent because of climate change, and requires an urgent rethink of insurance to avoid catastrophic social and financial losses,” Dr Goldie said.
“With an increase in extreme weather events, insurance premiums are rising exponentially, becoming unaffordable for the average household and beyond the reach of someone on a low income.
“We are hearing too many stories of people who have just barely recovered from the last flood but couldn’t afford insurance and have now lost everything with no financial means to recover. Many are at risk of falling into poverty, having their poverty entrenched or even ending up pushed into homelessness.”
The sentiments are shared by federal Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman MP. Templeman’s electorate covers significant parts of the Hawkesbury and Nepean areas, which have been besieged by flooding of their namesake rivers in recent days and weeks.
“Insurance is a much bigger issue, and indeed I have been fighting for changes in the insurance industry since my own home was lost to bushfires in the Blue Mountains in 2013,” Templeman told The Sentinel.
“One suggestion is to create tailored insurance packages so people are able to clean up faster in the wake of an event, rather than payout for a premium covering items they might not need. It is a complex issue and one that I will continue to fight for after these latest floodwaters recede.”
While aid is being provided to those in her seat who have been affected by the floods, Templeman has urged residents to seek help from the government by accessing their disaster payouts.
“I would urge flood-affected residents in the area to visit Services Australia for more information. There is also assistance for small businesses and primary producers who have been flooded,” Templeman said.
Detailing the impact of the floods on her electorate, she said: “Local roads have been impacted since last Wednesday, and the three bridges that allow people in the area’s main population centres at Yarramundi, North Richmond and Windsor have been closed for days.
“Residents in outlying areas such as St Albans, the Macdonald Valley, Webbs Creek, Sackville, Ebenezer, Lower Portland and Wisemans Ferry have been particularly impacted and many are currently isolated, and many are low on fuel and food. Their power has been off for some time, so they are relying on generators.”
As communities struggle to get back on their feet, ACOSS has called for the establishment of a comprehensive disaster resilience plan, in order for communities to prepare, respond and recover faster from future natural disasters.
“Increased support for the community sector, which provides support for people at high risk, is vital and will enable them to better meet the response, recovery and resilience needs of their communities,” Dr Goldie said.
“We also need to provide adequate incomes, including increasing JobSeeker and disaster payments, to give people a fighting chance to adapt, respond, and recover.”
Tileah Dobson is the news editor and sub-editor of the Sydney Sentinel.