Natural disasters can be catastrophic and have prolonged impacts for individuals, regions and communities. This was highlighted during and beyond the 2019-20 bushfire season, where some communities faced multiple disaster events e.g. bushfires, storms and then floods.

The impacts of natural disasters on small businesses can be devastating. These impacts can include damaged and destroyed assets and reduced production and revenue streams. Recovering from this can take a heavy toll on small business owners, their employees, and the broader community. 

Small businesses outside of directly affected disaster areas can also be adversely impacted, such as through the effects of smoke taint, supply-chain disruptions, or reduced tourism. As these impacts are difficult to predict, they may be overlooked in preparing disaster plans and in decisions around recovery assistance and support.

The challenges and complexities associated with small business recovery after natural disasters is demonstrated by the fact that the recovery in regional and rural areas from the 2019-20 bushfire season is still ongoing despite the mobilisation of enormous resources from the business community, individuals, and local, state, and federal governments.

While not a panacea, the cost of natural disasters and lengthy recovery time for small businesses and regional networks could be partially mitigated by enhanced preparedness and resilience.

Learning from the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements

The 2020 Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements found that governments have “a vital role in educating communities and providing people with the information they need to make sound and informed decisions about how to manage the risks they face from natural disasters”.[1] Recommendation 10.1 of the Royal Commission’s final report was 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”.

Recognising the importance of small business to communities, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman will undertake an inquiry into existing education and engagement practices with respect to promoting small business disaster resilience and make recommendations to Government on how these could be improved.

Scope of inquiry

In undertaking the inquiry, the Ombudsman will:

  1. Examine how key preparedness and planning information developed by the public and private sectors has been communicated to and adopted by small business, including the various toolkits, guides and other resources produced since the 2019-20 natural disasters.
  2. Identify and evaluate education and engagement options to help support small business preparedness for, and resilience to, natural disasters, including secondary effects. This includes:
    • Identifying which options are preferred by small businesses and whether preferences differ across regional and rural areas.
    • Determining how communication to the small business community has been managed by government agencies.
    • Highlighting effective preparedness and resilience mechanisms.
  3. Make recommendations on how the federal government could contribute to improved collaboration and coordination to ensure enhanced preparedness, resilience and recovery of small businesses affected by natural disasters.
  4. Make recommendations on the types of supports that could be targeted to small business, and other recommendations as to how to achieve the best outcomes from such supports.
  5. Make recommendations for the development of targeted resources that could be used by small business and government agencies (local, state and federal) to better support small business preparedness and resilience.
  6. Make recommendations for immediate response actions that small business and government agencies (local, state and federal) could take when presented with a natural disaster to better support small business preparedness and resilience.
  7. Any other relevant matters.

In undertaking the inquiry, the Ombudsman should also take into consideration the existing work of government agencies in implementing the Government response to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, which includes the establishment of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency.

As part of the inquiry, the Ombudsman will engage with relevant stakeholders, including small businesses, as well as their advisers and representatives, and with government and other relevant organisations.


The Ombudsman will commence the inquiry immediately and will report to the Minister no later than 18 March 2022.

[1] Overview of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements report

Feedback sessions




14th February


7.30am to 8.30am

Northreach Baptist Church Hall, 38 Canterbury Rd, Kirwan



2.00pm to 3.00pm

The Dispensary, 84 Wood Street, Mackay



7.00pm to 8.00pm

SmartHub at Customs House, 208 Quay St, Rockhampton

15th February


11.30am to 12.30pm 

Murwillumbah RSL Club, 10 Wollumbin St, Murwillumbah



2.00pm to 3.00pm

Lismore Workers Club, 231 Keen St, Lismore

17th February

Batemans Bay

10.00am to 11.00am

Bateman's Bay Soldiers Club, Beach Rd, Batemans Bay



11.30am to 12.30pm

Grumpy & Sweethearts Cafe, 34 Sydney St, Batemans Bay


Central Tilba

1.30pm to 2.30pm

Dromedary Hotel, 14 Bate St, Central Tilba



3.30pm to 4.30pm

Cobargo Hotel, 41 Princess Hwy, Cobargo

18th February


8.00am to 9.00am

Club Bega, 82 Gipps St, Bega



10.00am to 11.00am

Merimbula RSL, 52-54 Main St, Merimbula



1.00pm to 2.00pm

Cosmo Café, 133 Maybe Street, Bombala



4.30pm to 5.30pm

Jindabyne Bowling and Sports Club, 2 Bay St, Jindabyne

20th February

Kangaroo Island

6pm to 7pm

Parndana Sports Club, Playford Highway, Parndana

21st February

Kangaroo Island

7.30am to 8.30am

Ozone Restaurant, 67 Chapman Terrace, Kingscote (Inside Aurora Ozone Hotel)


Murray Bridge

12.30pm to 1.30pm

Murray Bridge Hotel, 20 Sixth Street, Murray Bridge



2.30pm to 3.30pm

Lovells Bakery, 4 Shannon Street, Birdwood

22nd February


9.30am to 10.30am

River Deck Café, 16 Howitt Lane, Bright



1pm to 2pm

Fresh Air Café, 199 Day Ave, Omeo



6.30pm to 7.30pm

Mallacoota Bistro Hotel, 51/55 Maurice Ave, Mallacoota

23rd February


9.30am to 10.30am

Paperchase Café, 168 Main Street, Bairnsdale



12.30pm to 1.30pm

Morwell Hotel, 311-327 Princes Drive, Morwell



3.30pm to 4.30pm

The Memo Hall (Nan Francis Room), 256 Maroondah Highway, Healesville



6.30pm to 7.30pm

The Lancefield Lodge, 46-50 Main Road, Lancefield

24th February



Hobart Function and Conference Centre, 1 Elizabeth Street Pier, Hobart




Saltshaker Restaurant, 11A Franklin Street, Swansea


St Helens


Bayside Hotel, 2 Cecilia Street, St Helens




Kendalls Hotel & Bistro, 18/24 George St, Scottsdale

25th February



Bread and Butter, 89 Cimitiere St, Launceston




Blacksmith Gallery Café, 63 Main Street, Sheffield




Mallee Grill, 26 North Terrace, Burnie




Thirty Three Cups, 26 King Edward Street, Ulverstone

28th February



Overtime Café & Bar, 70 Beaumont Street, Hamilton




Lavenders Café, 1/418 High Street, Maitland




Cessnock League Club, 1 Darwin Street, Cessnock




Royal Hotel, Private Room, 84 George Street, Singleton


Fairy Meadow