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Exploring the Legal Basis in Australia for Evacuations from Disasters: Avoiding Arbitrary Displacement


Jane McAdam

The summer of 2019–20 saw Australia’s largest ever peacetime evacuation, as bushfires threatened homes, communities and lives. In 2022, thousands of people were evacuated from catastrophic floods in northern New South Wales and Queensland. As climate change amplifies the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, evacuations are likely to become increasingly common. Yet, while evacuations can protect people from imminent danger, they can also displace people from their homes and place human rights at risk. This article provides a detailed analysis of state and federal evacuation powers in Australia, in light of international law and policy standards, and highlights where protection gaps exist. It argues that such gaps arise, in part, because evacuations are not ‘seen’ as a form of displacement in Australia, thereby rendering people’s needs – and rights – invisible. The challenges identified here are not only pertinent to law and policy reform in Australia, but also in other countries.

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2022 45(4) UNSWLJ 1325: