Preparing for the unpredictable: communities reducing disaster risk

How do Australian communities spontaneously mobilise during climate-driven disasters? Hear about new research on the actions taken by flood- and fire-impacted communities in NSW.

This event was held online on 4 October 2023.

In recent years, Australia has been battered by catastrophic bushfires and floods exacerbated by climate change. It is also clear from these shock events that community organised actions fulfil an essential role in disaster preparation, response and recovery. With science warning that the intensity and frequency of fires, floods and other disasters will only increase in future, what lessons can be learnt from communities already impacted by this ‘new normal’? 

A panel of esteemed community organisers and researchers will share crucial new findings from the SEI research project ‘Self-organising Systems to Minimise Future Disaster Risk’ in recognition of the UN’s international Disaster Risk Reduction Day. Learn firsthand insights from their collaboration with affected communities in the Northern Rivers, Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains. The research illuminates the essential role of spontaneous community organising in times of disaster underpinned by strong local knowledge and connection. The discussion will explore how government and emergency services can effectively support this role and how the most meaningful community actions can often go unnoticed.

Funded under the joint Australian Government – NSW Government National Partnership on Disaster Risk Reduction.

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David Schlosberg, Director, Sydney Environment Institute

David Schlosberg (Chair), Director, Sydney Environment Institute

David Schlosberg is Professor of Environmental Politics and Director of the Sydney Environment Institute. His work focuses on environmental, ecological, and climate justice; environment and everyday life; and climate adaptation planning and policy. Professor Schlosberg has worked extensively with local and state governments on just adaptation and resilience planning, the social impacts of climate change, and community-based food systems and policy. At SEI, he is one of the Research Leads on Creating Just Food and Energy PolicySelf organising systems to minimise future disaster risk and Concepts and practices of multispecies justice.

Scott Webster, Researcher, Sydney Environment Institute

Scott Webster, Researcher, Sydney Environment Institute 

Dr Scott Webster is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Sydney Environment Institute. His research is broadly centred on connection to place: its meaningfulness, the knowledge and interventions it enables, and the suffering and injustice caused when these connections are ruptured. Scott’s current role investigates how Australian communities self-organised before, during and after the 2019-20 bushfires and 2020-22 floods. He also explores the ‘killing of memory’ (memoricide) as a phenomenon that bears both everyday and more-than-human dimensions.

Mary Lyons-Buckett, Local Independent Councillor

Mary Lyons-Buckett, Community Fellow, Hawkesbury

Mary has a passion for building a stronger community in the Hawkesbury region, an area vulnerable to multiple challenges particularly around climate risk, and non-sustainable infringements upon valuable ecosystems and habitats. Combining knowledge and skills from a career in scientific research and law, Mary has spent more than a decade as an elected local government representative, including as Mayor and Deputy Mayor, working to increase awareness, and enhance connections and opportunities to assist the community to face multiple major challenges. 

Rebecca McNaught, Plan C

Rebecca McNaught, Plan C

Rebecca McNaught currently volunteers as co-leader of the South Golden Beach Community Resilience Team and is a Plan C board member. She previously worked across the Asia, Pacific and Middle East regions as a climate and disaster advisor to the Red Cross and United Nations. Rebecca is undertaking her PhD at Griffith University, on disaster and climate change resilience in the Pacific Islands and the Northern Rivers NSW. Her two sons drive her determination to seek solutions to the global climate emergency.

Header image: By paintings via Shutterstock ID:68943715

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