Reducing the impact of heatwaves: bodies, housing, and cool suburbs

This panel focuses on key, implementable responses for lessening the impacts of heatwaves.

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Penrith hit an all-time high of 48.9 degrees in early January – for a day it was the hottest place on the planet. The climate-changed projections for Sydney are clear: average temperatures will continue to increase, with more hot days and more frequent and lengthier heatwaves. The impacts of heatwaves are one of the most inequitably distributed impacts of climate change. Those that can afford simply turn on air conditioning, while the poor, homeless, elderly, at risk, and those that live alone tend to be the most impacted. Global research shows that more heat is coming, and it will make everyday life in Sydney, and the western suburbs in particular, more uncomfortable and dangerous for those most vulnerable.

This panel focuses on key, implementable responses for lessening the impacts of heatwaves – low-cost personal strategies to keep cool, housing design to keep the heat out, and neighbourhood and local council strategies to counter the heating of suburbs. Our contributors will discuss straightforward policy suggestions to keep the most vulnerable among us safe as climate change heats our cities.

This event was presented at the University of Sydney on Wednesday 11 March 2020.


  • Joanne Corcoran is the Coordinator, Multicultural Health Service, for the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District. 
  • Ollie Jay is an Associate Professor in Thermoregulatory Physiology, and Director of the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory, in the Faculty of Medicine and Health at The University of Sydney.
  • Tess Lea is an Associate Professor who specialises in the anthropology of policy. 
  • Stephanie Macfarlane is a clinical social worker with experience in the areas of corrections, homelessness and drug and alcohol in NSW in both the government and non-government sectors. 
  • David Schlosberg is Professor of Environmental Politics in the Department of Government and International Relations, Payne-Scott Professor, and Director of the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney.