Research leader

Dr Briony Towers Research Leader

End User representatives

Matthew Henry End-Users
Gwynne Brennan
Gwynne Brennan End-Users
Rob Purcell
Rob Purcell End-Users
Fiona Dunstan
Fiona Dunstan End-Users
Sarah Anderson End-Users
Tony Jarrett End-Users
Conrad Walsh End-Users
Francie Tonkin
Francie Tonkin End-Users
Bruno Greimel End-Users
John Richardson
John Richardson End-Users
Antonia Mackay End-Users
Susan Davie
Susan Davie End-Users
Tamsin Achilles End-Users
Peta O'Donohue End-Users
Tracey Leotta End-Users
Mandy Moore End-Users
Sandra Barber
Sandra Barber End-Users

Research team

Dr Katharine Haynes Research Team
Dr Eva Alisic Research Team
Susan Davie
Susan Davie Research Team
Dr Marla Petal Research Team
Nick Ireland Research Team
Prof John Handmer
Prof John Handmer Research Team
Prof David Johnston
Prof David Johnston Research Team

Student researchers

Avianto Amri Student Reseachers
Mayeda Rashid Student Reseachers
Andrew Clarke
Andrew Clarke Student Reseachers
Revathi Nuggehalli Krishna Student Reseachers
Matthew Henry Student Reseachers
Tony Jarrett Student Reseachers

Children represent the most vulnerable demographic group in disasters – across the globe it is estimated that 30-50% of fatalities are children - while they are also most vulnerable to psychosocial impacts. Early research indicates that children are a resource for reducing current disaster risks and can also mitigate future risks.

The role of children’s disaster education in managing risk has been recognised as a major priority in the federal government’s National Strategy for Disaster Resilience. Yet, despite a recent surge in child-centred disaster research, the social, psychological, economic and political mechanisms that enable children to both understand and take action to reduce disaster risk remain largely unexplored and the evidence-base for best-practice remains limited.

This project is conducting a nationwide evaluation of programs and strategies based on a child-centred disaster risk reduction framework. It will develop cost-effective programs that reduce the risk and increase resilience for children, schools, households and communities.

This research is already supporting bushfire education for primary school students, with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service utilising findings, along with the knowledge, skills and experience of researchers to develop a bushfire education kit. The ‘Guide to Working with School Communities’ has been rolled out to all schools through the NSW Rural Fire Service. This places primary schools students front and centre in state-wide bushfire plans, based on the research identifying the importance of involving children in active bushfire preparations for the benefit of the whole community.

The Guide follows the earlier publication of an ebook, available nationally, and based on the same principles that if you educate children on hazards safety, their families and the wider community will also benefit.

This line of research has provided fundamental insight into how children learn about bushfires and how they share those learnings with their families. Collaboration with the NSW Rural Fire Service is continuing, and the team will evaluate the guide over upcoming fire seasons to gather data to measure its impact on community safety over successive seasons.

Collaboration is at the heart of the research at every stage, with researchers and end-users involved in all aspects of the study, from undertaking the research to developing utilisation plans and writing journal papers. This collaboration will produce enhanced benefits when the research reaches maturity and is embedded across the country. Utilisation will include developing best practice guidelines and appropriate training.

The project has been highly active on the international scene, with Prof Kevin Ronan representing the CRC on the United Nations Integrated Research on Disaster Risk committee, as well as presenting at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, in 2015, and the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun, Mexico. Prof Ronan is also assisting in the development of a science and technology research plan to support the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015-2030. Researcher Dr Briony Towers has also contributed to a World Vision project to deploy the Lumkani fire detector device to slums in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her ongoing children’s bushfire education research was selected by the UNISDR Scientific and Technical Advisory Group as a best practice case study.

Year Type Citation
2018 Journal Article Towers, B. & Whyrbo, M. A formative evaluation of the Triple Zero Kids’ Challenge Teacher’s Guide. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 33, 6 (2018).
2018 Report Towers, B. & Ronan, K. Evaluation of Survive and Thrive. 94 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2017 Conference Paper Jarrett, T. An organisational response to Stage 3 Geography and the study of a contemporary bushfire event. AFAC17 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2017 Journal Article McNeill, I. M. & Ronan, K. Children in disasters: the role of household preparedness. Natural Hazards (2017). doi:10.1007/s1106
2017 Journal Article Westcott, R., Ronan, K., Bambrick, H. & Taylor, M. "Don’t Just Do Something .. Stand There!" Emergency Responders’ Peri-Incident Perceptions of Animal Owners in Bushfire. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 4, (2017).
2016 Book Chapter Rashid, M., Ronan, K. & Towers, B. Education in Times of Environmental Crisis: Teaching Children to be Agents of Change (Routledge, 2016).
2016 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2016 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2016 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Conference Paper Ronan, K. & Towers, B. Evidence-based practice, practice-based evidence: moving towards scaled implementation in child-centred disaster risk reduction. AFAC16 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Journal Article Towers, B., Ronan, K. & Rashid, M. Child Health and Survival in a Changing Climate: Vulnerability, Mitigation, and Adaptation. Geographies of Children and Young People 8, (2016).
2016 Journal Article Lai, B. S., Alisic, E., Lewis, R. & Ronan, K. Approaches to the assessment of children in the context of disasters. Current Psychiatry Reports 18, (2016).
2016 Journal Article Ronan, K. et al. Child-centered disaster risk reduction: Can disaster resilience programs reduce risk and increase the resilience of children and households?. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management 31, (2016).
2016 Journal Article Johnson, V., Ronan, K., Johnston, D. M. & Peace, R. Improving the Impact and Implementation of Disaster Education: Programs for Children Through Theory-Based Evaluation. Risk Analysis 36, 2120-2135 (2016).
2016 Report Ronan, K. et al. Building best practice in child-centred disaster risk reduction: Annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Report Towers, B. et al. Disaster resilience education: A practice framework for Australian emergency management agencies. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2015 Conference Paper Ronan, K. et al. Promoting Child Resilience to Disasters: Policy, Practice, Research Conference Paper 2014. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Wellington Conference 2014 (2015).
2015 Journal Article Handmer, J. & Towers, B. Progress made with public awareness-raising activities aimed at building both rural and urban disaster resilience. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Journal Article Ronan, K., Alisic, E., Towers, B., Johnson, V. & Johnston, D. M. Disaster preparedness for children and families: a critical review. Current Psychiatry Reports 17, (2015).
2015 Journal Article Ronan, K. Progress made with school curricula, education material and relevant training in disaster risk reduction and recovery concepts and practices. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Journal Article Towers, B. Children’s knowledge of bushfire emergency response. International Journal of Wildland Fire 24, 179-189 (2015).
2015 Report Ronan, K. & Towers, B. Child-Centred Disaster Risk Reduction Annual Report 2014. (2015).
2015 Report Ronan, K. et al. Building best practice in child-centred disaster risk reduction: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2014 Journal Article Ronan, K. & Towers, B. Systems Education for a Sustainable Planet: Preparing Children for Natural Disasters. Systems 2, 1-23 (2014).
2014 Journal Article Johnson, V., Ronan, K., Johnston, D. M. & Peace, R. Evaluations of disaster education programs for children: a methodological review. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 9, 107-123 (2014).
2014 Journal Article Ronan, K. Solving wicked problems linked to disasters, risk and uncertainty: Children are truly our future. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 29, 8-9 (2014).
2014 Journal Article Johnston, D. M., Standring, S. & Ronan, K. Children's understanding of natural hazards in Christchurch: reflecting on a 2003 study. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 29, 66 (2014).
2014 Journal Article Johnson, V., Johnston, D. M., Peace, R. & Ronan, K. Evaluating Children’s Learning of Adaptive Response Capacities from ShakeOut, an Earthquake and Tsunami Drill in Two Washington State School Districts. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management 11, 347-373 (2014).
2014 Journal Article Johnson, V. & Ronan, K. Classroom responses of New Zealand school teachers following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Natural Hazards 72, 1075-1092 (2014).
2014 Journal Article Webb, M. & Ronan, K. Interactive Hazards Education Program for Youth in a Low SES Community: A Quasi-Experimental Pilot Study. Risk Analysis 34, 1882-1893 (2014).
2014 Journal Article Johnson, V., Johnston, D. M., Peace, R. & Ronan, K. Implementing Disaster Preparedness education in New Zealand primary schools. Disaster Prevention and Management 23, 370-380 (2014).
The role of children in disasters: A program of research
25 Aug 2014

Children represent the most vulnerable demographic group in disasters.  

Key Topics
A cross cultural investigation of child-centred disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in Indonesia and Australia
25 Aug 2014

There remains an assumption that children and young people are passive victims with no role to play in communicating risks or participating in risk reduction strategies. 

Key Topics
An Evidence-Based Practice Framework for Children's Disaster Education
18 Aug 2015

Disaster education for children has been identified as a key stragety for increasing disaster resilience. In Australia, comprehensive, evidence-based guidance for the development and implementation of quality education programmes is lacking. This framework, underpinned by current research in the field, aims to provide emergency service agencies and other stakeholders with a good practice approach to developing education programmes that foster children's capacities for building resilience.

Children and Youth in Disasters: A Co-Produced Program of Research
18 Aug 2015

Children represent the most vulnerable demographic group in disasters.  The world health organisation estimates that 30-50% of disaster fatalities are children.  They are also most vulnerable to psychosocial impacts.  However, preliminary research and the new Sendai Framework also identifies them as community “drivers” of change for reducing current and future disaster risks and increasing community resilience.

Kevin Ronan Conference Poster 2016
12 Aug 2016

The national strategy for disaster resilience recognises disaster resilience education (DRE) as a priority.

Ilona McNeill Conference Poster 2016
12 Aug 2016

Children form a vulnerable demographic in both the response and recovery phases of natural disasters

Child-centred disaster risk reduction: a holistic, rights-based conceptual framework
12 Aug 2016

Child-centred disaster risk reduction (CC-DRR) is a flexible, rights-based, innovative approach to disaster risk reduction (DRR) combining child-focused (for the children) and child-led (by the children) activities involving children, families, communities, non governmental organisations, emergency management agencies and governments (UNICEF, 2014; PLANUK, 2010; Save the Children, 2007).

Disaster resilience education: a practice framework for Australian emergency management agencies
29 Jun 2017

Disaster resilience education for children and young people has been identified as a key mechanism for reducing disaster risk and increasing resilience. This practice framework aims to provide Australian emergency management agencies with a strategic, evidence-based approach to the development of disaster resilience educationi programs that build the capacity of children and young people to become agents of change in their households, schools and communities.

Amplifying student voice in disaster resilience education: A case study of the disaster resilience project
18 Sep 2018

Developed through a dual agency multi-hazard pilot project led by the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the Victorian State Emergency Service (VicSES), the Disaster Resilience Project is a teacher-delivered disaster resilience education program for Victorian secondary school students in Years 7-9. As part of the program development process, research was conducted to involve students as genuine stakeholders in decision-making regarding program structure, content and mode of delivery.

Enablers and inhibitors to the sustainable implementation of effective teacher delivered disaster resilience education through the Geography Syllabus
18 Sep 2018

The NSW Geography Syllabus requires that all Stage 3 students (Years 5 and 6) in New South Wales study the effect of a contemporary bush fire event on people, place and the environment – approximately 100,000 students in 4,000 classrooms across 2,500 schools doing this Unit of Work each year.