Resilience to Hazards

Fire landscape in NT Wildlife Park.jpg

Fire knowledge in northern Australia
Fire knowledge in northern Australia

Project Status:

Remote north Australian communities are susceptible to cyclones, floods and bushfires. Cultural and socio-economic factors combine with the challenges of remote service delivery – including cost, low levels of infrastructure and distance from the urban centres that host key service delivery organisations - to create situations where communities can be highly vulnerable to natural hazards. In this context, it is important to understand how these variables can be navigated to enhance community resilience. This task requires a detailed understanding of current capacities, preparation and response strategies, communication pathways and local governance structures.

Scoping remote north Australian community resilience

Remote north Australian communities are susceptible to cyclones, floods and bushfires. Cultural and socio-economic factors combine with the challenges of remote service delivery – including cost, low levels of infrastructure and distance from the urban centres that host key service delivery organisations - to create situations where communities can be highly vulnerable to natural hazards. In this context, it is important to understand how these variables can be navigated to enhance community resilience. This task requires a detailed understanding of current capacities, preparation and response strategies, communication pathways and local governance structures.

A challenge for enhancing community resilience is to develop culturally appropriate, environmentally sustainable economic opportunities. The lack of wealth generation at the local level impedes community capacity to develop infrastructure and build human capital through training and experience of the workplace. The ability of these communities to respond in a coordinated way at an appropriate scale is largely non-existent.

The project comprises two major strands – Scoping resilience issues in remote Indigenous communities, and developing economic resilience through payments for environmental services projects.

The scoping resilience issues in remote Indigenous communities component has three main areas.

  • The Aboriginal Research Practitioners Network - Indigenous researchers trained in Participatory Action Research - are working in two Northern Territory communities (Ngukurr and Gunbalanya) documenting community understandings of natural hazards, risks, current response strategies and community capacity.
  • At these same study sites, the hard, institutional and cultural assets that underpin local capacity and the delivery of emergency services and which are at risk during a hazard are being mapped.
  • Working with community members and end-users to explore the challenges faced by agencies in the delivery of emergency services to remote communities.

The project conducted case studies at Ngukurr and Gunbalanya, and in areas of north east Arnhem Land impacted by Cyclone Lam in 2015.

A report detailing the key findings, and a preliminary set of recommendations and protocols for how remote Indigenous communities can be more effectively engaged in emergency management, is in development. The research highlights the significant gap between the roles and responsibilities of emergency service agencies on the one hand, with the expectations of community members on the other. A critical challenge for government authorities is to effectively engage with Indigenous community governance structures in order to develop mutually respectful partnerships.

The developing economic resilience through payments for environmental services projects component is:

  • Articulating key contemporary terrestrial land use management, institutional, and policy challenges facing Indigenous people and local communities in north Australian savanna regions
  • Exploring opportunities afforded through emerging economies related to climate change mitigation, carbon trading, and ecosystem services to help address identified challenges
  • Undertaking rigorous valuation of ecosystem services to be derived from savanna landscapes of northern Australia, and associated scenario modelling of payment for environmental service benefits which can be derived from emerging land use options (e.g. savanna burning, carbon sequestration, diversified/mixed pastoral management activities, environmental stewardship arrangements)
  • Identifying beneficial culturally appropriate institutional/governance arrangements which can effectively support community development and resilience aspirations, providing authoritative analysis of the above findings to help inform Indigenous community policy development and community resilience outcomes in northern Australia.

The research illustrates that, to better inform regional development policy, significant challenges remain for appropriate valuation of ecosystem services from north Australian savannas, including recognition of socio-cultural services and wellbeing benefits incorporating Indigenous values.

Workshop participants at the OCEANIA Ecosystem Services forum, Brisbane
12 May, 2017
Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC research has been presented at an ecosytems and indigenous wellbeing conference in Brisbane recently.
CRC sign
17 November, 2016
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
Dr Kamaljit Sangha (right) talks natural hazards research at the Palmerston Markets.
4 November, 2016
CRC research was on show in Darwin recently, with researchers from the Scoping remote north Australian community resilience project featuring at the popular Palmerston Markets.
AJEM October 2016 cover
26 October, 2016
Many peer-reviewed papers from the AFAC16 powered by INTERSCHUTZ Research Forum have been published in a special edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management.
13 October, 2016
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
White Toyota = Whiteboard”, Grace Daniels makes a point late in the late afternoon at the Limurlee workshop
22 September, 2016
Steve Sutton visited a place that's not on a map, and hard to pick out on Google Earth, for a workshop on resilience and emergency management in northern Australia.
25 July, 2016
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
Researchers and end-users in Darwin.
18 February, 2016
End-users and researchers met in Darwin this week to discuss the range of CRC research underway across northern Australia.
ARPNet researchers with Steve Sutton in Gunbalanya
6 January, 2016
The steady pulse of wet/dry hazard and threat seems remote to visitors to Indigenous communities in the Top End, but how do the locals feel about it? That is what we're trying to find out.
Dean Yibarbuk, ARPNet Co-Chair and team leader for the Gunbalanya research, recording a completed matrix activity on perceptions of natural hazard risk over time.
7 December, 2015
Research is helping remote northern communities face natural hazards. CRC researchers visited the Ngukurr community in the Top End and discovered the important role that local knowledge plays in community resilience.
The Spring 2015 edition of Fire Australia magazine
7 December, 2015
Research is a key focus of the Spring 2015 edition of Fire Australia magazine.
Workshop participants at Ngukurr.
5 June, 2015
CRC researchers have spent four days deep in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory discussing the community resilience studies underway in the communities of Ngukurr and Gunbalanya.
Year Type Citation
2016 Journal Article Maddock, N. Notes from the Field: Managed by us mob: helping remote northern communities face natural hazards. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 31, (2016).
2016 Report Michaels, C., Tofa, M. & James, G. Literature review on community resilience in remote north Australia. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Report Russell-Smith, J. Scoping remote north Australian community resilience and developing governance models through action research: annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2015 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2015 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2015 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Conference Paper Sangha, K. et al. Developing enterprise opportunities and resilience in remote north Australian communities - non peer reviewed extended abstract. Adelaide Conference 2015 (2015).
2015 Conference Paper Gould, J., Sithole, B., Campbell, A., James, G. & Sutton, S. Building Community Resilience to Natural Hazards in Northern Australia Conference Paper 2014. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Wellington Conference 2014 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Presentation Russell-Smith, J. Risks and opportunities for sustainable savanna fire management. (2015).
2015 Report Russell-Smith, J. Scoping Remote North Australian Community Resilience Annual Report 2014. (2015).
2015 Report Russell-Smith, J. Scoping remote north Australian community resilience and developing governance models through action research: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
Scoping community resilience
25 Aug 2014

Scoping community resilience through participatory action research (PAR) in Northern territory remote aboriginal communities. 

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Scoping remote North Australian community resilience
18 Aug 2015

"Why yous mob only want to talk about big disasters, us mob are vulnerable to small ones too" - community perspectives about disaster resilience in Gunbalanya in the NT.

Jeremy Russell-Smith Conference Poster 2016
12 Aug 2016

The project applies ecological-economic methods to help build the resilience and sustainability of remote Indigenous communities across northern Australia.

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