Resilience to Hazards

Project Status:

This project, currently under development, will begin on 1 July 2017. It is investigating the hazard priorities of diverse Indigenous communities in southern Australia, and the emergency management sector’s engagement with these communities. It will conduct collaborative research with Indigenous peoples and emergency management practitioners to explore how better engagement can be supported, with a focus on the interaction of scientific, Indigenous and other knowledge sources.

This project, currently under development, will begin on 1 July 2017. Within the context of reducing natural hazard risk and increasing resilience in southern Australia, this action-research project has three objectives:

  • investigate the hazard priorities of diverse Indigenous communities in southern Australia, and the sector’s engagement with these communities;
  • conduct collaborative research with Aboriginal peoples and sector practitioners to explore how better engagement can be supported, with a focus on the interaction of scientific, Aboriginal and other knowledge sources;  
  • analyse and report on what this dynamic intercultural context can offer practice and policy, including with respect to the merging of risk and resilience agendas.

The natural hazard sector is broadening its agenda to prioritise disaster resilience, including a greater emphasis on community engagement, and the risk and resilience issues of culturally diverse peoples. Industry priorities for this work include: to reduce hazard risk to these groups; to increase resilience in these groups and the wider community; to meet societal and policy expectations about cultural engagement; and to broaden the knowledge base utilised in natural hazards management. However, this is a complex cultural context to navigate, not least with respect to Aboriginal peoples living in southern Australia. The natural hazards sector, as with other sectors, may have misunderstandings about what it means to be Aboriginal, to have Aboriginal knowledge, and to undertake Aboriginal activities, whereas Aboriginal people often express difficulties when interacting with and within government institutions. Further, as neither of these two social-cultural groupings is homogenous, within each there is a diversity of perspectives about what greater engagement means for risk regulation and resilience. Nevertheless, there are strong grounds for natural hazard management collaboration and for this to be supported in policy and practice. In particular, there is growing recognition of the importance of traditional owners undertaking land management activities on country, whether it be for cultural, social, economic, and/or ecological outcomes. 

The frequency and severity of natural disasters is rising, and this requires responses that can grasp how social and ecological values are embedded together, and how these embedded relationships can precipitate disaster and/or resilience. This project focuses explicitly on the risk and resilience priorities of Indigenous communities in southern Australia, the sector’s priorities for these communities, and how these interests interact. Its intention is to identify where improvements might be made to reduce natural hazard risk and increase social and ecological resilience. This research complements the exisiting CRC projects Savanna fire management for north Australia, Scoping remote north Australian community resilience and Northern Australia bushfire and natural hazard training, which is documenting the natural hazard experiences of Aboriginal people on large Aboriginal land holdings.

In southern Australia, Aboriginal peoples’ land rights are recognised over much smaller areas, however most of the nation’s Aboriginal people live in the south. This project considers how meaning and value are attributed to risk practices and policies, as arising out of diverse knowledge sources, including ‘scientific’, ‘Aboriginal’, ‘professional’, ‘intuitive’, ‘local’, and so on. Its focus is on how this interplay is experienced in operations, administration, and regulation more broadly.

Drawing upon and supporting innovation where it is occurring, this project will engage with natural hazards practitioners and decision-makers (including those of Aboriginal and other cultural backgrounds) and Aboriginal communities. The project's intention is to build an inclusive narrative of intercultural hazard risk management which Aboriginal peoples and practitioners can buy into. Building trust, capacity and knowledge in these intercultural contexts will reduce risk to Aboriginal peoples, the wider community, and the environments in which we live.

22 March, 2017
An exciting new direction of natural hazards research in Australia is set to begin, with seven new Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC projects beginning in July. These new projects, covering coastal management, emergency management capability, land use planning and recovery, are part of the next phase of national research into natural hazards.

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