Connection and resilience for disaster preparedness in outer metro suburbs

Disaster preparedness and recovery is a growing issue for urban fringe suburbs and social connection is key to building community resilience. In this guest blog, Rhiannon Hunt and Jane Farmer discuss what they understand as underpinning fresh thinking needed to tackle readiness for climate-related crises.

A circle of people putting their hands on top of one another's in the centre
Photo by Dio Hasbi Saniskoro

In 2022-23, we conducted more than 160 hours of discussions with outer-metro Melbourne residents about social connection for the ARC Linkage project, Activating Social Connection in Australia (LPLP200301335). To discover the findings and reactions to them, come to Achieving Social Connection and Community Resilience: JoIning the dots between policy, practice, research and community on 6 June 2023.    

Here’s a taster based on a summary of the research findings; it highlights ways cultural communities connect signposts and ways agencies can support emergency response capability.

Working with how communities work

Sitting with a diverse group of City of Casey residents, we ask them about the extent of connectedness and belonging in their community. Responses are confused and people talk at cross-purposes. 

Craig, a long-term Australian resident says he can only speak about his neighbourhood while Samira inquires if we are talking about her cultural community – the Afghan community, her feeling of being Australian, the group of mothers she knows, or something else? This highlights the different ways of being community, and also the overlapping layers of connections that can be tapped into to spread knowledge about climate-related hazards and responses.

Our research raised the multiple social media platforms – Viber, Telegram, Discord and Whatsapp – used with multiple faith groups, family/friends in Australia and overseas to swap information, maintain cultural bonds and make arrangements. This points to the challenge of expecting people to link to one centralised source of knowledge – instead, agencies need to tap into communities and their favoured digital platforms as channels for spreading vital information.

For making new connections in new communities, many people advocated for learning as a way they can build their capability, while also making new connections. Learning is also great for connecting across cultures. Many people said they wanted to learn about other cultures in the community, about how Australian systems work (for example, Medicare), and to share languages, traditions and food.

The National Growth Areas Alliance recently reported that 5.3 million Australians living in major growth corridors would be harder hit by climate change than inner-city dwellers. It’s important to find out how best to support connection so people find out about and share knowledge of hazards and how to collectively respond.

Lessons about connection strategies from communities and Australian Red Cross actions on community resilience will feature at the event on 6 June. We hope you will be there.

Photo of Rhiannon Hunt

Rhiannon Hunt has worked in the humanitarian space in Australia and internationally for over 10 years and has seen andis currently the Acting National Lead, Disaster Resilience at Australian Red Cross.

Photo of Professor Jane Farmer standing in front of a wall of graffiti

Jane Farmer is a leader, collaborator, social innovator and Chief Investigator on the ARC Linkage project, Activating Social Connection in Australia (LPLP200301335). Check out her guide, Social Connection 101.

If you are interested in partnering with APO to build engagement with your research or policy work,
get in contact with APO Director, Associate Professor Brigid van Wanrooy.