Relocating Australian Communities at Risk

This issues paper contributes to an emerging yet crucial national conversation on the necessity of developing and implementing a National Relocation Strategy for at-risk communities in Australia. The document and accompanying website aim to foster a comprehensive dialogue leading to the creation of new research, collaborations, initiatives, and policy developments in light of the escalating risk faced by Australian communities in a changing climate. Tailored for policymakers, industry leaders, educators, media professionals, community organisations, and community members alike, it aims to initiate a wide-ranging interdisciplinary conversation that extends beyond current practices.

Climate change is impacting the lives and livelihoods of people globally, with a significant percentage of Australia’s population living in areas increasingly exposed to its effects and associated extreme weather events. As sudden-onset hazards including fl oods, cyclones, and fi res, alongside slow-onset hazards such as sea-level rise, severe heat, and drought, displace people from their homes or compromise their safety, there is growing acknowledgement that planned relocation of communities out of harm’s way will become an important factor in national decision-making. Communities impacted by consecutive climate-related disasters are grappling with questions of how and where to rebuild, with relocation emerging as an increasingly necessary option to ensure future safety.

Given these circumstances, Australia will need to shift focus to the locations of its communities, towns, and cities. Strategic planning across sectors and disciplines will be important to ensure communities, industry and governments are taking pre-emptive action to minimise risks, damage, and losses from climate-related disasters. Developing a National Relocation Strategy, built upon evidence-based risk assessment, is crucial for progressing relocation strategies that place the safety, dignity, and agency of people at the centre. While climate change affects communities with varying intensity, structural and systemic factors escalate vulnerability, creating disparities in access to the resources, support, and community capacity necessary to deal with the impacts.

Led by the ANU Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions, the report’s authors include experts from the University of Sydney, University of Canberra and Mather Architecture, as well as UTAS and the ANU. 

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