From Risk to Resilience Summit: Australia's call to action

On 29-30 June 2022, AIDR and the National Recovery and Resilience Agency held the From Risk to Resilience Summit in Sydney, the final event in the engagement process for the development of the Second National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The event was opened by Senator Murray Watt, who delivered his first keynote address as the Minister for Emergency Management. Minister Watt told the summit that Australia needs to be better prepared nationally for any scale of event to reduce the impact of natural hazards, acknowledging that this starts with an acceptance that climate change is real. He emphasized that inclusive and collective disaster risk reduction activities are key to resilience and urged industry and government at all levels to take coordinated action to reduce risk.

The first session of the summit focused on the theme ‘Our world at risk’. Tom Kompas, Professor of Environmental Economics and Biosecurity, provided an address about the drivers of disaster and the cost of inaction. “We have lost a decade of action and when it comes to climate change, this is significant. The longer we wait, the faster we need to act and the more significant the reductions need to be” he said.

Marco Toscano Rivalta, Chief of the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific of the UNDRR, spoke to attendees about the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. He asked the summit “How do we bring together people and institutions to take steps to reduce systemic disaster risk?”

These presentations were followed by a panel provocation and discussion from Brendan Moon, CEO Queensland Reconstruction Authority; Ramana James, Executive General Manager Safer Communities at IAG; and Lisa Gibbs, Director Child and Community Wellbeing Unit, Melbourne School of Population and Health, University of Melbourne.

Session two centred on the theme ‘Closing the gap between good intentions and action’. Jacki Johnson, former Co-Chair of the Australian Sustainable Finance Initiative, presented on ‘The future we choose’, asking participants “What are you doing to evolve your organisation’s risk culture and governance as a powerful enabling force for change?”. Michael Berkowitz, Founding Principal of Resilient Cities Catalyst, spoke to urban resilience and tackling the tough challenges. He highlighted that while we need urgent action right now, we also need to be in it for the long haul, because resilience and risk reduction will be a generational struggle.

Closing out day one, the second panel of the day featured Erwin Jackson, Director Policy, Investor Group on Climate Change; Natalie Egleton, CEO Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal; and Mark Howden, Director Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, Australian National University.

Day two opened with session three ‘Aligning and unifying efforts – making it stick’. Author and academic, Tyson Yunkaporta gave a gripping presentation on the dark side of systems thinking, asking the summit “What will you do to incorporate First Nations thinking into your organisation’s culture and governance?”. Michelle Maloney, Co-founder and National Convenor of Australian Earth Laws Alliance, followed with a presentation on earth-centred governance. She urged attendees to challenge extractivism and build a regenerative way of understanding, thinking, feeling and doing.  

The final panel provocation and discussion of the summit included John Richardson, National Resilience Advisor at the Australian Red Cross; Nina Keath, Senior Strategic Planner at the City of Onkaparinga; and Linda Scott, President of the Australian Local Government Association.

The last session of the summit focused on ‘Leading the way’. Researcher, facilitator and educator, Jen Rae, presented on creativity in dealing with disasters. She asked the pertinent question, “how will you build the creative skills necessary for the health and wellbeing of a current and future workforce?”.

For the final presentation of the summit, climate activist and student Anjali Sharma urged attendees to give youth and marginalised communities a seat at the table for climate action and disaster risk reduction, “Young people aren’t given the tools they need to address climate change… the burden falls on us to educate ourselves by choice, or coincidence”, she said.

Across both days of the summit, attendees also participated in a number of structured group discussion and reflection sessions, designed to help in digesting the wealth of knowledge and ideas shared by speakers and panel members. These productive group sessions produced some fantastic ideas and identified priority areas that should be included in the Second National Action Plan.   

The Second National Action Plan will be released later this year. Learn more about the process to develop the plan here.