Australian Disaster Resilience Conference 2023

Presentation abstracts and speaker profiles

Nazir Afzal OBE

Former Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England and London Fire Brigade Culture Review Author


Keynote speaker – shared with AFAC23

During a 30-year career, Nazir Afzal has prosecuted some of England's most high-profile cases and advised on many others. He has led several legal discussions of national significance, including Violence against Women and Girls, child sexual abuse, and honour-based violence. Most recently, Nazir Chaired the Independent Culture Review of the London Fire Brigade.

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Jerry Greyson

Rescue Pilot, Keynote Speaker, Drone Educator, Creator of Virtual and 3D Models and Cryptocurrency, art NFT and Web3 Teacher


Lessons from the past, opportunities for the future

Keynote speakers – shared with AFAC23

Jerry Grayson is a search and rescue pilot internationally recognised as an expert in manned and unmanned flight. With an accumulated 2500 hours of flying with the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, Jerry is the most decorated peacetime naval pilot in history, including being awarded the Air Force Cross. He has been involved in some of the world's most challenging and dangerous missions, from Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait to the infamous Fastnet Yacht Race. In 2015, after three decades of flying, Jerry's career was superseded by the advent of drones. Jerry has since adapted and evolved, becoming a drone educator, virtual and 3D model developer and cryptocurrency, art NFT, and Web3 teacher.

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Chief Tonya Hoover

Deputy Administrator, US Fire Administration, FEMA


Keynote speaker – shared with AFAC23

Chief Tonya Hoover is Deputy Fire Administrator at the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and former State Fire Marshal of California. An accomplished executive with more than 20 years of management experience in both local and state government, Chief Hoover has successfully worked at high levels of government in developing and implementing fire protection, fire prevention, fire training and community risk reduction programs.

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Paul Illmer
Volvo Group Australia

Martin Merrick
Volvo Group Australia

Dr Bree Talbot
Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital

Brendan Moon AM, ASM
National Emergency Management Agency

Dr Dia Smith
The University of Queensland's Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation and the School of Civil Engineering

Creating a sustainable future - Challenges and Opportunities

Keynote panel – shared with AFAC23

The journey toward achieving net-zero emissions is challenging but offers immense opportunities. By acknowledging the reality of the climate crisis, addressing the challenges involved, and embracing the available opportunities, we can create a sustainable future that balances environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic prosperity. Collaboration between governments, businesses, communities, and individuals is crucial in fostering the necessary changes and shaping a more sustainable world for present and future generations. Ultimately leaving the word in a better place for the next generation is our responsibility. Volvo Group Australia’s President and CEO, Mr. Martin Merrick will open the session and join an esteemed panel of experts from government, academia and industry to discuss how we approach and lead this transformation together.

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Russell Wise



What does it take to build resilience investment capabilities in Australia – reflections and lessons from the Enabling Resilience Investment initiative

Funding for climate adaptation, disaster risk reduction (DRR), and resilience cannot be met by Governments alone. There are growing demands from the private sector to allocate private capital to major projects (hard, soft and green) that deliver financial returns to investors and create community and economic resilience. The Enabling Resilience Investment approach provides the planning, analytical capabilities and strategic agenda to support this shift.

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Kerry Jones

Kerry Jones

Australian Centre for Social Innovation

The Now-Future-How Model for strengthening community resilience

As Australia experiences more frequent disasters, communities are experiencing the limitations of traditional government and agency-led responses. In conversations with fire-affected communities, they told us about the need for an approach that addresses challenges getting in the way of community-led recovery and resilience. To support community-led resilience, new models are needed. ‘Now-Future-How’, developed by The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) in collaboration with fire-affected communities and others, enables this.

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Nina O’Brien

Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal

Rethinking investment: people and processes, not products and things

The overlaid disasters of 2022 have also shown us that a small handful of state and federal agencies, lone departments of local government, and under-resourced community organisations can manage the response, recovery and mitigation required to be prepared for the future. By designing new processes and shifting the powerbase of investment, we can reimagine local systems; and better support people in grassroots community-based organisations to generate effective and practical ways of working to meet these challenges head-on across rural, regional and remote Australia. Delivered by FRRR, with voices from specific localities, this presentation will utilise case studies from community-led work in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

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Carol HopkinsCarol Hopkins

Mallacoota and District Recovery Committee
and Australian Red Cross


Community led recovery – three years on in Mallacoota and District

Hit by a firestorm in the middle of the Black Summer Bushfires, the remote town of Mallacoota was driven to the water. 123 homes were lost, trapped for 39 days, roads closed, and fires burning all around; the people of Mallacoota decided they needed to lead themselves out of the big mess their town found itself in. Three Years on, this is a presentation about community-led recovery from the grassroots of a community.

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Kate Retzki

Queensland Reconstruction Authority


Building a habit – reframing disaster preparedness in Queensland

Research shows Queenslanders on the peripheries of preparedness avoid taking action either due to anxiety and fatigue or apathy and complacency towards the risks and impacts of extreme weather. Get Ready Queensland's approach moves away from thunder, lightning and flames towards promoting constructive behaviours that are achievable and can be incorporated into day-to-day routines.

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Barbara Rix
Australian Red Cross

Jordan Nye
Muladha Gamara

Dr Claire Leppold
University of Melbourne

That which connects us: First Nations leadership in bushfire recovery on Yuin Country, Mogo, NSW

There is a rich abundance of First Nations traditional knowledges and cultural healing practices that are directly relevant to disaster recovery. However, mainstream organisations can be unsure of how to engage with First Nations communities to work together before, during and after disasters. This presentation directly responds to this gap by highlighting the case of First Nations leadership in disaster recovery on Yuin Country, Mogo, NSW, following the 2019-20 bushfires.

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Liam Walter

Insurance Council of Australia


Insuring a resilient Australia

Climate change is driving an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, with implications for the affordability and availability of insurance in Australia. The Insurance Council of Australia is advocating for a new state-based policy framework that will prevent the development of new homes in high-risk areas by reviewing land use planning arrangements based on water catchments, considering both the likelihood and consequence of flooding now and into the future.

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Jo Hutchinson

National Emergency Management Agency

Dr Rhys Bollen

Australian Securities and Investments


Dr Sean Carmody

Australian Prudential Regulation Authority

Dr Christopher Wallace

Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation

Rob Preston

CBR Banking, Insurance and Credit Branch

Panel: The Australian Government’s role in putting downward pressure on hazard insurance premiums

Natural hazard risk is increasing across Australia, exposing people to complex and changing climate and disaster risks. Insurance plays a key role in community resilience and vulnerability to these risks, particularly through issues of un-insurance and underinsurance, driven by affordability and/or availability factors. This panel presentation will provide an overview of the National Emergency Management Agency-led Hazards Insurance Partnership and open a national dialogue on reducing disaster risk and putting downward pressure on insurance premiums.

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Michelle Moss
Queenslanders with Disability Network
Donna Best
Queenslanders with Disability Network
Paul O'Dea
Queenslanders with Disability Network

What if people with disability were leading inclusive DRR?

Historically, people with disability have been overlooked and excluded from disaster preparedness and planning. But more recently, people with disability are emerging as leaders in inclusive disaster risk reduction. In this presentation, Queenslanders with Disability Network’s Peer Leaders will share the case study of their journey over the last four years from learners to leading voices on the inclusion of people with disability in risk reduction before, during, and after disaster.

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Courtney Jones

Carers NSW


Improving inclusion of people with disability, older people and their family friend carers in disaster planning and response

People living with disability, people who are ageing and the family members and friends who support them experience disproportionately poorer outcomes during and after a natural disaster. This presentation will highlight the information and support needs of people with disability, older people and carers when planning and preparing for natural disasters and identify opportunities to improve the inclusiveness of natural disaster responses based on the findings of a pilot project based in NSW, Care2Prepare.

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Leyla Craig

Fire and Rescue NSW


Having a seat at the table: disability and disasters

What if we can reimagine drawing on the lived experiences of people with disabilities to change how emergency services approach disability and resilience in emergencies? 

In the last three years, Australia has faced more than its fair share of natural disasters. Knowledge is critical and groups that do not understand fire safety risks and prevention can’t plan for or react to emergencies, including people with disabilities. This has heightened disaster risks faced by people with disabilities, not because of the disability itself but the lack of access to information, support and services. Emergency services responders lack knowledge and training on what people with disabilities need, leading to disconnects and misunderstandings. This poses challenges for emergency services and people with disabilities.

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Anna Kennedy-Borissow

University of Melbourne


Creativity, recovery and resilience: creative processes that empower individuals and communities to participate in their own recovery

There is a lack of research in the field of ‘creative recovery’. This limits the efficacy of post-disaster arts projects due to poor planning and under-resourcing, despite recognition across the emergency management, community wellbeing, and arts and cultural sectors that creative projects have contributed to positive psychosocial outcomes in disaster-affected communities in Australia for over a decade. This presentation highlights best practice case studies of ‘creative recovery’.

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Linda Snell
Yarra Ranges Council
Willow Swaneveld
Yarra Ranges Council

Hard Place/ Good Place – Enabling recovery for young people

Hard Place/Good Place is a creative research project focusing on lived experiences of being in a ‘hard place’ or a ‘good place’ through a collection of personal and community stories told through Augmented Reality experiences.

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Jamie Loyd
Minderoo Foundation
Andrea Vis
Gingin District High School
Owen Ziebell

Neil Munro
Country Fire Authority

Panel: Building disaster resilience into the school curriculum: effective how-to approaches from educational practitioners

As natural disasters become more common, the importance of educating and empowering the next generation becomes ever greater. The evidence is clear that young Australians are more concerned about climate change than ever. Minderoo Foundation's Fire and Flood Resilience Initiative will provide a panel presentation on the importance of disaster resilience teaching.

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Shanti Ramasundram

Australian Red Cross

Mary Hajistassi

Australian Red Cross

CALD community-led disaster resilience project

There is an imperative to consider culturally and linguistically diverse community (CALD) voices before, during and after emergencies and disasters. Whereby CALD voices are placed at the centre of the decision-making about emergency management arrangements involving their communities. This presentation will discuss an 18-month pilot project facilitated by the Australian Red Cross and funded by SAFECOM to engage established, new and emerging CALD communities to ideate, design and implement locally-led and culturally appropriate actions to strengthen emergency resilience.

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Phoebe Quinn
The University of Melbourne
Bhiamie Williamson
The University of Melbourne

Indigenous healing and disaster recovery: dialogue with cascading benefits for resilience

With the increasing frequency and severity of disasters, many more communities, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are experiencing the impacts of cascading and compounding trauma events. These challenges clearly demand dramatic shifts in disaster resilience and recovery approaches. This presentation will present the findings of a recent collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers exploring how the disasters sector may engage with and learn from Indigenous healing knowledges and practices.

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Kathy Mickan
South Australian Council of Social Service
Vikki Booth
South Australian Council of Social Service

People at risk in emergencies: a collaborative approach

The People at Risk in Emergencies Framework commenced in 2018 with the vision of South Australians working together to improve the well-being, knowledge, connection and security of people who are most at risk during emergencies. The Framework was a collaboration between the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) and the Australian Red Cross. This presentation will discuss some of the team’s important learnings towards addressing the numerous issues for practitioners, including what does collaboration in the disaster risk resilience space mean and what does it look like?

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Rhonda Ayliffe

University of Canberra


Resilience reimagined: the creation of Cobargo Bushfire Resilience Centre

A story of the Cobargo Bushfire Resilience Centre: its initial inspiration, goals, aspirations, and emergent projects, including the Badja Forest Rd Fire oral history project being undertaken in partnership with the National Library of Australia. The difficulties faced undertaking high-stakes competitive grant applications and how grants successes (and failures) impact community recovery.


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Julie Brook

Meridian Urban


Harnessing strength of community for neighbourhood scale risk understanding and locally led resilience: The Douglas Shire Community Resilience Scorecard Project

Douglas Shire is one of Australia’s most pristine environments and part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics. The Shire is characterised by small, isolated communities, divided by a ferry, large visitor numbers and some residents who don’t wish to be found, while simultaneously facing Queensland’s greatest risks in natural hazards from cyclones, flood, coastal hazards, landslide, bushfire and increasingly heatwaves. Douglas Shire Council has embarked on an ambitious Community Resilience Scorecard project through risk understanding and development of localised ‘scorecards’ modelled on the UN Resilient Cities Scorecard concept.

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Andrea Myers

Wangki Radio


Imagining a resilient Fitzroy Crossing: reflections on the Fitzroy Crossing floods January 2023 from a Traditional Owner perspective

This presentation shares the presenter’s story of being at the frontline of the first month of the Fitzroy Crossing floods in 2023 as a traditional owner. It proposes that the diverse knowledges, values and experiences of Aboriginal voices must be included in government decision making at all stages of emergency management.

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Katherine Ellis

Leadership Victoria


Local self-determination, collective support: adapting collective impact models for disaster resilience, response and recovery

Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) has been piloting an innovative disaster resilience model that draws on collective impact principles. It brings together multiple partner organisations, each with responsibility for defining and delivering activity that is relevant to their local community’s circumstances and needs. YACVic has applied the model in bushfire, flood, pandemic and mental health contexts. This presentation will draw on these as case studies.

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Moderator: Liz Mackinlay
Australian Business Volunteers
Natascha Wernick
Byrrill Creek Community Resilience Team
Zena Armstrong
Cobargo Community Bushfire Recovery Fund

Melanie Bloor
Resilient Uki

Panel: Community perspective on resilience reimagined

Many small, community-owned and led organizations have emerged in response to disasters, committed to supporting communities during disaster response and recovery. The learnings from these community groups are significant, but the mechanisms and forums for sharing these learnings is fragmented. This panel of community representatives from Victorian and New South Wales fire-affected areas will explain how they’ve generated their own solutions for adaptation and resilience. They will describe how they’ve worked alongside other stakeholders as equals, as advocates and partners. The community voice will be clearly heard and unfiltered.


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Ondrej Bures
Finity Consulting
Dr Justine Bell-James
The University of Queensland

Insuring nature based defences – the role of the insurance sector in promoting nature-based solutions involving coastal wetlands in Australia

This presentation focuses on the role of the insurance sector in promoting resilient nature-based solutions. It will show the risk reduction benefit provided by coastal wetlands in Australia, and estimate prevented property damages mainly from flooding and storms, highlighting case studies of areas where such measures would be most effective. It will also describe how the insurance sector can serve as an enabler for the protection of these environments.

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Dastagir Mir

Australian Bureau of Statistics


Disaster resilience and the ocean account

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in partnership with the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, has recently released Australia’s first National Ocean Account, focusing on the blue carbon ecosystems of mangroves, saltmarsh and seagrass. These experimental accounts represent the most current and comprehensive data available at the national scale for extent, condition, carbon stocks, carbon sequestration and coastal protection services.

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Dr Madelon Willemsen



Nature-based solutions to take off the heat-designing resilience into Sydney’s new urban area

This presentation will showcase the Western Sydney Aerotropolis Storm Water Capture Project. This nature-based solution will help reduce the impact of heatwave disasters on the people living and working in the Aerotropolis. Dr Madelon Willemsen will explain the process of co-design, the impact of and impact on regulations of this project, and discuss the multitude of benefits for people and nature, creating enhanced disaster resilience in Sydney’s largest urban development area.

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Chairperson: Martijn Gough



Closing Panel: Why aren’t we spending more on disaster resilience?

To address substantial and growing disaster risk, significantly more funding must be directed to disaster mitigation. The reasons for low disaster mitigation funding are regularly mentioned, but solutions rarely follow. The conversation about serious and tangible solutions must be elevated now to enable actions to be implemented tomorrow.

Commonwealth and state government funding for disaster resilience is small compared to disaster relief funding. The ICA found that the Commonwealth government had spent $500 million on disaster resilience since 2005, compared to $24 billion on disaster relief.


Kylie Macfarlane
Insurance Council of Australia
Jean Palutikof
Griffith University
Dr Russell Wise
CSIRO Environment

Major General (Rtd) Jake Ellwood
Queensland Reconstruction Authority

The Australian Disaster Resilience Conference 2023 is proudly supported by NRMA Insurance.