What are the synergies between the Canadian and Australian disaster policy interests under a resilience-based approach?

The notion of resilience is gaining increasing prominence at the policy level internationally (Australian Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy, 2010; the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, 2011 (Australia); UK Critical Infrastructure Resilience Programme, 2009; UK Cabinet Office, 2013) and domestically in Canada as one of the main guiding principles within the Emergency Management Framework for Canada (Public Safety, 2007; 2011 editions) and National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure (2009). Since 2010 resilience has been adopted as one of the Canadian government’s key performance indicators and the measurements are being determined.

What can Canada learn from other countries with regards to resilience-based policies? What Canadian policies and experiences can be useful in other contexts?

This first stage of comparative resilience-based policy analysis focuses on the potential synergies between Canada and Australia.

In Australia, under the direction of the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience (NSDR), a core goal in current Australian disaster and emergency management policy is to “achieve disaster resilient communities”(p.4). In pursuing this goal, the National Strategy calls for “an integrated, whole-of-nation effort encompassing enhanced partnerships, shared responsibility, a better understanding of the risk environment and disaster impacts, and an adaptive and empowered community that acts on this understanding” (NSDR 2011,p. 3). A commitment to shared responsibility is recognised as a key difference in a resilience-based approach compared to past emergency management approaches: “the fundamental change is that achieving increased disaster resilience is not solely the domain of emergency management agencies; rather, it is a shared responsibility across the whole of society” (p. 3). Since the release of the NSDR, committees/round tables have been set up to look at implementation of this approach at the state and territory level.

As in Canada, a key area of interest in Australian disaster policy at the moment is developing ways to measure resilience to disasters, particularly at the community level. As yet, there is no widely accepted approach to defining and measuring resilience. Others key areas of interest are:

1. Determining the most appropriate resource allocation between mitigation, response and recovery;
2. Increasing engagement across government levels and sectors, and engagement between government and private industry;
3. Developing comprehensive risk registers to better understand and communicate levels of risk;
4. Reforming disaster insurance arrangements;
5. Determining the role of government in enhancing community resilience, and changing government practice to enable this role;
6. Addressing the accountability challenges for government of sharing responsibility with “individuals, households, businesses and communities” (p.ii).
7. In order that the disaster sector is able to support community resilience, there is a need to understand (and maintain knowledge surrounding) future risk and resilience in the context of a changing climate, and a need to translate such knowledge, as it evolves, into policies and governance.

The Crisis Resilience Alliance is currently seeking input from policy-makers at Public Safety Canada, Defence Research and Development Canada, the Canadian Risks and Hazard Network and Provincial and Regional governments as a bases for a solution-based, policy-driven project.

Project Members:

Dr. Blythe McLennan
Research Fellow, Emergency Management
Centre for Risk and Community Safety
RMIT University


Dr. Karyn Bosomworth
Research Fellow, Centre for Risk & Community Safety
RMIT University

Lily Yumagulova
PhD Candidate
School of Community and Regional Planning
University of British Columbia


Dr. Ilan Vertinsky
Vinod Sood Professor of International Business Studies
Sauder School of Business
University of British Columbia


Dr. John Handmer
Director, Centre for Risk and Community Safety
RMIT University