We are underway – one month into Natural Hazards Research Australia

By Dr Richard Thornton, 23 August, 2021
A promotional graphic showing the new Natural Hazards Research Australia logo on the right, and a photo of clouds on the left, with the words 'your new national research centre for natural hazards resilience and disaster risk reduction'.

Welcome to Natural Hazards Research Australia, the new national research centre for natural hazards resilience and disaster risk reduction.

Our mission is to produce relevant research that contributes to zero preventable deaths, creates well-prepared and resilient communities, and translates into use and action.

We are excited to be able to bring you our first monthly newsletter. The regular newsletters will also include final news and research from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC – highlighting research products and industry tools that are still becoming available for use.

In this blog, I’ll explain the initial work in beginning to set up the research program, fostering partnerships, refreshing the governance and operations of the centre, and developing our brand.

It begins

The start of July 2021 saw the beginning of Natural Hazards Research Australia – a new national natural hazards research centre, incorporating the CRC.

The Centre is funded for the next ten years through the Australian Government with an $85 million commitment. We are also in discussions with state and territory government agencies and local government associations, as well as the private and not-for-profit sectors, who will be contributing financially and in-kind to the new research program and associated activities. This multi-party engagement ensures that the research outcomes we produce will be of most use to as many Australians as possible, helping keep our communities, landscapes and infrastructure safe from the impacts of natural hazards.

This is an exciting and important time for Australian natural hazard research. It is an opportunity to examine the causes, impacts, response to and recovery from natural hazards. It is an opportunity to underpin Australia’s National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework with the best-quality evidence and knowledge available. And this is happening at a time when we are seeing an increasing risk to our communities – from climate and demographic changes, along with many other drivers.

With this new ten-year horizon, we can now focus on the bigger, longer-term and systemic challenges, as well as address the short-term issues as they arise. We can, once again, come together to build the capability needed to address the risks that Australian communities are facing because of the impact of natural hazards.

What we are doing

Now into our second month, we are busy developing and implementing everything that the Centre needs:

A research program

In recent weeks, we have begun hosting online workshops and surveys to develop and define the short-, medium- and long-term research priorities. Through close collaboration and engagement with many partners and organisations, this process ensures we will be addressing the highest-priority natural hazard issues for all Australian communities. Details of the workshops can be found on the Natural Hazards Research Australia website, at www.naturalhazards.com.au.

One of the key features of the Centre is that its research program will not be set in stone from the beginning – quite different from the CRC. We will be flexible with our research over the life of the Centre, re-defining our research plans every year to ensure that we are addressing the most relevant and current issues for our partners. 

The Centre will also have a portfolio of tactical, applied and strategic research with differing time horizons. We will invest heavily in capability and capacity development through a scholarship and associate student program, as well as a targeted partner education and training program.

We look forward to continuing these discussions and meeting with new and existing partners to broaden the scope of natural hazard research in the coming months and years.

Governance, location and staff

The Centre will operate as a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee and registered as a charity through the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission. As part of the transition process, the managing company for the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC is continuing as the managing company for the Centre. As part of this transition, there is a refresh of the Board underway, with some directors retiring and new directors sought.

We are also establishing new advisory structures to ensure that the voices of our end-user partners are at the forefront of all we do. We are setting up an End-User Advisory Panel, which will comprise the most senior management of our full-member partners. If you would like any more information about how to become a partner, please email Sarah Mizzi at sarah.mizzi@naturalhazards.com.au.

Operating as a national entity, the Centre will not have a ‘headquarters’ as such. Working from home during COVID-19 lockdowns has its downsides, but we know that we have all learned the benefits of creating a cohesive team across many locations. Building on this experience and to ensure we have the best engagement with our partners, we will have staff established in several major cities, engaging across the country through a team of both Centre staff and staff who have been seconded from partner organisations. This model will ensure that work remains grounded and relevant to activities in each state and territory, as well as nationally.

The Centre is currently recruiting some key positions, with more roles to be advertised in the coming months. Keep an eye on the new website and this newsletter for vacant positions. Also, to ensure that valuable knowledge and skills are carried across wherever possible, many of the staff of the CRC have transitioned to the Centre.

Branding

You will have noticed that this newsletter introduces the Natural Hazards Research Australia logo. We hope you find it engaging, different and representative.

Logos can be interpreted in many ways, but to us, the Natural Hazards Research Australia logo means:

  • At its core is the continuous loop – a demonstration of our commitment to the linkage between research and knowledge creation, and policy and practice. Both sides inform the other in a constant feedback loop. We will traverse this loop many times during the life of this centre.
  • The three colours in the loop represent the phases of emergency management: before, during and after – or preparedness, response and recovery.
  • The design represents Australia, recognising that natural hazards are a national priority.

This logo will be rolled out through a suite of products, starting with the interim website and social media accounts. This website will provide a basic update of news and events in the short-term, with a fully functional website to be launched in the next few months.

We are also now on social media and would love for you to follow @hazardsresearch on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

As partners and friends of the CRC, or as new friends to Natural Hazards Research Australia, we are excited to share our establishment with you as we move forward towards a resilient Australia. This is only the beginning of what we know will build into a trusted and essential centre for disaster risk reduction and resilience, not only in Australia but also worldwide, with our partners at the core of it all.

This is an exciting start to a great initiative and there is still much more to do, so stay tuned.

Thank you,

Dr Richard Thornton, CEO, Natural Hazards Research Australia