Sustainable and Resilient Societies

Climate and many other aspects of the world are changing. We need plans for sustainability, resilience and the future.

Solar panels instillation

Many communities are struggling to adapt and maintain their environmental, economic, and social well-being in the face of increasing uncertainties and precariousness. Our research focuses on creating actionable plans for making neighbourhoods, communities and regions here and beyond more resilient and sustainable in terms of health, the environment, resource use and economics. We explore various measures for fixing, altering, and transforming our built and natural environments and the systems and processes that support them in order to promote sustainability and resilience.

An important area of research in sustainable and resilient societies focuses on the role of information and communication in processes of international development, poverty reduction and humanitarian assistance. Effective communication can be a lifeline for vulnerable people, it can help to reduce risk, foster better health, and provide educational support, as well as promoting better governance, accountability and transparency. Strengthening media sectors for better governance, accountability and transparency helps governments develop more effective evidence-based emergency communication strategies for disaster-affected communities. Communication for development (C4D) is playing an increasingly central role in the work of national, regional and international development organisations.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of lives can be saved by rapid, clear and well-coordinated communication regarding impending risks, their mitigation and how to respond when damage occurs. Our research also includes environmental risk management, especially climate change adaptation and the links between conservation, development and education for sustainable expansion. Work in this area is used to guide policy and practice to learn how to adjust to new situations for agriculture and natural resource management. It has been used in many contexts from international organisations, state and national governments to local community groups who are aiming to establish more resilient societies.

Addressing big problems, such as biodiversity loss or climate change, is increasingly important. However if people are despondent to this matter, then finding and applying solutions is very difficult. Research into sustainable and resilient societies aims to assist in the identification of barriers to sustainability and develop solutions to help communities find a balance between livelihoods and environmental protection. By researching the connection between people and place and in particular how different community groups become involved in decision making, we can help communities build adaptive organisation in the face of many challenges. We believe that making sure communities are involved in and are aware of environmental issues will enable us to build more resilient and successful adaptive societies.

As a cause of migration, climate and environmental change interacts with other economic, social, demographic and political factors, but our understanding of their interactions is limited. With research that falls within the field of population and environmental studies, with an emphasis on migration, our work has a particular focus on China and Australia. Addressing the complex relationship between climate (environmental) change, adaptation and migration provides insight into national and international policy development in Climate Change mitigation and adaptation, including migration. Our research provides a continued effort to understand driving factors and processes across the major types of human mobility; migration, displacement and planned relocation. Through analysis of the consequences of human mobility we aim to advance international debates on migration theory, and methods to assess demographic, social, and climate/ecological vulnerability in the face of climate and other environmental impacts – especially for the most disadvantaged.

Our researchers work in sustainable and resilient societies involves international partnerships with a wide range of external organisations including UNICEF (NYHQ), UNICEF Pacific, UNICEF Madagascar, The Australian Civil-Military Centre, Communicating with disaster affected communities Network (CDAC), International Community of the Red Cross (ICRC) to name a few. Their work has impact on a local and international scale with projects on climate change impacts in the Mt Lofty Ranges and on Swiss agricultural landscapes and change-adaptation-migration in the Asia-Pacific region, which collaborates with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Our research outcomes are incorporated into policy and other environmental management initiatives such as the World Bank’s use of researcher framework for community resilience in its resilience/adaptation toolkit. Their work locates The University of Adelaide as one of the leading specialist centres of communication for development capacity in Australia as well as enhanced our reputation for research of the highest quality in the research field of migration and climate change.

Our key researchers in this area:

  • Professor Chris Leishman - CHURP. Chris explores population trends, housing markets, and economic growth and development including the effects of space and place using applied economic and econometric methods.
  • Professor Faye McCallum - Head of School of Education. Faye’s research focuses on wellbeing education; attraction, retention and sustainability of teachers in rural areas; education policy and systems and Initial Teacher Education.
  • Professor Andrew Skuse - Head of Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, Andrew's research speciality is communication for humanitarian action and international development.
  • Associate Professor Melissa Nursey-Bray - Director, ACE Research Group, Human Geography. Melissa’s research specialty is in community adaptation, socially just conservation and urban greening. She focusses on what drivers affect communities in this context, including conflict, knowledge, power, risk, values and perception. She works with Indigenous communities and fisheries.
  • Associate Professor Yan Tan - Geography, environment and population. Yan’s research has special focus on China, effects of migration, and CALD communities.
  • Dr Douglas Bardsley - GEP. Doug’s work focuses on environmental and agro-ecological risk management, and especially climate change adaptation; links between conservation and development; and education for sustainable development, in partnership with local and international partners, including with reference to bushfire and viticulture.

Our research groups working in this area

Interested in undertaking a postgraduate research degree with us?

Further your education and study alongside world-class researchers at the Faculty of Arts.