This project aims to develop a Resilience Action Plan with and for the Tarnagulla community.

  • Project dates: 2018–2020


Project summary

The plan will identify ways in which the Tarnagulla community might enhance their resilience to a changing climate and develop adaptive capacities at the individual, family and community levels.

The project will work to develop the community’s first Resilience Action Plan (that will be reviewed after 5 years) by working with the Tarnagulla community to understand and document their strengths and challenges; make connections with appropriate organisations aimed at strengthening community resilience and well-being; and co-develop their own, community-based ‘Resilience Action Plan’. It will use ideas from EMV’s community-based disaster planning, as well as broader ideas from resilience and climate change adaptation thinking.

The concept resilience broadly refers to the coping capacity, adaptability and renewal of society, system or area facing uncertainties. Since its introduction in disaster management literature in 1970s, the concept has broadened from post-disaster recovery to pre-disaster preparation for future hazards (Handmer & Dovers 1996; IFRC, 2004; Walker & Salt 2006) and from narrow to socio-ecological systems’ perspective. Resilience concept has been used in many disciplines – engineering, psychology, disasters, ecology, social etc. Due to a proliferation of use of the term, ‘resilience’ has also made it highly contentious. The long-standing use and increasing recognition of the term means that resilience concept will most likely continue in use. Hence, a number of scholars (e.g. Cascio, 2009; Seville, 2008; Smit & Wandel, 2006) have proposed giving answers to questions regarding, resilience – of what, to what, when and for whom, if the SES resilience concept were to have any practical significance?

In this project, resilience is interpreted in following manner:

  • of what – community, from a socio-ecological systems’ perspective, that is, interaction between natural and human system at the scale of Tarnagulla
  • to what – future uncertainties (hazards such as fire, water scarcity, floods, diminishing employment opportunities, ageing population requiring care, increasing rate of unoccupied houses, increasing cost of fuel)
  • when – continuously (pre-disaster preparedness)
  • for whom – Tarnagulla community


Project background

Tarnagulla faces challenges relating to a shrinking population, an older age demographic, power outages, and remoteness of people from regional centres with few business and work opportunities, and a risk of fire due to being surrounded by forests. There could be challenges in an event, due to lack of adequate public transportation, remoteness of people and lack of local medical facilities. Apart from the risk of bushfires, the town has also witnessed occasional flooding, storms and drought. Water scarcity poses real risk to the local economy reliant on farming. Climate change is only going to increase the frequency and intensity of such extreme events (storms, intense rainfall) (IPCC 2014).

According to the Australian Academy of Science’s climate scenario projections, the number of ‘very high’ and above fire danger rated days are expected to double by 2050. Such climatic changes can trigger unknown changes in ecosystems, agriculture and human settlements, which can have significant consequences for human wellbeing.

Many governments and emergency management organisations recognise that the future environment, in which we will be living, will be different from today and the responses to operating in that environment cannot necessarily be extrapolated from past experiences. Rather, new approaches need to be explored. This project tries to do exactly that – find ways to identify possible future scenarios and pose solutions that are relevant.

In this project, the Tarnagulla community wants to develop a Resilience Action Plan ‘by the community, for the community’. Their aim is to proactively (not reactively) and continually build their own resilience by deploying a strengths-based or an asset-based community development (ABCD) approach. Through an ABCD approach, the community will find ways to renew their existing assets (such as support networks) and build capacities to adapt to the new paradigm. Throughout the process of the study and developing a plan there will be scope for mitigation as well as adaptation solutions.

They want to be prepared for a future emergency in terms of where to go, who to contact and what necessary steps to put in place. Community connection, happiness and wellbeing underlies Tarnagulla’s vision for their “resilience”; this kind of ‘social capital’ is something the literature and international best practice repeatedly shows is crucial.

Tarnagulla community would like to increase their overall systems resilience by investigating issues related to their town and tailoring appropriate action.

Image by Linda Jungwirth

Key People

Lead researchers

Dr Mittul Vahanvati

Dr Mittul Vahanvati

Convener of Climate Change Transformations Program

Related Content

Research Programs

Research Programs

Climate Change Transformations

Engaging with society’s climate change challenges

News & Blog

CUR Stories

Meet the women helping to improve how we live in cities and with nature

05 March 2020

As our cities evolve, so too should our approach to building and planning our urban habitats. Here, six RMIT urban researchers share how their work is shaping how we live in our cities and with nature.

CUR Stories

Meet Mittul Vahanvati: Expert in housing and community resilience

23 May 2019

The homes we live in, and the homes we’re building, are not what we need in a changing climate. Dr Mittul Vahanvati explains what this means and what we need to change to support climate resilience in Australia.