Project Update: Final research phase and project symposium

The past year has been a productive and invigorating period for the research project. The project team completed the final phase of research, hosting focus group discussions in the four project States (Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia) with stakeholders from the government, NGO and private sectors to broaden our insight into the range of factors that enable and constrain local innovations for climate change adaptation.

The team also hosted a multi-stakeholder symposium in Melbourne on December 7th 2017 at RMIT University, Melbourne. The Symposium was designed as an interactive think-tank to share stories, initiatives and findings that have emerged and are emerging from the research. The event was broken into three sessions, starting with the presentation and critical discussion of key findings and insights from each phase of the research [Symposium Presentation Slides available here]. The team then facilitated a panel discussion with active participation from symposium participants around the following themes:

  1. How do we talk about local climate adaptation? Understanding challenges/shaping frameworks
  2. Implementation: What are we doing and could these ideas/practices be scaled up or implemented elsewhere?
  3. Enabling innovation: overcoming barriers and dissolving boundaries

The final session involved a discussion around potential project outputs. The project team have been particularly buoyed by the enthusiasm and insight provided by symposium participants and are grateful for their generous contributions.  A summary report on the symposium is available here and we welcome your comments and feedback:

ARC Discovery Project_Summary of Stakeholder Symposium

In 2018 the project team are focused on developing and disseminating the key messages and insights gained through this collaborative research process.  These messages will be communicated as soon as they are developed.

Project Update: Selection of NGO case studies

Selection of Non-Government Organisations for further in-depth investigation

In the first quarter of 2016, the Project Team completed a desk survey of NGO climate change strategies and initiatives in the four metropolitan areas of Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and South East Queensland.

Two NGOs from each project State were selected for further in-depth study and were selected against the following criteria:

  • Responsiveness to local conditions;
  • Meets genuine needs;
  • Empowerment of communities;
  • Potential transformation of social relations;
  • Community engagement in preparation and delivery of strategy and initiatives;
  • Inclusion of the vulnerable and non-human.

We consider our case selection to be an appropriate mix of truly local groups and local branches of national organisations. The list is:

Victoria – EFLAG (Elwood Floods Action group) and Transition Towns Maroondah Inc.

WA – Ecoburbia and Environment House.

Queensland – Gecko and Green Cross Australia

NSW – Nature Conservation Trust NSW and CAN-Win

Details of the individual selections are outlined below: 

Case study selection – Victoria

The two Victorian case studies embody highly localised efforts to act and advocate for local climate initiatives:

  1. EFLAG (Elwood Floods Action Group)

EFLAG is a community group based in the inner-city Bayside suburb of Elwood. EFLAG formed after Elwood experienced an extreme weather event in February 2011. As an advocacy and action group, EFLAG works to inform local residents about: how the area experiences flooding; what they can do to prepare for and respond to future floods; and what residents can expect from various government agencies and associated bodies in times of severe weather.

  1. Transition Towns Maroondah Inc

Transition Towns Maroondah Inc is a community group based in Melbourne’s outer eastern susburbs. It is part of the international Transition Towns movement. Their byline is: ‘creating resilient and sustainable communities’.

The aims of the group are:

  1. to raise awareness about climate change, resource depletion and economic contraction; and
  2. to initiate and support projects that help to create resilient and sustainable communities as a positive response to these challenges. The group regard ‘localisation of the economy and our way of life, and re-skilling as keys to resilience and sustainability’.

Key initiatives include: sustainable transport; community engagement; waste management; reskilling; living simply; food; localised economy; and energy.

Case study selection – Western Australia

  1. Environment House

According to their 2015 Annual Report community programs include –

  • SWWAP Program – employs a number of sustainability auditors as consultants providing energy, water and waste sustainability education and audits across Perth.
  • Compost for Migrants Project – Nov 2014 to December 2015
  • Funded by the Waste Authority’s Community Grant Scheme the project offered 9 workshops plus home visits to migrants (mainly refugees) to build composting, recycling and waste management skills. Program was run as a collaborative effort with a number of other agencies.
  • Sustainability workshops and audits delivered to a range of community centres and private homes.
  • Bayswater $WAP Program 2015 was proposed and developed by Environment House in conjunction with the City of Bayswater. Grass roots initiative to encourage residents to reduce household energy and water use. Over $11,000 of eco-hardware was given away to local residents, expertise provided to ensure correct appliances were chosen and advice regarding installation delivered. Six workshops were also held on energy and water efficiency.
  • Variety of workshops on gardening, composting, bee keeping, building frog ponds, vegie gardening, water saving measures
  • School Sustainability Project – it appears only one school has been trialled – Hillcrest Primary. Environment House worked with the school (staff, students and parents) over 6 months to reduce energy and water usage creating a per year saving of $12,000. Program expanding in 2015/2016.
  • EcoShop – two rooms of products which are entirely palm oil free and 90% West Australian.
  • Stalls at City Farm Markets and other community events.
  • Community food garden
  1. Ecoburbia

Ecoburbia addresses vulnerability across issues (CVC, Peak Oil, economic change etc) by educating, role modelling and experimenting in sustainable and self-sufficient living.  They were largely responsible for the Hulbert St activities described in the cosmopolitics paper.  Since 2013 have been setting up a small community on a suburban lot in Beaconsfield, aiming to provide an alternative model of urban consolidation by arranging the housing and gardens to support (wrt shelter, energy, food), four living units (singles, couples).

Ecoburbia is set up as a small business, not an NFP, to give the proprietors more flexibility regarding new ideas.  The Beaconsfield community is explicitly governed as a benign dictatorship.

Case study selection – South East Queensland

  1. GECKO (Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council)

Gecko is the Gold Coast’s peak non-government not-for-profit environment group that networks with a wide range of volunteers and organisations who work together to protect and enhance the natural and environmental assets of our region.

Gecko started after representatives of six local conservation groups joined together in 1989 believing that the organisation would engage with the community and work for the care, protection and conservation of the natural environment and the improvement of the built environment.

Gecko’s goal is to ensure the Gold Coast and surrounds become sustainable by way of anticipating and assessing impacts prior to projects being approved to ensure development is undertaken without risks to biodiversity, the ecological system and the livability of the region

Gecko is committed to action on climate change at a local level. The Campaigns Sub-Committee meets each fortnight to discuss the issue and ways that the organisation can make a difference.

Gecko supports:

  • A carbon price system which is effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and is socially just and economically responsible.
  • A rapid transition from an economy based on fossil fuel mining and use to one which primarily relies on renewable energy. The transition must include phasing out of subsidies to the coal industry, retraining employees from the fossil fuel industry and social support mechanisms for sectors of society likely to be negatively impacted.
  • That this transition accords with principles of social justice, human rights and sustainable development as articulated in various international protocols.
  • Urgent and extensive community education on the realities of climate change and its implications for the global community.
  • The transition from a consumer based economy to a steady state economy in recognition of the facts that endless growth in a finite world will lead to disaster for the human race and other species.


  • Gecko will undertake advocacy and community education to move society towards these solutions.
  • Gecko will support and collaborate with other organizations with a similar policy stance and undertaking similar actions.

Gecko is presently organising what is hoped will be a state-wide series of climate change action ‘conferences’ which bring together a wide range of stakeholders to envision alternative futures and identify and implement diverse actions to achieve them.

  1. Green Cross Australia

Green Cross Australia works to help people adapt to climate change by embracing sustainability and community resilience. The organisation is motivated by a belief that existing challenges present opportunities for a better future.

Green Cross Australia is not an advocacy group – rather it works with respected business, research, community and government partners to deliver ‘world-class’ digital projects that foster a global values shift towards a secure and sustainable future.

The mantra, Think + Act + Share = Change, is key to the organisation’s projects. The organisation believes the power of its projects is empowering Australians to take practical, informed action. It encourages people to take action, and then gives them the tools via social and digital media to share their actions with their friends. It uses mapping technologies to visualise participation in its projects and to measure engagement.

The Queensland branch has been engaged to support the stakeholder engagement program underpinning Q-CAS (Queensland Climate Adaptation Strategy) strategy development:

While the organisation has recently been hampered by funding cuts at a Federal and State level, which have affected many NGOs, they are still highly motivated and are very willing to share their experiences.

Case study selection – NSW

  1. Nature Conservation Trust NSW

The Nature Conservation Trust is a statutory body corporate with non-profit status established under the Nature Conservation Trust Act 2001 (NSW).  Its key mission is to facilitate the conservation of natural heritage on private land in which biodiversity can thrive.  It aims to create a network of reserves on private properties across NSW that link up public reserves in order to address biodiversity decline.  It achieves this by facilitating voluntary covenant agreements with private landholders committing to in-perpetuity conservation reserves; by maintaining a revolving fund to acquire lands of high biodiversity value, establishing covenants on those lands and returning them to the private market; and communicating to the broader community the importance of natural heritage on private lands in NSW.  It partners with other natural resource managment agencies and conservation initiatives to develop its broader strategic approaches

           2. CANWin

CANWin – Climate Action Now! Wingecarribee – is a non-partisan community group based in the Southern Highlands of NSW.  It works to foster community-based initiatives that respond to the impacts of climate change and develop community resilience in the face of peak oil.  A central driver is the recognition that none of us can do this alone, but that together we “must be the change we want to see in the world” (Mahatma Ghandi).

CANWin runs regular public events, such as speaker nights, film nights, and the recent Clean Energy Future workshop. It researches and prepares information sheets for members and the public on scientific and technical matters that affect the sustainability of life on the Highlands. CANWin initiatives include programs such as Fruit Resuce, Community Exchange Southern Highlands, and Repower Southern Highlands. It collaborates with many other local groups that share a vision for a united, resilient and sustainable community.

Project update: LGA Case Studies

In 2015, the project team completed a desk-top audit of CVC adaptation strategies and plans in all metropolitan local government authorities (LGA) across all Australian States and Territories. The team also reached out to LGA Officers within the metropolitan LGA’s of the four project State’s to conduct a survey of their local authority’s CVC adaptation initiatives.

After reviewing the findings of the audit and survey process against a set of criteria and consultation with the project reference group, two LGA case studies were selected for each project State. The case studies selected are suburban LGA’s and provide a mix of inner and outer suburbs with coastal and inland locations. A brief description of each case is provided below:

NSW: Blacktown and Marrickville

Both LGAs actively embrace climate change adaptation in their strategic outlook, yet each focuses on outcomes particular to their local environment.

Blacktown: Blacktown Climate Change Action and Adaptation Plan (2011)

Blacktown City lies on the western edge of the Sydney metropolitan plain, on relatively flat, exposed terrain. It is one of the largest LGAs in Sydney in terms of area (240 sq. km.) and population (332,424). One third of the population are NESB communities, and the largest industry is manufacturing. The main CVC impacts on Blacktown are heat-related: increases in deterioration of infrastructure, energy demands for cooling, heat-stress/heat-related deaths; longer, more intense heatwaves; and spread of vector–, water– and food–borne disease. Its community-focused Sustainability Workshop series was identified as its most successful CVC initiative. It comprises education and awareness-raising programs focusing on local fauna ecologies, ‘green’ baby care workshops, waste-processing awareness, ‘upcycling’ second-hand goods, community-wide garage sale events, backyard food security, suburban bee-keeping, sustainable kitchen and cooking programs; and urban forestry programs such as tree give-away schemes and adoption of public tree-stock. The council also partners with the local TAFE Outreach college to deliver community courses on horticulture and eco-living.

Only 25 percent of LGAs in the Sydney desktop survey have plans explicitly addressing climate change in terms of adaptation framing and the Blacktown Climate Change Action and Adaptation Plan (Blacktown City 2011) is one of the earliest-adopted of these strategies. It grew out of a risk assessment study based on CSRIO CVC forecasts. Recommendations were developed and prioritised by Council through as series of deliberative community consultation workshops, designed to build consensus around initiatives. Initiatives identified as potentially successful in the survey focus on urban cooling and water-sensitive urban design.

Marrickville: Marrickville Climate Change Action Plan (2015)

Marrickville Council sits in the inner ring of LGAs, south-west of the CBD adjacent to Sydney Airport. Its gently undulating terrain comprises significant river-flat areas along the Cooks River system and Alexandra Canal. It is a medium-sized LGA amongst the inner Sydney group, at 17 sq. km. Of its population (83,356), one quarter are NESB communities and it comprises several progressive, rapidly gentrifying post working-class suburbs. Its largest industry is also manufacturing (.id 2015b). Marrickville Council identifies its main CVC impacts are extreme weather/storm events, heatwaves, increased temperatures and sea-level rise. Initiatives in place focus on flood mitigation and adaptation measures – flood mapping, forecasting sea-level rise impacts, and stormwater infrastructure upgrading. Its Water Sensitive Community Strategy and Urban Forest Strategy were also indentified as successful initiatives in the survey. More recently, the Council has begun thermal and social vulnerability mapping initiatives – the success of these programs is still to play out fully. The Council has strong links to the community-based NGOs working with natural systems in its area, eg. Cooks River Association, Tempe Birdos.

Climate change mitigation and adaptation are significant priorities identified in Marrickville’s Community Strategic Plan. The Marrickville Climate Change Action Plan translates these into vision statement, key results areas, outcome statements, strategies. It also clearly establishes links to related strategies that will affect/be affected by climate change – Biodiversity Strategy, Water Sensitive Community Strategy, Asset Management Plan, Renewable Energy Master Plan, Community Aging Strategy, and spatial planning instruments (local environment plans / development control plans).

A study of Blacktown and Marrickville municipalities offer a productive comparison between inner- and outer-ring LGAs. Both have articulated between mitigation and adaptation approaches in their strategies, and community engagement looks to have been a significant contributor in their formulation. Each focuses on distinctive CVC impacts related to their local environment – marked heat-stress outcomes in Blacktown’s case, sea-level rise and flood impacts in Marrickville’s case. Differences in their socio-economic make-up, population density and physical environment also provide a good opportunity to explore issues around climate justice.

Queensland: Redland and Sunshine Coast

Redland: Confronting Our Climate Future (COCF): Climate and Energy Action Plan (2010-2015)

Confronting our Climate Future (COCF) is the key strategy in place for CVC adaptation in Redland. COCF was prepared ‘in-house’ based on scientific climate change information from consultancies. A risk matrix was used to create the adaptation plan for the Redland area. This Plan combines mitigation, adaptation and energy transition. Emphasis on the impacts of climate change on coastal communities and ecosystems. Partly funded by the Commonwealth Government Local Adaptation Pathways Program. The protection of nature is emphasised in this plan, evident in 47 adaptive responses. The Plan also addresses Community factors, evident in 23 adaptive responses. Adaptation actions in this policy were focused primarily on planning and infrastructure and council asset management. Some elements of climate change adaptation are present in the 2015 corporate plan for this council. Redland’s Community Plan 2030 also cites climate change as a key LGA challenge. A community goal is, “a community prepared for climate change”. Both councils are facing pressures from increased population growth and urban sprawl. Redland faces pressures from the expanding urbanisation of Brisbane City Council. Sunshine Coast is undergoing intense urbanisation as it makes the transition from regional/rural centre to more urbanised land uses. The impacts of climate change on both LGAs are similar. Coastline management is emphasised throughout the CVC adaptation policy of Sunshine Coast and Redland.

Sunshine Coast: SCRC CC and Peak Oil Strategy (2010-2020)

The SCRC CC and Peak Oil Strategy (2010-2020) was prepared ‘in-house’ with University of Sunshine Coast assistance and stakeholder input. The SCRC in 2009/2010 placed an emphasis on producing CVC policy. Policy timeframes are 10- years. Climate change is however omitted from the Sunshine Coast Disaster Risk Management Plan (2014) which may indicate that climate change adaptation is no-longer on the agenda of this council. CVC impacts for this council are predominately coast line oriented (CCPOS; FSMDP; WCMS). CVC impacts on rural areas (drought/flooding) is also provided in the RFS (2011). The protection of nature was emphasised by this plan with 19 related adaptive responses. Council governance responses are emphasised in the above policies (19 adaptive responses). Governance and leadership adaptive actions are emphasised in the above policies.

Victoria: Whitehorse and Darebin

Both LGAs are actively implementing their climate change adaptation plans with dedicated funding from Council budget. CVC adaptation is integrated as part of both Councils’ business plan. However, Whitehorse and Darebin are very different LGA’s in terms of location, demographic and adaptation focus and will provide diverse scope for analysis, particularly in terms of risk framing.

Whitehorse: Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2011: Tackling Climate Change Together

The City of Whitehorse is referred to as Melbourne’s ‘suburban heartland’ and is located 15 kilometres east of Melbourne. The demographic is characterised by households with children (at 43 % of all households). The community is also culturally diverse, with one third of all residents born overseas and one quarter of these from non-English speaking backgrounds. Whitehorse’s adaptation plan was developed around the findings of a Climate Change Risk Assessment and their adaptation efforts are focused on Council assets and operations, and emergency management. Whitehorse’s survey respondent believes Whitehorse is going ‘quite well’ with CVC adaptation and identified the following supportive factors: Support from senior management; Specific funding from Council budget; Good cooperation between departments with no active resistance; and CVC adaptation messages are linked to other things. Key initiatives, driven by the need for adaptation in Whitehorse currently include: a review of some standards and practices to include sustainability as standard, for example in drainage networks and design criteria for roads and building assets. A number of activities are of particular interest to this research, for example: Whitehorse is the first Council to undertake a large scale assessment of their buildings (Regional Alliances and other Councils are very interested); Whitehorse is helping to guide retrofits and future capital works on key buildings; Whitehorse is working with developers and asking for higher ESD standards from developers. Whitehorse is also taking an advocacy role to get adaptation on emergency agency radars. Whitehorse’s focus on emergency response is the result of the Bushfire Royal Commission and linked to the State Government Emergency Response. Whitehorse recognises the need to have effective systems in place to look after the community in emergency situations. In general, Whitehorse’s adaptation actions are comparatively modest but they are tracking well to meet their obligations.

Darebin: Climate Change and Peak Oil Adaptation Plan (2009) (Currently in review)

The City of Darebin is located 5 kilometres north of Melbourne. Darebin has one of Australia’s most diverse communities with a large number of pensioners (both aged and those with social disadvantage), low income households, and people that are socially isolated and/or disadvantaged. Darebin Council’s adaptation focus is heat stress response and reflects the vulnerable status of many social groups within its community who are unable to afford and access air conditioning or heat stress management options in times of extreme heat. One of Darebin’s key adaptation initiatives is the ‘Solar $aver Program’. This program enables pensioners to install solar power to their homes with no upfront cost and instead pay the system off through their Council rates over 10 years, interest free. Darebin has committed several million dollars from Council budget to the program (including $1 million in 2015), which will continue into 2016. Details of the program are on Darebin’s website:

Western Australia: Fremantle and Stirling

The City of Fremantle has positioned itself well to manage the impacts of climate change with the preparation of its Climate Change Adaptation Plan, designed to sit alongside the Low Carbon City Plan 2011-2015. The coast is at the heart of Fremantle, and thus sea level rise and increased storm intensity is more prominent within the adaptation plan than the City of Stirling. These impacts are presented as a threat to the City’s renowned local heritage, marine environments, local tourism and fishing industries and regionally significant infrastructure. However, alongside other CVC impacts they are framed as an opportunity to develop innovative and resilient solutions. Spatially Fremantle also has a variety of urban and suburban clusters, which in itself presents different opportunities and challenges in climate change adaptation when compared to Stirling, which is characterised by sprawling suburbs. Under the leadership of Mayor Brad Pettit, Fremantle has also actively attempted to position itself as a sustainable local government with campaigns to ban plastic shopping bags and pledges to reduce corporate waste and carbon emissions. There is a perception that the community of Fremantle is also highly engaged and in tune with environmental sustainability. With these factors in mind, Fremantle presents as an ideal case study that would provide an interesting comparative analysis against Stirling, and other LGAs across Australia.

The case studies outlined above are now being pursued for further in-depth study on i) how local authorities frame climate change and adaptation and ii) how this framing influences strategies and initiatives (subsequently) developed as part of strategy implementation.


Welcome to our project hub.

Hello and welcome to the project hub for the ARC Discovery Project: Enabling social innovation for local climate adaptability. Here you will find everything you need to know about the nuts and bolts of the project, the people and organisations involved, publications and resources relevant to the project and updates on how the project is progressing. As the project evolves we will also post stories and case studies of innovative local climate initiatives. We encourage project stakeholders and interested individuals to engage with the project and leave comments and feedback on our posts.

At a glance, the project is led by RMIT University’s Centre for Urban Research (CUR) in partnership with Macquarie University, Griffith University and Curtin University. The project will investigate the framings and practices of local governments, community groups and NGOs as they seek to create local adaptation strategies. It will use this understanding to direct policy attention to building social innovation and capacity-building practices at the local scale in response.