UN Sustainable Development Goals
This platform is working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals:
This platform is working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals:
Physical environments, the designation of ‘environmental problems’, and the forms and logics of social, policy and management responses, are ever-changing. The complex interrelation of socio-cultural, economic, ethical, and political dimensions of environmental and natural resource issues has rendered the question of how we navigate changing environments more complex and vexed than ever. Uncertain trajectories of environmental change, social equity, cultural norms and practices, and the entanglements of nature/culture add further to these difficulties.
Our research engages this complexity. Our point of departure is the possibility of multiple relationships with nature and their diverse consequences. We track these relations and implications through critically-informed research, predominantly based upon rich empirical evidence garnered from in-depth fieldwork. Knitted together by these ideas, we conduct research in urban, rural, and remote landscapes, and in those places between the city and country. We work across and with multiple communities on topics including invasive species management, disasters, human-wildlife conflict, Indigenous connection to Country, rural stewardship, and the intersections of these topics with themes such as gender and ethnicity.
Our research is driven and informed by questions that speak to the struggle to adequately and equitably address environmental problems:
The ACCESS SDG report outlines our current research projects that are contributing to the UN SDGs.Read the ACCESS SDG report (PDF 1.7mb)
There is a growing concern in Australia and internationally of the extensive social and economic costs of disasters, and with it an acknowledgement of our inadequate understanding of the role of insurance in disaster mitigation, preparation and recovery. A 2017 report by Deloitte Access Economics outlined how in the ten years leading up to 2016, the total cost of ‘natural’ disasters in Australia averaged $18.2 billion per annum. When disasters strike, home and contents insurance provides a safety net but many households are under-insured or not insured at all. The average uninsured loss for each ‘natural’ disaster in Australia between 2004 and 2011 was estimated by Lloyds at almost $1 billion. Little is known about the factors that contribute to these rates of inadequate insurance cover. This project attempts to bridge this knowledge gap by examining perceptions of risk and insurance amongst residents both with and without direct personal experience of bushfires. It strives to assist the development of insurance policies and implementation strategies that meet the needs of residents.
Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant (DP170100096)
This project aims to help understand what aspects of public space in Liverpool today are working well for residents and visitors. It will harness the data that the Smart Cities program is delivering and supplement this with information about:
UOW Global Challenge grant (2019)
Ultimately, this project will enable Liverpool City Council to design policies that will protect existing spaces that work well for residents and design new spaces that emulate or improve on the best existing spaces. This will protect the interests of the most vulnerable people in society, who are more likely to require the refuge that good public spaces provide. This will help to build a resilient community in Liverpool as it undergoes significant development and population growth in the coming years.
Urban forests are fundamental to city liveability, resilience, and sustainability and trees are increasingly recognised as contributing to solutions for multiple contemporary urban challenges such as climate change, urban heating and cooling, air quality, connection with nature. The shift toward evaluating trees as key to sustainable urban futures has been supported by ecosystem services frameworks, which identify and measure the contributions ecosystems make to supporting human lives and well‐being. If municipal governments are to retain and expand urban forests – as they argue they must to improve our urban futures – then socio‐cultural valuations require more attention. Melbourne offers an excellent opportunity to pilot our interdisciplinary approach, and serves as the initial case study for a collaboration between the University of Melbourne (School of Geography), the University of Wollongong (ACCESS) and the City of Melbourne (Urban Sustainability).
University of Melbourne Community Engagement Grant (2018) and a MSSI-Geography Award (2017).
This project will:
Reflection on the privilege of my learning from Indigenous and vernacular communities focuses this research on nature and the human search for meaning. I use ethnographic and immersion research to study hunting and death, animals and the sacred, freediving and loss, and connections to place. Insights in all of these areas underscore my debt to Indigenous teachers.
The domestication of the horse is at least 6,000 years old, and Xenophon’s On Horsemanship has been in print for 2,300 years. This project explores aspects of the human-horse relationship, from wild horses in Australia and other countries, to Indigenous relationships with horses, to geographies of recreational horse ownership.
Sharks have come to be the focus of intense public and policy debate in recent years. This research examines the cultures and politics of human-shark encounter and shark hazard management. To date work has examined: experiences and views of ocean-users (with Dr Andrew Warren); interdisciplinary critique of the effects and effectiveness of shark hazard management (with Dr Lachlan Fetterplace, Dr Matthew Rees and Associate Professor Quentin Hanich); and trials and evaluation of novel non-lethal shark hazard management techniques [pictured] (with Dr Kye Adams, Allison Broad, Professor Andy Davis and Associate Professor Wanqing Li). New work with HDR student Teaniel Mifsud is exploring the range of human–shark encounters through crowdsourced mapping methods (co-supervised by Dr Chris Brennan-Horley).
This work has been supported by the University of Wollongong Global Challenge Program and University Research Council.
Leah Gibbs contributed as an Expert Witness for two years (2017–2019) in a legal case brought by the Humane Society International against the Queensland Government about use of lethal shark control measures in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. On 2 April 2019 the Administrative Appeals Tribunal handed down its decision in favour of HSI and the Environmental Defenders Office NSW. The case was appealed and later heard by the Federal Court of Australia, where it was dismissed; a terrific win for marine species and the Great Barrier Reef.
In 2017 Leah Gibbs acted as a witness to the Public Hearing and Senate Inquiry into the efficacy and regulation of shark mitigation.
This research on human-shark interactions has featured in more than thirty local, national and international media outlets, in print, online and audio formats, including ABC Radio, Australian Geographic, Courier Mail, The Guardian, New York Times, SBS online, Sunday Telegraph, Swellnet, Triple J Hack.
This project examines the construction and enactment of Australian memories of disaster, exploring the interlinked yet often conflicting concepts: ‘remembering a disaster’ and ‘learning from a disaster’. In political rhetoric, media reports and the personal narratives of survivors, disasters associated with natural hazards are often described as unforgettable events. Although post-disaster discourses reveal a desire to record and preserve memories at multiple scales and to ensure that individuals, communities and governments ‘never forget’, this discursive focus on remembrance often fails to prompt lasting change in community behaviours or in government policy. The project examines how active ways of remembering might contribute to resilience, as well as seeking to understand the long-term impacts of disaster as seen in commemorative processes.
University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2017-2020).
Disasters in the Illawarra. A series of oral history interviews about the 1968 bushfires and the 1998 storm and floods in the Illawarra is currently being undertaken. The interviews will be donated to Wollongong City Libraries and made available online as a community resource.
This project area began life as an investigation into invasive plant management by rural landholders in peri-urban areas and on rural lifestyle landholdings. Invasive plant management is a major activity by many such landholders and important in developing links to, and knowledge of, their land. Landholders variously live with, seek to eradicate, or aim to control weeds. How they do this has implications for landscape scale environmental outcomes and for pathways to effective invasive plant management.
The work has expanded beyond this to include interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers in the School of Psychology, the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Life Sciences, and the School of Computing & Information Technology. Management by rural lifestyle landholders remains a focus, however work under this broader project also now includes:
Our report and recommendations for the design of a Voluntary Environmental Program underpin the Plant Sure Scheme which aims to reduce biosecurity risks in the nursery and garden industries
Indigenous land management including Aboriginal fire knowledge has garnered significant public and policy debate in recent years. This PhD research examines the roles and experiences of Aboriginal women in cultural burning in NSW. This qualitative Indigenist research achieves this through semi-structured interviews and participatory action auto-ethnography.
The research forms part of Work Package 5 Indigenous cultural burning: Exploring the links between cultural revitalisation and wellbeing within the NSW Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub.
This work has been supported by the NSW Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub, and the UOW Global Challenges (travel grant).
Vanessa Cavanagh contributed as an Expert Witness to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements (2020), as well as contributing to the NSW Bushfire Inquiry (2020).
This project uses interdisciplinary collaboration to investigate and communicate about climate change. Human geographer Dr Leah Gibbs, coastal scientist Associate Professor Sarah Hamylton, and artists Dr Lucas Ihlein and Dr Kim Williams work together to explore the efficacy of mapping, drawing, story-telling and other forms of communicating to interrogate the contemporary environmental and social changes that are altering the Great Barrier Reef. In 2016 and 2017 this iconic Australian coastal landscape underwent two consecutive mass bleaching events. Driven by carbon emissions and global practices of consumption, this environmental issue represents a truly global challenge. Through this project we are exploring non-traditional scholarly outputs, including music. Here's our first song: ‘Rock the Boat’.
This work has been supported by the University of Wollongong Global Challenge Program.
Regenerative agriculture is a growing worldwide agro-ecological movement and has the potential to transform agricultural and grazing systems. While its biophysical outcomes remain subject to debate, the social, personal and cultural institutions and process associated with regenerative agriculture potentially offer much that is of value for transitions to more resilient primary production. This project aimed to examine the personal transitions of NSW graziers into forms of regenerative agriculture and identify how these transitions were initiated and sustained.
ACCESS Visiting Fellow
Weeds are a major threat to the sustainability of rural ecosystems and industries. Current policies call for communities to act collectively to manage weeds, but there is little empirical evidence about such processes and their benefits. This project aims to produce pioneering knowledge about how communities collectively manage weeds and the benefits for rural sustainability. It will conduct the first extensive comparative case study of self-organising weed management initiatives, pilot a new analytic method and advance theory that can explain effective collective management of weeds. Expected outcomes include evidence-based strategies and guidelines that support communities and governments to expand and enhance rural collective action.
2020 Australian Research Council DECRA DE200100234