AECOM

Resilient Melbourne: Putting people at the centre

This article originally appeared in Connected Cities, a blog from AECOM, a 100RC Platform Partner.

When I started working for the Victorian Government’s security and emergency management branch in the summer of 2010, a third of the state was underwater. These floods, some of the worst in the state’s history, came after a 14-year drought and the 2009 “Black Saturday” bushfires that claimed almost 200 lives and 2,132 homes. There was even a plague of locusts.

Communities struggled; some would never return to their homes. Whole councils went bankrupt. Royal commissions and government inquiries tried to make sense of the devastation: ‘Where did it all go wrong?’

Creating the Community Resilience Framework was a key action of the Victorian Government’s 2015-2018 Strategic Action Plan. Resilience can be a nebulous thing; it means different things to different people. Victoria’s communities are diverse—whether it’s where we were born or where we live now, the reality of life in Victoria can be vastly different. Like our communities, our emergency management sector is also broad, including more than 60 organisations officially identified in Victoria’s Emergency Management Manual and many more that ultimately become involved before, during and after emergencies.

The intent of creating the framework was to articulate a shared vision for the emergency management sector so that communities, government, business, industry and non-government organisations can work in alignment and draw on one another’s strengths.

The Community Resilience Framework found a strong partner in the Resilient Melbourne Strategy, which AECOM worked with 100 Resilient Cities and the City of Melbourne to develop. Published in May 2015, the strategy represents a collaborative effort across 32 local councils, hundreds of local organisations, and departments in the Victorian State Government to build the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within the city to survive, adapt and grow, no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.

The Community Resilience Framework became one of the strategy’s three flagship actions, acknowledging its potential to move the metropolitan city towards a shared vision in which Melbourne’s diverse communities are viable, sustainable, liveable and prosperous, today and for the long term.

Since the release of the Resilient Melbourne Strategy, AECOM has continued working with The Victorian Government to develop the Community Resilience Framework. The framework is designed to ensure that organisations put communities at the centre of decision making and connect with them to better understand their values, priorities and strengths. It cultivates shared responsibility, recognising that while the government should lead some actions, communities should lead others, such as local networking and organising, which is vital to their resilience. In turn, organisations can draw from the vast potential for dynamic community contributions and don’t have to do everything themselves.

The framework targets seven broad community resilience outcomes, adapted from extensive research on community well being at the McCaughey Institute here in Melbourne. These are:

  • Connective, inclusive and empowered
  • Dynamic and diverse local economy
  • Sustainable built and natural environment
  • Culturally rich and vibrant
  • Democratically engaged
  • Reflective and aware

Broad and meaningful consultation has helped ensure that the framework is relevant to communities and the emergency management sector alike and is based on global best practices in community resilience, well being and disaster risk reduction. The Community Resilience Framework is scheduled to be launched and piloted in March 2017.