Flood management in Victoria, Australia

How those implementing new government policies interpret public and government responsibilities.

With: Associate Professor Ian Rutherfurd, Dr. Sonia Graham, Dr. Angus Webb, Ms. Elissa Waters,  Ms. Colette Mortreux

Flood management in Victoria is undergoing a fundamental reconfiguration, driven by recent disasters and changes to government capacities and agendas. The recommendations flowing from top-­‐down policies and inquiries are key to this change and are therefore central to Carlton Connect’s desire to have meaningful impact. However, the implementation of these recommendations will depend on the individuals at the local scale who engage with the public. Understanding how government agents interpret top-­‐down recommendations, the government’s changing responsibilities, and the responsibilities of the public will be central to both the sustainability of existing government institutions and to societal resilience in the face of more extreme or recurrent flood events.

This facilitation project through knowledge exchange (KE) emphasises the experiences and expertise of the individuals who are responsible for flood management and for engagement with flood-­‐affected members of the public. Through a collaborative engagement mixing government and academic expertise, we will establish how policy is translated and transferred by the individuals responsible for mitigating future flood events.

The KE will involve two stages: an electronic, qualitative survey, and a one-­‐day, facilitated event hosted at the University of Melbourne at MSSI. Both stages will engage with approximately 30 government agents from local and state levels (the State Emergency Service (SES), Local Councils, Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), Police, Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs), and Country Fire Authorities (CFAs)), as well as federal representatives from the Treasury. In addition to the question driving this proposal (i.e. ‘how do those implementing new government policies interpret public and government responsibilities?’), the online survey, circulated two months prior to the KE, will ensure that participants also have the opportunity to identify key challenges and/or questions. The survey will establish how government decision makers: 1) define the public; 2) interpret government and public responsibilities; 3) categorise or perceive the public’s knowledge and capabilities to behave in the context of flood disasters; 4) would solve current challenges or change existing governance. The survey results will be analysed by the team and condensed into findings; these findings will form the basis of the KE, which will provide participants with the opportunity to debate or amend the team’s analysis.

For further information or to comment, please get in touch with Dr. Brian Cook.

Field Visit and Data Collection & Analysis

Seeking 'signs' of flooding during Australian summer IMG_0178In November of 2013, I conducted three weeks of field work, collecting all the interview data for this project. In all, there were 15 interview sessions and discussions with 24 local council representatives (engineers, risk managers, community development specialists, SES, and others with experience with floods in Victoria). It was an amazing experience, which in turn led to a policy brief, several conference presentations (coming in Nov 2014), and two academic papers (currently being circulated amongst colleagues.

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