Subsidiarity and Disaster Management in Local Government

Dr Alan March ABP, Dr Brian Cook MSLE, Assoc. Prof Lou Harms Social Work.

A.    Project Description

Aim: To establish and apply a methodology able to identify the most effective level at which management of floods and fires occurs within local Australian government.

 Problem: Disaster management has traditionally relied upon military-inspired, top-down practices that reflect the need for immediate and objective decisions-making in response to catastrophes (Handmer, 2006).  In contrast, wider governance in recent years has evolved to include many elements of devolution and the sharing of responsibility with the public.  It is now understood that successful disaster management requires distinct activities across a range of phases to improve community resilience (Quarantelli, 1998).  These phases include forward planning and preparation, mitigation, response, and recovery, each involving different combinations of government agencies, communities, and individuals.  Therefore, the diversity of disaster management requires appreciation of multiple, interacting tiers of government-public relations: at state, regional, district, local, and individual scales.  Clear principles for the allocation of authority and responsibility across these tiers of disaster management do not currently exist.

Research Summary: The project will develop methodology based on the principle of subsidiarity to determine whether responsibilities and authority are effectively allocated in local government settings in Victoria, using the case study of disaster management practices in the City of Whittlesea.  The different phases and tiers of disaster management currently practised in Whittlesea will be the source of data, enabling analysis of how alternate allocations of responsibility produce institutional resilience to disastrous floods and fires.