Enabling environmentally focused community groups responding to climate change: Practices of co-governance in developing and implementing policy in complex and dynamic settings

Stream: Funding and organising service delivery
Date: Monday, 9 September 2019
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.10 pm


The overwhelming evidence of impacts from fossil fuel emissions, practices of natural resource exploitation and urban development present a devastating picture of dynamic intertwined social-ecological disasters. We are ill prepared to address the complexity of issues that span the gauntlet of access to basic resources and the social, economic and cultural systems people rely on for health and wellbeing. In a rapidly changing world social policies need to bridge diverse portfolios in holistic, participatory and decentralized ways to create real transformation. People volunteering in community groups play a significant role in creating social change. Yet, while recognised as ‘stakeholders’, effectively supporting participation and the ‘work’ of people in environmentally focused community groups, is inhibited by outdated concepts and top down processes. Findings from a PhD research project on civic participation and community collaboration in responding to climate change highlight the diverse challenges community groups face. Researching people in community groups is largely siloed by labels of volunteer, advocate, activist, public engagement, social movements and segregated by domains such as conservation, NRM, community, waste management. Spanning different groups in a North Australian urban setting, this research explored a spectrum of civic participation and activity foci. Using a robust qualitative research design the aim was to uncover how power relations inform understandings of, and actions within, the psycho-social-ecological systems and governance settings of community led environmental volunteer groups. Insights for making sense of local contexts and practices of co-governance in developing and implementing policy will be discussed.


Rachel Tumminello (Presenter), College of Health and Human Sciences, Charles Darwin Univeristy
A self-declared ‘life-long volunteer’ Rachel Tumminello is currently a PhD candidate with Charles Darwin University. Her research is exploring how civic participation, with an emphasis on environmental volunteering, can inform our efforts for social transformation in the face of the disastrous impacts of climate change. Rachel has worked in non-profits, tertiary education and government organisations, gaining a wholistic understanding of community development and the third sector and the tensions between conservation and sustainability.

Douglas Paton, Charles Darwin University
Douglas Paton is a Professor in the College of Health Sciences/Discipline of Psychology specialising in disaster risk reduction and recovery. He is interested in researching all-hazards and cross cultural aspects of disaster risk reduction and disaster recovery. More specifically, his work examines the development and testing of universal theories that have international applicability. Douglas holds degrees in Psychology. He is published in Nature, Natural Hazards, Current Psychiatry Reports, and the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.

Petra Buergelt, Charles Darwin University
Deputy Chair of the Group of Energy Efficient Researchers (GEER, Australia), a research fellow at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research (Massey University, NZ), and an international associate at the Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research (Victoria University, NZ). Petra’s research interest is human adaptation and transformation in research areas of natural extreme events and disasters, migration and Indigenous communities. Currently lecturing and researching at the University of Canberra, Petra is also an editorial board member of the International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches (since 2006), Disaster Communication (since 2016) and Journal of Psychology (since 2010).