Drought is coming, time to prepare communities

Drought months in south-west Western Australia are expected to increase by up to 80 per cent in the next 50 years, according to the South West Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub , led by the Grower Group Alliance .

Research demonstrating the heavy socio-economic impact of drought on communities will be presented to community leaders by Centre for Social Impact UWA Research Lead, Dr Leanne Lester , at an online workshop hosted by South West NRM , the peak natural resource management (NRM) body responsible for protecting and restoring natural areas and driving sustainable agriculture in the region.

The workshop is the first in a series designed to create a Community Resilience Network and connect communities ahead of the predicted increase in drought events.

In her 2022 research report: Understanding the social impacts of drought , Dr Lester said drought was not just about a lack of precipitation, but a socio-economic phenomenon.

"The impact of longterm drought can be measured not only in loss of stock and depletion of resources, but also in deterioration of family relationships, loss of community networks, feelings of uncertainty for the future and feelings of being abandoned by the rest of Australia," the report said.

"Indirect economic factors which impact on social outcomes include hardship and stress over lost productivity, a declining population, disruption of social connections, loss of services to the local community and trauma associated with witnessing damage to livestock, crops, soil and native vegetation."

Among seven recommendations made in the report was: "Strengthening community social networks and social capital".

South West NRM Manager Sustainable Agriculture, Peter Clifton, said the aim of the Community Resilience Network will be to improve capability and collaboration between organisations and groups to reduce harm.

To establish the network, community leaders and volunteers from a broad range of sectors are being sought in six South West shires to participate in local working groups that will champion resilience building and support services.

The aim of the groups will be to:

  • Increase community access to suitable support services, especially early intervention tools that help to build individual and community resilience
  • Share resources and learnings to develop partnerships across the region
  • Develop plans to further build community resilience
“We have partnered with Community Resource Centre's (CRCs) throughout the region to assist with holding a series of six meetings between February and September, 2024 for anyone interested in helping their community,” Peter said.

“The meetings will be held online and at CRCs in Boyup Brook, Bridgetown, Donnybrook, Harvey, Brunswick and Manjimup.”

Workshop 1 on 23 February 2024 will feature a presentation by Dr Lester, 'The Social Impacts of Drought'.

This project is supported by FRRR, through funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.