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Disaster Resilience Research Group

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 identifies the need to promote cooperation between research entities and those involved in emergency management to develop new products that enhance disaster resilience. The Australian National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework (PDF 4.4MB) translates the first three Sendai Framework priorities into action for the Australian context with a requirement to strengthen the link between research and operational expertise.

The Disaster Resilience Research Group accepts these challenges and in doing so, aims to enhance their research leadership in disaster resilience both locally in Tasmania, nationally in Australia and internationally.

The Disaster Resilience Research Group spans three colleges at the University of Tasmania. It is based within the College of Arts, Law and Education and run collaboratively with the College of Sciences and Engineering with researchers from the College of Health and Medicine. We are locally based but have a global reach working with a range of stakeholders that represent the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Our goal is to work with government and industry to collectively strengthen society’s resilience to disasters.

Banner Image Credit: 2016 Tasmanian Floods, The Examiner

Research Snapshot


Tasmanian State Disaster Risk Assessment

In partnership with The Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management, the University of Tasmania is undertaking the 2021 Tasmanian State Disaster Risk Assessment. This project will enable an all hazard and multi-disciplinary understanding of disaster risks affecting Tasmania. The Disaster Resilience Research Group is leading a multi-disciplinary team from the University of Tasmania to ensure that specific research subject matter expertise is encompassed in the project.

Bushfires Community Recovery Fund Evaluation Research Project

On behalf of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, the Disaster Resilience Research Group will explore how communities impacted by the 2018/19 Tasmanian bushfires recover in the context of responding to the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is envisaged that this research project will lead to results that can be generalised to the broader Australian recovery efforts.

Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council

The Disaster Resilience Research Group worked with the Tasmanian Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council (PESRAC) and Secretariat to use stretch-thinking techniques in COVID-19 recovery planning for a 3-year time horizon. This project also worked closely with the PESRAC Secretariat and Tasmanian peak bodies to identify strategic opportunities in the state’s recovery planning.

State Emergency Management Program

This research grant was awarded by the Tasmanian State Emergency Management Program to assist the Tasmanian State Emergency Management Committee in delivering programs to address significant disaster resilience initiatives. The project developed a practical guide so practitioners in the public and not-for-profit sectors can enhance collaboration in the recovery phase of emergency management. The project worked with stakeholders from Tasmanian not-for-profit organisations and those representing multiple public sector agencies that were involved in the 2016 Tasmanian floods.

University of Tasmania Community Engagement Grant

This research grant conducted a pilot project that involved working alongside communities that have been affected by disasters in Tasmania to explore the potential of a prospective longitudinal study of trauma exposure, resilience, health and ageing. Individual and community needs were identified to develop a framework for the co-design of a future study.


COVID-19 Recovery Project

In Phase 1 of the COVID-19 Recovery Project, the Disaster Resilience Research Group collaborated with the Western Australian (WA) Government State Recovery Coordination Unit. Using Stretch-thinking techniques, the project identified a series of recovery scenarios for WA across a 12-month time horizon that explored the likely consequences, constraints, and opportunities for the social and economic recovery environments.

In Phase 2 of this project, the team at the Disaster Resilience Research Group collaborated with Emergency Management Australia and multiple Australian jurisdictions to identify recovery scenarios for a 12-month and 3-year time horizon. This project used Stretch-Thinking Loops to develop a national picture of the potential post COVID-19 recovery landscape.

Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre

A 3-year research grant supported two interrelated projects. The first project explored decision-making in dynamic, complex, and uncertain situations where decision makers are required to manage their cognitive limitations, so they can successfully manage the consequences of their decisions. The second project worked to better understand the enablers and constraints to utilising research to support development of evidence-informed practice.

A 12-month research utilisation grant is currently being used to develop training materials and activities that will be used to up-skill a cohort of personnel from participating end-user agencies. These personnel will be able train their colleagues in the use of the non-technical skills and practices so they can be embedded as part of core business in emergency management.


The World Bank and the Government of Bangladesh

This research was part of the Bangladesh Urban Resilience Project funded by the World Bank and the Government of Bangladesh and managed by C3NTRE. The overarching goal was to create a professional emergency management training track across various levels of government in Bangladesh. The Disaster Resilience Research Group conducted an evaluation of leading research related to the proposed training tracks to identify best evidence-based practice that was incorporated into the curriculum. The Disaster Resilience Research Group also contributed to the development of a monitoring framework, including performance indicators to monitor and evaluate the progress, and effects of the program.

Our Research Group

Ben is a human factors researcher with interests in measuring and improving human and organisational performance in high risk work environments.

Steve is a human factors researcher with an interest in understanding how we can improve human capabilities to enhance organisational resilience.

Chris is a human factors researcher investigating communication, co-ordination and teamwork practices in high technology, high intensity and safety critical work environments.

Duncan is a researcher at the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre and his research focuses on stress-related factors which influence a person’s resilience.

Cameron is a public policy researcher with an interest in disaster resilience policy focussing on how public policy can contribute to enhancing infrastructure resilience.

Olly is a research assistant with an interest in quantitative methodologies and is currently studying psychology at University of Tasmania.

Ebba is a social scientist with an intertest in qualitative research techniques that she uses to unpack complex social problems.

News and Events

Upcoming Events

Due to the current pandemic we have unfortunately had to postpone our upcoming events.

News and Past Events

Community-Led Recovery Roundtable

22 February 2021

Community-Led Recovery Roundtable

The Disaster Resilience Research Group were invited to participate in the inaugural Tasmanian Red Cross Community-Led Recovery Roundtable. Ebba represented the Disaster Resilience Research Group and heard from an expert panel session discuss community-led recovery in practice. The participants then worked in small groups to explore the recovery opportunities and challenges in Tasmania.

Photo of Craig Limkin, Deputy Secretary, Policy and Intergovernmental Relations at the Tasmanian Government. (Photo by Ebba Herrlander Birgerson)

Stretch Thinking in Disaster Recovery workshop

4 & 5 March 2020

Stretch Thinking in Disaster Recovery

Collaborating with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services in Western Australia, Ben and Steve conducted a series of workshops on stretch thinking in the context of disaster recovery. Training sessions were provided on cognitive tools for creating psychological safe decision-making environments, managing bias and enhancing creativity in decision-making. The participants used these and stretch thinking techniques to imagine potential recovery scenarios for a hypothetical high consequence but low probability disaster.

Stretch Thinking Workshop for the Water Sector

13 February 2020

Stretch Thinking Workshop for the Water Sector

Ben and Steve conducted a workshop for SunWater on stretch thinking in crisis management. The interactive workshop explored decision making in high consequence but low probability disasters in the context of catastrophic dam failures. The participants explored the influence of psychological safety, managing cognitive bias and explored examples of best practice decision-making in the critical infrastructure sector.

From Research to Education

One of the fundamental goals of our research is to translate the knowledge created into educating and training people about disaster resilience. We have used our research and expertise in this area to develop five undergraduate units at the University of Tasmania.

Policy Alignment

The Australian National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework (PDF 4.4MB) outlines a national, comprehensive approach to proactively reducing disaster risk, now and into the future. The following table outlines how our research is contributing to the four priorities identified in the ‘Framework’ at a micro-level.

National Priority 1: Understand disaster risk
Strategy D: Integrate plausible future scenarios into planning
Contribution: During the discussion exercises in our decision making workshops, participants explore scenario-based risk assessments that are designed to inform complex decisions that are used for navigating future uncertainties.

National Priority 2: Accountable decisions
Strategy C: Build the capability and capacity of decision-makers to actively address disaster risk in policy, program and investment decisions
Contribution: Our research is producing guidance materials to build the capability of decision-makers, so they can manage their cognitive limitations when addressing current and future disaster risks and the potential impacts within their area of responsibility.

National Priority 3: Enhanced investment
Strategy D: Identify additional current and future potential funding streams
Contribution: Together with our end users, we are proactively utilising existing funding pathways available at the BNHCRC for utilisation projects that transition research outcomes to changed practices that meet the needs of organisations with a role in disaster governance arrangements.

National Priority 4: Governance, ownership and responsibility
Strategy D: Create clear governance pathways for pursuing disaster risk reduction projects
Contribution: Our research investigating creativity in decision complexity is aligning these decision-making practices across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors to allow a holistic approach to prioritising disaster risks and formulating potential actions to reduce and manage them.

Available Research Degree Projects

There are currently no higher degree research opportunities available at the moment but please keep checking this section on the website for future projects.

For a full list of current University projects, refer to the Research Division – Available Research Degree Projects.


A full range of publications relevant to the Disaster Resilience Research Group can be found on our researcher's full profiles linked above. These include journal articles, books, chapters in books, reviews, conference publications, thesis, and other public outputs.