Questions of Management and Policy Amidst Australia’s Bushfire Crisis

Smokey haze over suburbs
Australia December, 2019. Smoke from bushfires covers the sky and glowing sun barely seen through the smoke. Photo by Shutterstock, ID: 1580277991.
Wednesday 26 February, 2020
6.00 - 7.30pm

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New Law Lecture Theatre 101, New Law Building, Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney


An interdisciplinary panel consider how government and industry should best respond to climate-related disasters, which will only become increasingly common, intense, widespread and destructive as the planet warms.

Recent weather and climate-related disasters, especially the bushfires, have stretched Australia’s largely ‘volunteer’ emergency management workforce to breaking point. The current state and federal approaches to disaster management are failing, as there are inadequate laws and policies to fund government agencies and compensate victims, especially where they are uninsured. With the government defunding research and ignoring recommendations on disasters, resilience and adaptation planning, is a community-based, collaborative approach the only way forward?

Yet, the impediment to such comprehensive action is that, for many people, the scale of the threat remains beyond imagination. An urgent challenge is therefore the question of representation, especially representation of the multispecies devastation, to ensure that the graphic horror of the recent bushfires is not lost in the danger of abstractness.


Danielle Celermajer is a Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney. Along with her multispecies community, she has recently lived through the NSW fires, writing in the face of their experience of the “killing of everything”, which she calls “omnicide”.

Rosemary Lyster is the Professor of Climate and Environmental Law at the University of Sydney Law School and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law. Rosemary’s special area of research expertise is Climate Justice and Disaster Law.

Michael Mann is a Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC).

David Schlosberg is Professor of Environmental Politics in the Department of Government and International Relations, Payne-Scott Professor, and Director of the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney. He has nearly three decades of experience in environmental justice, which is often understood as the experience of slow, ongoing, relentless damage to everyday lives and communities.

Christopher Wright is a Professor of Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School where he teaches and researches business responses to climate change, sustainability and critical understandings of capitalism. He has published extensively on the political economy of climate change, organisational sustainability, and corporate political activity.

Tanya Fiedler (Chair) is a lecturer in the Discipline of Accounting at the University of Sydney. Tanya’s research examines the translational issues that arise when reconfiguring the measurement methods and data of science, into accounting information and values. In this regard, Tanya has a particular interest in accounting for and accountability towards the climate.