Reducing the Impact of Heatwaves: Bodies, Housing, and Cool Suburbs

Hot city
Wednesday 11 March, 2020
6.00 - 7.30pm

This event has passed


Law Foyer, New Law Building, Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney


Penrith hit an all-time high of 48.9 degrees in early January – for a day it was the hottest place on the planet. The climate-changed projections for Sydney are clear: average temperatures will continue to increase, with more hot days and more frequent and lengthier heatwaves. The impacts of heatwaves are one of the most inequitably distributed impacts of climate change. Those that can afford simply turn on air conditioning, while the poor, homeless, elderly, at risk, and those that live alone tend to be the most impacted. Global research shows that more heat is coming, and it will make everyday life in Sydney, and the western suburbs in particular, more uncomfortable and dangerous for those most vulnerable.

This panel focuses on key, implementable responses for lessening the impacts of heatwaves – low-cost personal strategies to keep cool, housing design to keep the heat out, and neighbourhood and local council strategies to counter the heating of suburbs. Our contributors will discuss straightforward policy suggestions to keep the most vulnerable among us safe as climate change heats our cities.



Joanne Corcoran is the Coordinator, Multicultural Health Service, for the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District. The Multicultural Health Service is part of the Priority Populations Unit which addresses health inequities experienced by vulnerable populations by both building the capacity of the health system to deliver culturally competent services, and working with the community to access appropriate health care. Joanne has qualifications in psychology, sports science and information management, and has worked in multicultural health for over 20 years. She has a particular interest in health literacy, and the impact of language and culture on accessing health information and health care.

Ollie Jay is an Associate Professor in Thermoregulatory Physiology, and Director of the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory, in the Faculty of Medicine and Health at The University of Sydney, Australia (2014-Present), and Lead Researcher of the Charles Perkins Centre (CPC) Research Node on Climate Adaptation and Health. Originally from the UK, he obtained his PhD in Thermal Physiology from Loughborough University in 2002, which was then followed by 10 years of international research experience at Simon Fraser University (2003-05) and the University of Ottawa (2005-13). His research activities primarily focus on developing a better understanding of the physiological and physical factors that determine human heat strain and the associated risk of heat-related health problems during work and/or sport, as well as among vulnerable people during heat waves.

Tess Lea is an Associate Professor who specialises in the anthropology of policy. Her fundamental interest is with issues of (dys)function: how it occurs and to what, whom and how it is ascribed. Looking at extraction industries, everyday militarisation, houses, infrastructure (e.g. plumbing and roads), schools, and efforts to create culturally congruent forms of employment and enterprise from multiple perspectives, her work asks why the path to realising seemingly straightforward ambitions is so densely obstacled. She is also exploring ways in which Aboriginal families might tell their stories and commandeer policy openings and closings for their own ends. For this pursuit she is working closely with Professor Elizabeth Povinelli from Columbia University and the Karrabing Film Collective.

Stephanie Macfarlane is a clinical social worker with experience in the areas of corrections, homelessness and drug and alcohol in NSW in both the government and non-government sectors. Stephanie currently manages the homelessness portfolio for the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, which aims to coordinate initiatives that improve health outcomes and equity for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness accessing SESLHD health services. She passionately advocates for public policy to be responsive to the needs of vulnerable and priority populations and is close to completing her Masters in Public & Social Policy.

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.