Meet 2018 Honours Research Fellow Alice Simpson-Young

Alice’s research aims to explore Sydney and Melbourne’s Resilience Strategies, to understand to what extent environmental justice, vulnerability and social resilience are incorporated.

'The urban sprawl of Melbourne' by Nils Versemann. Sourced via Shutterstock, stock photo ID: 281409893.

We are happy to welcome Alice Simpson-Young to the Sydney Environment Institute family. Alice is one of three students to be awarded an Honours Fellowship at the Sydney Environment Institute in 2018 and is undertaking Honours in the Department of Government and International Relations. Get to know Alice, her research, and interests.










What are you researching for Honours?

My research aims to explore Sydney and Melbourne’s Resilience Strategies, to understand to what extent environmental justice, vulnerability and social resilience are incorporated, and to identify what can be learned from the development of their strategies that can be applied to the development of strategies in other Australian cities.

Sydney and Melbourne are member cities to the 100 Resilient Cities Network. 100 Resilient Cities is a non-profit organisation funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, working with global cities to assist the development of ‘Resilience Strategies’ which aim to prepare cities for the shocks and stresses of social, economic and physical changes.

I hope my research can be a valuable contribution to the body of literature on cities building resilience through addressing two main questions; to what extent has the Sydney and Melbourne’s Resilience Strategies incorporated environmental justice, vulnerability and social resilience; and what can be learnt from the development of the Resilience Strategies, that will help to implement Resilience Strategies in other Australian cities?

What are the key environmental issues your research aims to address?

My research aims to address the resilience of Australia’s major cities, focusing on vulnerability, social resilience, and environmental justice. Cities are facing stresses, like population growth, increasing social inequality, unemployment, climate impacts and more, and shocks including bushfires, floods, and heatwaves. The strategies I will be researching aim to address these issues.

What led you to your research topic?

The topic of resilient cities was chosen because our cities and communities need to be prepared for a rapidly changing climate. I have decided to focus specifically on this topic given my interest in the field, the interest, and connections of my supervisor, David Schlosberg, and because of the limited peer-reviewed literature currently published.

My specific interest in Resilient Cities developed during my five years at a community engagement consultancy (engage2), from working with the government on policy development, sustainable development, urban planning and open government. Through my research at the consultancy, I saw that the concept of Resilient Cities was a highly accessible, approachable, solutions-based approach to addressing climate impacts, that was well- received by government and the private sector.

My research as part of the University of Sydney Summer Scholarship Program confirmed my interest in the field, and the importance of this topic. During the six-week program, I worked with a Head of the Geoscience School to undertake research on the urban heat island effect in Sydney. The research investigated how the urban heat islands effect in Australian cities was reported in the media, and what the implications of this were on the reporting of climate change.

Since the age of 16, I have had a strong interest in climate change. I was formerly an active member and coordinator of the Inner West Division of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC). In 2013, I took part in the 2041 Antarctic Youth Ambassador Program and with the generous support of corporate sponsorship, embarked on a 3-week journey with academic specialists, scientists and industry leaders to discuss the ongoing challenges with climate change. I was also invited to speak at several events including the Australian Solar Energy Forum, Waste reduction evening with the Glebe Society, High School assemblies. I also received the Australian National Volunteer Award (Certificate of Appreciation), the A.A. Rorke Social Justice Award and was a finalist in the Future Problem Solving National Championships.

In 2018, I aim to produce a piece of work that can meaningfully contribute to the development of cities and communities that are prepared for the shocks and stresses that are being – and will continue to be – exacerbated by climate change.

Apart from research, what are your passions & interests?

I am a huge fan of the outdoors, including hiking, camping, bouldering and slack-lining. My ideal weekend is doing an overnight hiking/camping trip. I have had some great camping adventure trips when I lived in British Columbia, Canada for 18 months, and some shorter outdoor adventures in New Zealand, Hawaii, Argentina, Antarctica, Japan, Indonesia and around Australia.

I have a strong interest in Australian politics. I think of Australian politics as a soap opera, although quite the frustrating one. Podcasts also take up a sizable chunk of my leisure time.

What about SEI made you interested in an Honours Fellowship with us?

The interdisciplinary nature of the Sydney Environment Institute’s work appeals to me.  I studied both a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Studies) and Bachelor of Arts (Government and International Relations) because acting on climate change and other social and environmental issues require a multi and interdisciplinary approach.

Resilience and Adaptation is one of the Sydney Environment Institute’s Research Areas, and my research topic fit in nicely with previous work the Institute was involved in, including the ‘Resilient Sydney – Insights into Community Urban Resilience Experiences’ research.

I have been attending Sydney Environment Institute’s events and reading their blog posts for a few years now. I have helped out at previous Sydney Environment Institute conferences, including the Environmental Justice 2017 and the Global Ecologies, Local Impacts Conferences.