Empowering Remote Indigenous Communities in Natural Disaster Prone Northern Australia

November 2017 (VOL. 35, NO. 3)

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Risks and challenges associated with recurring natural hazards (especially wet season cyclonic and flooding events; dry season extensive savanna fires) facing remote north Australian Indigenous communities are well recognised. Less well appreciated are longer-term challenges required for building community resilience in the face of responding to natural hazards. We report on detailed surveys of community perceptions of resilience undertaken in two communities, Ngukurr and Gunbalanya, in northern Australia. This assessment highlights the critical challenge for government authorities to effectively engage with remote communities. We then address the equally challenging issue of enhancing resilience through building enterprise opportunities. Currently, only few employment opportunities exist in either community. Based on experience with market-based savanna burning greenhouse gas emissions abatement projects in north Australia, we illustrate the potential for ecosystem service-based enterprises to deliver culturally appropriate employment, which offers evident benefits for local communities in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from major natural disaster events.