The city of Newcastle and the Greater Hunter region in which it resides, is unique in Australia, having faced perpetual adversity with the 1989 earthquake, frequent major flood events, industrial transformation and economic diversification. Newcastle has emerged stronger from these shocks and stresses. Building upon this pedigree as a ‘resilient’ city, Newcastle will shortly become an official United Nations city, as UON partners with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) to establish a CIFAL Centre in Disaster Risk Reduction.
The project will draw upon this expertise and UON’s particular position as a centre for excellence in resilience/risk reduction education in order to build capacity in the ASEAN region. It is intended to develop an understanding of regional challenges that result from complex problems generated by natural hazards and human induced threats. The overarching aim of the project will be to create regional synergies between leading higher education institutions while building capacity in ASEAN countries to proactively address disaster risk and build resilience through education.
The Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) research team at UON recently completed the DFAT funded ‘REACT Network’ project, bringing together tertiary educators from Australia, China and Taiwan around the mutual concern of resilience education. If funded, ‘Disaster Resilience Education Capacity Building in South-East Asia’ will build upon the success of REACT and establish wider links with resilience stakeholders, in Australia and each ASEAN country, strengthening institutional and individual capabilities to engage in activities of bilateral significance for the future.
UON is one of only two universities in Australia to offer an undergraduate course on ‘Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment’ and a Postgraduate programme in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). This expertise can be deployed to build capacity among ASEAN partners and stimulate long-term regional engagement. There is presently no organised consortium of disaster resilience educators in South-East Asia and this project addresses a vital need in a particularly vulnerable region.
The University of Newcastle (Australia), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT, Thailand), the University of the Philippines (UP) and the National University of Civil Engineering (NUCE, Vietnam) have formed a robust regional network with the collective capacity to lead initiatives that protect society from shocks to physical, socio-cultural, politico-economic and natural systems. Each institution brings unique disciplinary expertise in Architecture and Construction Management (UON), Urban and Regional Planning (UP) and Civil/Environmental Engineering (USM, NUCE and AIT)
In 2018, the DRR-Ed Network will again be growing, having been awarded a further DFAT grant from the Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR). This project will establish partnerships between Universidad Diego Portales, Universidad Javeriana and Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina from Latin America and University of Newcastle. This project will build regional capacity, share knowledge and create synergy in disaster resilience and risk reduction research and education.
The project partners will undertake a series of activities and expect to achieve the following results:
- to identify curriculum synergies in Disaster Resilience Education and map each partner against 2015 international frameworks (Sendai/SDG/COP21), producing a collection of country specific reports on multidisciplinary disaster risk reduction and resilience education (Year 1)
- to build upon the foundations of the REACT Network and expand the Asia-Pacific resilience education movement throughout the ASEAN region, building capacity among partner institutions to become leaders in the field (Year 1)
- to create opportunities for bilateral trade through the introduction of industry and government partners via project activities (Year 2)
- to raise awareness of the diverse disaster risk profiles among project partners, leading to a deeper understanding of operational context in each country and helping to generate a shared vision for resilience education (Year 2) through a series of workshops.