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In an annual report from Macquaire University’s Risk Frontiers, Andrew Gissing and Michael Eburn look at how prepared Australia is for catastrophic and cascading disasters. The report, entitled, Planning and Capability Requirements for Catastrophic and Cascading Disasters, provides an update on research which aims to answer the following questions:

  • How does the Australian emergency management sector conceptualize catastrophic events?
  • What are the key factors shaping possible future catastrophic events?
  • What are key elements for designing planning and capability to cope with the impacts of catastrophic disasters?
  • How effectively do existing risk assessment approaches account for catastrophic disasters?
  • How can tools assist to measure preparedness and identify capability gaps in the context of coping with the impacts of catastrophic events?


Catastrophic events pose unique challenges and are inevitable. Previous reviews have highlighted gaps in Australia’s preparedness for catastrophic disasters. Australia has no recent experience of a catastrophe, with the Spanish Flu (1918-1919) and Cyclone Tracey (1974) being perhaps two historic examples that have overwhelmed systems of management. Catastrophic events require the adoption of a whole of community approach, which considers the strengths of different partners to contribute. However, this is challenged by the culture of emergency services. This report provides an overview of research completed as part of the first year of the BNHCRC Planning and Capability Requirements for Catastrophic and Cascading Events research.

Read the document (PDF).

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