A Political Ecology of Climate Adaptation in Australia

Melissa Nursey-Bray1, Susan Oakley1

1University Of Adelaide


This paper presents the results of a project that used political ecology as a lens to analyse climate adaptation governance in Australia. We chart the history of climate adaptation at Federal to local government levels, and map various community initiatives across different Australian states. Our presentation attempts to make sense of this plethora of arrangements, and assess what outcomes have been achieved in adaptive governance. We highlight how the geographies of power become embedded in policy frameworks and change how communities become engaged thus affecting policy efficacy of adaptation in practice. We reveal the unintended consequences of some initiatives, such as the marginalisation of Indigenous groups in urban adaptation policy and discuss the influence of scale and locale on modes of adaptive governance. We conclude with some reflections on ways forward that will positively enable more socially just community participation and a greater social license to operate for climate adaptation programs in Australia.


Melissa is a human geographer who is interested in the relationship between people and place, and the ways in which communities become involved in environmental decision making. She has explored this relationship in the context of marine/coastal spaces, Indigenous country and urban settlements. Her current work focuses on the geographies of climate adaptation and what inhibits and drives community engagement in this space. She is the Director of the ACE (Adaptation, Community, Environment) Research Cluster, and Head of Department of the Department of Geography, Environment and Population.


The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

IAG Website

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