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Snapshot in a turbulent time: Australian HADR capabilities, challenges and opportunities

By Teagan Westendorf

Australia has demonstrated the capacity and capabilities for fast, scalable responses to disasters and humanitarian crises in recent history. Australian governments, agencies, NGOs and the public have proven determined and flexible in both domestic and regional disasters and humanitarian crises. 

Looking forward, Australia’s established capabilities are facing new and growing challenges in disaster preparedness and response. The Indo-Pacific is facing a complex network of established, evolving and intersecting climate, conflict and human-security risks.

Without innovation in strategy and capabilities, the financial cost of regional disasters will continue to vastly outpace the capacity of Australia to fund preparedness and response efforts comprehensively enough to mitigate the human and strategic security risks those disasters pose.

This report presents a snapshot view of the current Indo-Pacific threatscape looking forward for Australia; takes a retrospective look at how key Australian HADR capabilities have been developed through lessons from domestic and regional disasters; considers the possible value in a strategy for what value-add northern Australia can bring to national HADR capabilities; and presents three areas of ‘low-hanging fruit’ for HADR capability uplift.