Towards a more disaster resilient and sustainable future

As the world faces increasing number of natural hazards, international scholars and leaders like Dr Temitope Egbelakin are working to provide sustainable global solutions and strategies to create communities that are more resilient.

Photo of Dr Temitope Egbelakin in front of trees smiling

Natural disasters are occurring at an alarming frequency worldwide. In the last four decades, the number natural hazards such as earthquake, flooding and bush fires has more than doubled*- with devastating consequences for lives, livelihoods, wild habitats and economies.

The disaster resilience work of Dr Temitope Egbelakin forms part of a cohesive global response.

Temitope research work is committed to enhancing community disaster resilience by devising research-based strategies to address challenges in the policy and practice of building resilience.

“We can’t stop the stop the occurrence of natural hazards,” explains Dr Temitope Egbelakin, “but we can plan and implement actions that will reduce our vulnerabilities and impacts from these disasters”.

“If you implement pre-disaster actions adequately before natural disasters strike, loss of lives and other impacts from disasters such as financial, psychosocial, environmental and health will reduce”.

Global Leader in Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Resilience in Australia

Temitope is the Executive Director of CIFAL Newcastle, a United Nations and UNITAR-affiliated training and research centre based at the University of Newcastle. CIFAL Newcastle is the only CIFAL centre in Australia and Pacific regions, positioning Temitope and her team as highly influential and respected global disaster resilience and sustainability experts.

The work of CIFAL Newcastle focus on enhancing the resilience and sustainability of communities, through United Nations (UN) certified capacity development programmes that covers a range of learning opportunities, innovative world-class research, and developing strong local and international collaborations.

To achieve global impact, CIFAL Newcastle focuses on empowering individuals, governments, businesses and local communities to implement the Sendia framework for disaster risk reduction, UN SDGs and 2030 Agenda. The team runs capability development programs to boost awareness of the SDGs and foster community-level action.

The centre prioritises the global transfer of research knowledge, and ensures our local regions stay connected to international dialogues and progress. However, while Australia is taking steps towards reducing of impacts of disaster and climate change, Temitope explains that there is still more work.

“For example, with the current bush fires, drought and the impact of climate change in Australia, solutions and strategies that can be developed to assist Australia to become future-proof against climate change-related disasters.

“Our aim is to encourage people to live and do things in a sustainable way. We work with organisations to develop strategies, frameworks and toolkits to align their organisational policies and practices with the SDGs targets. At an individual level, we encourage people to assess how their own actions impact on other, and the environment and, and to help them to operate more sustainably”.

Enhancing Resilience of New Zealand’s Communities

Temitope collaborates with other researchers, governments and local communities worldwide to design and inform real-world disaster resilience solutions and recovery strategies. Her work has included examining the impact of earthquake regulatory policies on community resilience, strengthening and redeveloping existing heritage buildings, and increasing community resilience to flooding disasters.

Following New Zealand’s devastating earthquakes, Temitope’s research outcomes have been crucial towards informing practices and offered specific recommendations for regulatory reforms, and disaster resilience planning for New Zealand.

Temitope shares that, while targeted disaster responses are essential, the best way to build community resilience is to be prepared. Right now, vulnerable communities and individuals worldwide require better support to plan for disasters long before they strike.

“We want to help people see how they can contribute to decreasing the risks from natural hazards, and what plans they can put in place to reduce their exposure to disasters. For example, providing regional towns with strategies to economically and strategically strengthen their buildings before an earthquake disaster occurs.”

As an Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle, Temitope also contributes to program development and delivery for undergraduate and postgraduate students. Her greatest teaching goal is to equip her students with the industry relevant skills and evidence-based knowledge to continue improving disaster resilience in the years and decades to come.

A common theme across all Temitope work is empowerment and engagement. Her research, leadership and teaching efforts are geared towards ultimately, equipping people to create a more sustainable, resilience and prosperous community.

“People are more willing to create change when they are equipped with the resources to do it well. We must empower people to be able make positive changes in their own lives and communities” .

* UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), 2019

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.