Systems thinking: Adapt between the flags – enhancing the capacity of Surf Life Saving Australia to cope with climate change and to leverage adaptation within local communities

Synthesis and Integrative Research Program
Marcello Sano
Griffith University
Year Started: 

Abstract from final report:

Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) has assets and facilities exposed to climatic drivers that are on the frontline of climate change, including 310 separately incorporated local surf life saving clubs (SLSCs) and more than 150,000 trained volunteers delivering services on the coastline. 

Using a case study approach, the objective of this research project was to employ a range of methods to identify climate change adaptation options and to explore adaptive capacity and pathways for its enhancement, combining stakeholder engagement, Systems Thinking, System Dynamics and Bayesian modelling within five case studies: 

Currumbin SLSC and North Kirra SLSC, south east, Queensland; Cudgen Headland SLSC, north east, New South Wales; Ulverstone SLSC, northern Tasmania; and SLSA national office, Sydney. 

A series of workshops, involving surf lifesavers, local council and community representatives were run focusing on asset management, life saving operations and the role of local clubs in increasing community resilience. 

This first round of workshops was the base to identify relevant adaptive responses. For clubs, these included the defence of current assets, their relocation and retreat, or the improvement of life saving operations through training and equipment upgrades. At the national level adaptation responses included improving partnerships with external organisations, building capacity of the national organisation to provide guidance for clubs and mainstreaming climate adaptation in current procedure. 

The second round of workshops was centred on a Bayesian belief modelling exercise to identify adaptive capacity determinants to implement the most relevant options, such as type of funding (local government, state government, club revenue, memberships, etc.) knowledge and expertise in developing options or community or government will for change. In general, adaptive capacity determinants fell into three categories: (i) funding, (ii) technical knowledge and (iii) social and institutional networks.

Finally, the adaptive capacity determinants identified across case study areas were the base to determine a set of ten actions to enhance the adaptive capacity of Surf Lifesaving in Australia.

View the final report