Tom FitzGerald


PhD Candidate
Natural Hazards Research Group

Rm 444 | Madsen Building F09 | Sydney | NSW | 2006
P +61 02 9351 7549
M +61 405 564 929

Supervisor: Associate Professor Dale Dominey-Howes
Co-Supervisor: Emeritus Professor Bruce Thom

PhD Research

PhD Title: Living with risk in a changing coastal zone.

Communities right around Australia’s coast are essentially at the leading edge of expected climate change impacts. Physical exposure to extreme events such as coastal erosion, storm surge, flooding, and changing weather and wave climates - exacerbated by rising sea levels pose significant environmental, economic, legal and social risks to coastal populations. Coastal communities differ around Australia in terms of their demographics, values, environmental setting and the coastal policy context within which they reside. These differences in adaptive capacity and context pose a unique challenge to government in leading the decision-making process in the coastal zone. Coastal communities worldwide are already under pressure to make good decisions about where they live, how they defend those places, and when to abandon ship. Decision-makers must look long-term whilst also managing immediate risks – both physical and political. This study aims to explore how those decisions come about, what role the community has in coastal hazard management, and what decision-making frameworks cope best in this context. Using case studies chosen to provide the most insight, it is anticipated that this research will illuminate how a decision-maker, and a community, come to decide on an “acceptable” coastal risk management solution. This research will promote interaction between the community, scientists and decision-makers in communicating, understanding, framing and making decisions about risk. It is anticipated the key outcomes of my research will inform new guidance for coastal communities, organisations and individuals making coastal risk management decisions.