Our History

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EMPA was founded in 2006 out of discussions between three public relations practitioners – from the Queensland Department of Emergency Services, the University of Southern Queensland and the Australian Attorney General’s Department’s Emergency Management Australia Division. They met to discuss how to develop the field of emergency communication and bring practitioners together to network, further their skills and bring education and research faculties closer to practical emergency operators.

Out of these discussions came the idea of a national conference of media liaison and public affairs professionals working in the emergency management sector and in emergency-related organisations.

In 2007, the inaugural EMPA conference highlighted:

  • the need to strengthen ties between disaster and crisis communication research and practice
  • the vast contribution emergency communicators make to the emergency management sector
  • confirmation that sharing lessons learned was extremely valuable for a discipline that, at times, feels isolated from mainstream public relations

EMPA quickly became an internationally recognised association – possibly the first of its kind in the world. Our annual conferences have continued and expanded to foster a growing community of professionals.

In 2009, the first EMPA-commissioned research paper was presented.

One of the core tenets of EMPA from the very beginning, has unsurpisingly been the bringing together of knowledge, experiences and research in the field of Communicating in Disaster. Our Knowledge and Development committee strives to ensure that research considers subjects that are relevant to practitioners and that practitioner work is informed by advances in theoretical understanding. This allows us to build a community of knowledgeable and connected practitioners and academics, and progress both theory and practice while building standards from which to contiue to improve. 

2011 saw the launch of EMPA’s international accreditation program, the first of its kind worldwide, and the announcement of our 10 inaugural fellowship recipients in recognition of their achievements and commitment to the organisation and our industry.

By 2014, EMPA expanded to New Zealand, and was met with overwhelming enthusiasm and support. New Zealand's emergency communicators acknowledge EMPA as a leader in the sector, providing sought-after professional development through our annual conferences and workshops.

Our next exciting chapter will be to expand our conferences to host both East and West Australian coasts each year!

We look forward to what the future will bring for EMPA and our industry, and we aim to continue to lead and support the evolution of effective communication and community engagement before, during and after emergencies, by providing a network for all who practise and research in our sector.