EMPA Australia Awards for Excellence in Communication

The Annual EMPA Awards for Excellence in Emergency Communication have been established to recognise those who have made a significant contribution to emergency communications in Australia and New Zealand.

VIEW PREVIOUS YEARS’ WINNERS: 2021   2020  |  2019  |  2018


The Australian EMPA Awards 2022 were presented at the conference dinner and awards evening on Thursday 12 May 2022. 

For emergency communication – Readiness and Resilience

A project or activity that contributes to improved community preparedness and / or resilience.

Floods. What’s your plan?
Infrastructure NSW, Resilience NSW & NSW State Emergency Service

The Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley covers around 500 square kilometres in Western Sydney, from Bents Basin near Wallacia to the Brooklyn Bridge. A diverse community of 140,000 live or work in the floodplain, across multiple local government areas.

This valley has the highest unmitigated flood risk exposure in Australia related to its unique landscape and large existing population. Floodwaters in the valley can be extensive and much deeper than most other floodplains in NSW and Australia, and have a significant impact on lives, livelihoods, homes and critical infrastructure.

It is important in this valley for people to be prepared for floods due to the short amount of time people may have to evacuate safely.

The ‘Floods. What’s your plan?’ campaign delivered in 2021 encouraged community members to know the early signs of potential flooding in the HNV region and have a plan in place to respond. It was a partnership between Infrastructure NSW (lead agency), Resilience NSW (funding partner) and NSW State Emergency Service (campaign channels and branding).

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Barb Ryan, right, with Commissioner Carlene York (NSW SES), Madeleine Dignam (Infrastructure NSW), and Kate Moore (Resilience NSW)

Get COVID-Ready

Queensland Health’s Get COVID-Ready project, developed with Articulous, prepared Queenslanders for any potential COVID-19 surge after the state border reopening in December 2021.

Queensland Health had a strong plan to prepare the health system for outbreaks but recognised the need to build community preparedness and to support the consumer behaviour change and resilience required.

The campaign used the “Get COVID-Ready” tagline urging the community to be proactive.
It was based on Queensland’s long tradition of getting ready for storm seasons. Creatively, it was visually appealing, and simple in its messaging to cut through. Materials for different audiences were tailored to their needs.

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Shoshanna Berry-Porter and Amanda Newbery from Articulous with Barb Ryan, right (Rebecca Riggs, behind)

For emergency communication – Recovery

Supporting the recovery of a community impacted by an emergency.

Recovery Capitals (ReCap)
University of Melbourne, Massey University, Australian Red Cross & Natural Hazards Research Australia 

The Recovery Capitals (ReCap) project aimed to support mental health and wellbeing after disasters by providing evidence-based resources for those engaged in recovery. Research from past disasters can guide good decision-making and recovery actions, but findings are often not readily accessible to people supporting recovery. The ReCap project produced accessible, engaging and evidence-based resources that offer guidance on how to apply key recovery principles in practice.

ReCap supported inclusive, holistic, strengths-based approaches to resilience and recovery. It took a broad view of the influences on mental health and wellbeing after disasters, emphasising the interconnectedness between natural, social, financial, cultural, political, built and human ‘capital’. It encourages cooperation between the many people, organisations and sectors with a role to play in supporting mental health and wellbeing in disaster contexts. The ReCap resources are being used to build capacity before and after disasters across Australia, making a significant contribution to disaster resilience. ReCap was joint-winner of the 2021 Resilient Australia National Mental Health and Wellbeing Award.

The full set of ReCap resources are available at

TEAM: University of Melbourne- Prof Lisa Gibbs, Phoebe Quinn, Alana Pirrone; Massey University – Dr Denise Blake, Emily Campbell, Prof David Johnston; Australian Red Cross – John Richardson, Andrew Coghlan; Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC.

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Barb Ryan, left, with Shona Whitton from Australian Red Cross accepting the award on behalf of the team.

For published research that advances emergency communication by

Improving community preparedness and/or resilience

Increasing the effectiveness of communication during an emergency response;

Enabling agencies to better support communities recovering from an adverse event.RESEARCH

Cultural burning in southern Australia – booklet and posters
Dr Jessica Weir, Dean Freeman, Bhiamie Williamson, et al

The Cultural burning in southern Australia illustrated booklet and poster series amplify Indigenous people’s perspectives on cultural burning by sharing six personal stories of what burning means. This project considered the challenges and opportunities arising out of engagements between Indigenous peoples and natural hazard and land management government agencies in southern Australia. The majority of this activity focused on cultural burning.

There was a real need for this research and resources as feedback provided to the research team was that fire and land management practitioners wanted and needed more guidance and knowledge about cultural burning. Prior to the development of this suite of resources there was a lack of appropriate resources to assist fire and land managers increase their knowledge about cultural burning in different locations of southern Australia.

The practitioners wanted to increase their knowledge to enable them to partner and engage with Indigenous groups more often and it a better way.

The stories showcased in the illustrated booklet and poster series with stunning illustrations show the diversity of cultural burning as a cultural practice and the common elements shared across Australia. The booklet and posters were published by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC in September 2021. Dean Freeman (ACT Parks and Conservation Service) and Bhiamie Williamson (Australian National University) provided cultural oversight in bringing the collection together, as led by Dr Jessica Weir (Western Sydney University) with support from Dr Yasmin Tambiah (WSU). The Aboriginal artwork featured is by Wiradjuri artist Lani Balzan, and the story illustrations are by Nicole Burton from Petroglyph Studios.

The six Indigenous contributors are Minung/Gnudju kayang (wise woman) Carol Pettersen of the Noongar Nation, Gilgar Gunditj Elder Eileen Alberts of the Gunditjmara Nation, Palawa man Jason Andrew Smith, Ngunnawal murringe (man) Adrian Brown, Bundjalung and Wonnarua woman Vanessa Cavanagh and Kaytej Elder Wayne ampetyane Davis.

Also included in the booklet are 10 cultural burning principles, co-authored by the Indigenous authors involved in the project.

TEAM: Dr Jessica Weir (Western Sydney University), Dean Freeman (ACT Parks and Conservation Service), Bhiamie Williamson (Australian National University) and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC

Barb Ryan, left, with Dr Jessica Weir, accepting the award on behalf of her team. 

Cultural Burning for Resilience: An immersive Aboriginal Youth workshop and film
Ulladulla Local Aboriginal Land Council

Our action research project explored the power of an immersive cultural burning workshop and documentary

The research utilised the methodology of digital storytelling, where the young people were encouraged to reflect on their experiences and expectations before, during and following the workshop. A professional film crew assisted the children and also filmed overarching material. A professional and powerful 30 minute documentary film was produced from the workshop. The aim of the film is to increase non-indigenous engagement with Indigenous ways of caring for Country and foster social justice. In addition to the online premiere in Dec 2021, the film will be shown as part of an installation at the Australian Museum in 2022.

TEAM: Leanne Brook, Paul Carriage, Victor Channel, Shane Snelson – Ulladulla LALC and community; Nook Webster, Ado Webster, Jacob Morris – Yuin Cultural Fire practitioners; Katharine Haynes, Vanessa Cavanagh, Lisa Slater – University of Wollongong; Jamie Lepre – Mane Collective Video Production; Monica Mudge Treadling Lightly Inc. Also Local Land services South East and Department of Planning and Environment NSW.

Barb Ryan, left, with Elder Vic Channel, accepting the award on behalf of his team. 

The Australian Disaster Resilience Index: a tool for building safer, adaptable communities
The University of New England & the Bushfire Natural Hazards CRC

Resilience is the capacity of individuals and communities to cope with disturbances or changes and to maintain adaptive behaviours. Building disaster-resilient communities is seen as a shared responsibility among individuals, households, businesses, governments and communities. Yet, where are the areas of high and low disaster resilience in Australia and how can resilience be strengthened in a meaningful way?

The Australian Natural Disaster Resilience Index project was a six year partnership between the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and the University of New England. The project team worked with end-users to design the Index and to adopt the findings to support agency policy, strategic, programmatic and other activities.

The Index was launched by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and UNE in July 2020 and is being actively used by emergency management and local government departments to build resilience in Australian communities. It has been viewed almost 11,000 times since launch, with hundreds of users registered across state, federal and local government, non-government organisations, the insurance industry, media and universities.

TEAM: Research and web development teams at University of New England, CASI and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, including: A/Prof Melissa ParsonsA/Prof Ian Reeve, Dr James McGregor, Dr Graham Marshall, Dr Richard Stayner, Dr Judith McNeill, Dr Peter Hastings, Dr Sonya Glavac, Dr Phil Morley, Johan Boshoff, Kassandra Hunt, Julie Fookes, Virginia Cristiani, Dion Gallagher, Brad Scott and Michael Kovacs

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Barb Ryan, Left, with Richard Thornton, CEO, Natural Hazards Research Australia

For media

In-depth and balanced coverage of a topic that increases public understanding of a hazard or an emergency response.

Comprehensive and accurate reporting before or during an emergency response, contributing to public safety.

After the Disaster podcast
University of Melbourne, Australian Red Cross, & ABC

After the Disaster is a 16 episode podcast collaboration between ABC, Australian Red Cross and the University of Melbourne with additional funding support from Bushfire Recovery Victoria and Bushfire Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

The podcast provides clear, simple, evidence informed information about a range of issues that people are commonly faced with when recovering from a disaster. Topics range from managing insurance, supporting disaster affected children, what to expect over the long-term and the possibility of post traumatic growth.

Each episode is discreet, meaning that people who are feeling overwhelmed, time poor or are need information on a specific topic can dip in and out as needed.

The podcast is hosted by Dr. Kate Brady, who uses a plain language, empathetic approach,
speaking directly to the listener. Kate interviews people who have lived through disasters and subject matter experts. Their information is expertly woven together by Executive Producer and editor Liz Keen to produce practical, evidence-based advice. Guests include Scott Pape (the Barefoot Investor), Leigh Sales, Professor Lisa Gibbs, Professor Richard Bryant, Professor Lou Harms, Dr. Rob Gordon, Bhiamie Williamson, and people who have experienced fires, floods, earthquakes and monsoon events.

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Barb Ryan, left, with Shona Whitton from Australian Red Cross