For the last 14 years EMPA has brought together expert practitioners and researchers from around Australia, the US, New Zealand and Europe. They share frameworks and lessons learned – to stimulate thinking, encourage conversation and create change.


After careful consideration by the EMPA Board, and the continued uncertainties surrounding the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, the EMPA Australia Conference will be moving to a virtual event.

A daily two-hour webcast will be held from Tuesday 2nd to Friday 5th June 2020. 

Tuesday 2 June

Shane Fitzsimmons

Commissioner, Resilience NSW

Lauren O'Connor

Risk Communication, Health Emergencies Program, World Health Organisation

Andrea Pearce

Video Manager, Bureau of Meteorology

For six years the Bureau has been enriching Australia’s weather story through the screen. Over the last 12 months our use of video and graphical material has increased significantly, as the Australian community craved weather information to help them make more informed weather and climate related decisions. We have had to get smarter and faster, invest in new technology and adapt to a changing world.

Wednesday 3 June

Ellie van Baaren

Asia-Pacific correspondent International Federation of Red Cross

David Newberry

Industry & Engagement Officer Clarence Valley Council


The 2019 bushfires started in July in the Clarence Valley, devastating two rural communities way before the rest of Australia started to suffer. Unfortunately for us, it just got worse. As the fires finished wiping out one area, a different location would flare up and we would go through the whole crisis again. It was about 6 months of the community feeling the impact of the devastation of bushfire. Our throats were hoarse from breathing in smoke for weeks.

We are a big Local Government Area, full of National Parks, agricultural land, State Forests – there is a lot to burn. We are 10,441 km2. And even though we’ve said this quite a few times, it still hurts – 52% of this burned. The fires destroyed 170 houses, the highest number of dwellings lost in northern NSW. Not to mention the bridges, fencing, livestock and out buildings.

As a result of this unprecedented bushfire season and being the closest level of government to the affected communities, it was vital that we demonstrated leadership and had a clear messaging and team in place to implement a communications plan. We understood that communities are the obvious leaders of recovery from the moment of the emergency event. We were no longer the shut off bureaucrats; we were immersed in the experience of the community in crisis. We needed to provide leadership and we did this through communicating ‘side by side’ with our community, empowering when necessary and ultimately, with compassion.

Dr Mel Taylor

Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & Macquarie University


This presentation will summarise research highlights from a project on flood risk communication, funded by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and supported by lead end users from NSW State Emergency Service. The focus of the research has been on two key behaviours – driving into floodwater and recreating in floodwater, which account for most flood-related fatalities in Australia. The research project has included surveys and interviews with the general public and with flood experts and has identified numerous challenges for those tasked with communicating risk. The presentation will review how floodwater risk has been communicated to date, and will outline some of the challenges facing communicators across Australia, drawing on data from the research and expert commentary. It will conclude with discussion of the final phase of project in which evidence from the research is being translated into guidelines for public risk communication.

Thursday 4 June

Clare Parker

Head of Communications Forest Research, UK


Delivering communications in a fast-changing environment is difficult. Opinions and perceptions can change almost in an instant from support to vocal opposition. Adopting ongoing evaluation, monitoring and atmospheric listening at the time of delivery – rather than waiting until the end – means messages can be adapted and campaigns retain their effectiveness. It also poses the question: are we evaluating the right things?

This presentation is based on nearly 20 years of government communications both in the UK and working with other nations. It includes some lessons being learned now from the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK. 

Sascha Rundle

Manager, Emergency Broadcasting Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)


How does emergency broadcasting work at the ABC and what the ABC sees from the multitude of warnings they receive from around the country, including things that help/hinder when it comes to writing warnings/doing social media/using maps + the data around their broadcasting last season.

Dr Suze Wilson

Massey School of Management Massey University, NZ


This presentation will highlight key leadership practices used by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her government in response to COVID-19. The resulting pandemic leadership model which I developed from my research will be explained. The focus of the session is therefore both a case study of the New Zealand government’s leadership in relation to COVID-19 and the transferable learnings that can come from that for anyone with leadership responsibilities in relation to the pandemic.

Friday 5 June

Hon. Lianne Dalziel

Mayor, Christchurch City Council, NZ


Despite Christchurch’s experience of earthquakes, flood and fire, nothing could have prepared the city for a terrorist attack on our Muslim communities in their places of worship. Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, speaks about the importance of empathy in the aftermath of atrocity.

Jeremy Hillman

Manager Communications and Engagement, Resilience NSW


Last summer NSW recorded it’s most devastating bushfire season on record. Recovery operations were required all across the state even as active fires continued to blaze and COVID-19 arrived.  The agency responsible for disaster recovery, NSW Office of Emergency Management, now Resilience NSW, had to scale up rapidly and be very agile to support the needs of so many bushfire impacted communities.

Alicia Smith

Marketing & Communications Manager, Apunipima Cape York Health Council


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  • 2 June 2021EMPA Australia Conference

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