Resilience Policing and the Local Governance of Anthropocenic Risks in Rural Australia
Ms Maegan Miccelli1, Dr Jarrett Blaustein1, Dr Kate Burns1, Dr Ross Hendy1
1Monash University, Clayton, Australia
Policing has traditionally been conceptualised as a ‘human’ issue. As global warming accelerates and the impacts of climate change become more apparent, researchers, policy makers and practitioners will be forced to reconsider the relationship between human and environmental security paradigms, and adapt their systems of governance and policing accordingly. Australia is widely considered to be on the front-line of climate change and the unprecedented scale and impact of the 2019/20 bushfires have stimulated a national conversation about disaster preparedness, prevention, response and recovery strategies. These issues are especially pertinent to rural communities which were most significantly impacted by the ‘Black Summer’, and which face an increasing and recurring threat of bushfires in the future. Police throughout Australia perform important emergency management functions and contribute to disaster response and recovery efforts. Surprisingly little has been written about the nature of this work, its significance, or how these roles and capabilities have evolved in relation to the experienced and anticipated effects of climate change. Accordingly, this article seeks to go beyond anecdotal accounts of how police supported local communities during the recent bushfire season and provide a unique empirical perspective on what Mutongwizo et al. (2019) characterise as resilience policing. Drawing on ethnographic field work in one rural, bushfire affected community and interviews with community members and key stakeholders, the article sets out to explore what policing entails in this Anthropocenic harm landscape, and what community members understand by and expect from police and policing-partnerships in these contexts. The article will conclude by reflecting on how the ‘the state agency with the omnibus mandate of order maintenance’ (Reiner 2010: 6) might adapt to ensure that resilience work is recognised as core police business in at-risk communities around the world.
Maegan Miccelli is a research student at Monash University who is leading a staff-student project that examines how police and their partners contribute to bushfire prevention, preparedness, response and recovery efforts. Her project is supervised by Dr Jarrett Blaustein and Dr Kate Burns with support from their Dr Ross Hendy.