Achievements of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility

Last Wednesday, 17th May, I attended what we think will be the last meeting of supporters of NCCARF, the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. The meeting was held in rooms overlooking the famous MCG in Melbourne and brought together the staff of NCCARF based at Griffith University with members of the various groups that had been involved in the operation of NCCARF in recent years including representatives of local, state and federal governments. I was present in my capacity as Chair of the Technical Reference Group (TRG).

Initially established in the last year of the Howard Government, this facility has been at the forefront of adaptation research and communication in Australia. Although well supported by various federal governments up till now, it was recognised that adaptation action from a policy perspective was not given the same attention as climate change mitigation. However, NCCARF provided a focus for engagement across sectors leading to outstanding products and interactions with those keen to improve national resilience to the shocks and changes that we must expect in the new climate era. Reduction in federal support in the 2017-18 budget is disappointing to say the least but not unexpected. It is hoped that the planned partnership between NCCARF and CSIRO will facilitate a new approach to adaptation research and practices.

The meeting in Melbourne was an opportunity to do two things; first to launch CoastAdapt, and second to celebrate the achievements of NCCARF phase 2. The NCCARF website provides an excellent depository of information collected as part of CoastAdapt, a major focus of NCCARF 2. I was present when the then Minister, Greg Hunt, announced the funding for phase 2 and his desire that NCCARF provide more direct support to local governments around the Australian coast. There is no doubt that we now have more useful information to assist councils than before. I understand that Griffith University will continue the site for two years although sadly it does not appear at this stage that it will be significantly updated. This will disappoint many practitioners as we must expect that new knowledge will require amendments to information on the site. I know that this will be the case in the field termed Shoreline Explorer in CoastAdapt in which I was involved specifically on sediment compartment description, sensitivity to change and relevant literature.

Celebration of NCCARF achievements went beyond CoastAdapt. Many commented on the success of the three national conferences. The way NCCARF facilitated networking was in itself an achievement especially in the tireless way the team moved around Australia and engaged with communities and local councils. I was impressed with the products of the Synthesis Program which brought together inputs from NCCARF phases 1 and 2. These are most useful documents, in particular the briefing notes and the policy information briefs. The engagement with indigenous communities and vulnerable communities also highlighted just how future engagement at the more local level can improve the nation’s resilience to extreme events and climate change. Of significance from an individual career perspective and in assisting research have been the networks along with the National Adaptation Research Plans or NARPs; here again there is a legacy that should be continued.

Jon Barnett in his summary said that Australia is in a better place for adapting to climate because of NCCARF and he is right. Ralph Roob from Geelong City in writing to many who attended the meeting said he would encourage all who have been involved with NCCARF Phase 2 to continue as advocates for CoastAdapt and the broader NCCARF program “to ensure its longevity and embed it in our individual states as an integral part of planning coastal climate change adaptation strategies”. I couldn’t agree more.

I wish to thank the Director of NCCARF, Jean Palutikof, and all the team including Dave, Sarah, Anne, Fahim and Steve, for all their efforts in delivering the program. It has been a privilege and pleasure working with them. Best wishes for the future.

Words by Prof Bruce Thom. Please respect Bruce Thom’s thoughts and reference where appropriately: (c) ACS, 2017, posted 24 May 2017, for correspondence about this blog post please email