Unleashing the power of people: Nurturing drought resilience in Australia

“Drought resilience is about people, not the weather,” the words from one of our alumni resonate deeply. A powerful reminder that resilience is a multi-faceted concept, one that cannot be defined by a single measure. Its meaning varies across individuals, farms, communities, and landscapes, underlining the need for tailored interventions to bolster resilience in the face of adversity.

Some people refer to resilience as the ability to bounce back but I always think its also about the ability to bounce forward – to create something better than before.

Over the past two years, the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF) has had the privilege of contributing to building drought resilience through local leadership development and mentorship nationwide. Our Drought Resilience Leaders Program, made possible by the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund, has made significant strides, reaching 474 towns and suburbs across the country. Connecting 618 individuals from 30 different sectors, it facilitated over 3,000 meaningful connections.

In this rich and dynamic learning environment, we nurtured emerging and established leaders, fostering the sharing of adaptation knowledge across regions and industries. As participants engaged in the program, we witnessed a transformative change, with increased critical thinking, conflict management, and collaboration skills. 

Our participants reported an improvement in framing questions to complex problems, setting goals, improving agricultural business operations, and establishing connections with rural, regional, and remote communities.

It’s crucial to recognise that drought affects not only those within the farmgate but also entire communities. Some participants, having moved from metropolitan areas to rural communities and farms, found themselves facing drought without prior knowledge of its challenges. They emerged from a whirlwind of new experiences, with curiosity and the desire to understand more about the impacts of drought and how to best navigate the complex human and economic impacts it has. 

Australia’s proactive approach to preparing for future droughts and climate variability hinges on the collective efforts of individual leaders, community members, and industry stakeholders. Their preparedness and resilience form the foundation of our communities’ responses to these challenges.

We firmly believe that social connections and community networks are the lifelines that help us survive and overcome difficult times. If we are to ensure the long-term sustainability of agriculture-dependent communities, we must prioritise investing in the strength of our people.

Witnessing the significant impact of the Future Drought Fund’s investment in enhancing drought resilience, we remain dedicated to supporting our regions through integrated leadership programs.

We are now well into the next Future Drought Fund project, the Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative. In collaboration with the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR), we are expanding the network, offering more leadership opportunities, and enabling communities to determine their priorities, building on existing partnerships and facilitating ongoing connections.

As a leadership development organisation, we remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting leaders, communities, and industries in navigating the challenges of future drought and climate variability. Together, we can build a more resilient Australia, where collective leadership thrives, communities flourish, and industries adapt to the changing times.

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