Climate research

​Climate-related research is part of ABARES’ applied social research and analysis. Reports have been prepared for the Department of Agriculture, other government agencies, research and development corporations, and industry bodies.

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Social impacts of drought: review of literature for the expert panel

Publication date: 23 November 2011

This publication was produced by ABARES for the2008 National Review of Drought Policy Expert Social Panel.

This report was prepared by the Social Sciences Program, Bureau of Rural Sciences, for the Expert Social Panel appointed to examine the social impacts of drought as part of the National Review of Drought Policy. It reports the findings of a review of literature relating to the social impacts of drought, with a strong focus on Australian literature published since 1990.

The review outlines recent findings related to the social impact of drought on farm families and rural communities. It also outlines gaps and areas for improvement in Australian, state and territory government social support services, mitigating the impact of drought for farm families and rural communities, as expressed in the literature.

Key Issues

  • The main literature findings are discussed under the five themes identified by the Expert Social Panel, which were employment, education and training, people's health, family life, and community development and sustainability.
  • The review draws on existing research and information to describe drought impacts on employment in agriculture, and flow-on effects to employment in rural communities and businesses in nearby towns. These impacts are likely to be most severe in rural areas and towns that are heavily dependent on agriculture and lack economic diversity
  • Whilst there is very little research directly examining the effects of drought on education and training, the review found some evidence that increased workloads and increased debt among farming families leads to working long hours both on- and off-farm, and sometimes schooling is affected. Low levels of formal qualifications, particularly among older farmers, may constrain off-farm employment opportunities.
  • People in rural and regional Australia generally have poorer access to health care services and experience poorer levels of health than the Australian population overall. The extent to which their health is directly affected by drought is difficult to assess through existing literature, although rural people themselves certainly report adverse affects on both their physical and mental health. A particular area of concern is the possible effect of drought on male suicide rates in rural Australia.
  • Drought may have a range of effects on family life by weakening incentives for young people to stay on-farm, or stay in rural areas, and making it more critical for family members to obtain off-farm work to supplement on-farm income. Drought is experienced differently by men and women and therefore has gender-related aspects.
  • Many different support services are important to mitigate the impacts of drought. However, it is not just what services are provided that is important, but how they are provided. Rural people may be reluctant to use some services because of personal barriers and social stigmas associated with them, or because they do not see the services as being ones that are locally-tailored or locally-relevant.
  • The report also summarises suggestions for improving services including successfully embedding services in local communities. Both the demand and supply side of service provision need to be considered in designing services and helping to ensure they continue. The review describes researchers' perspectives on the need for rural service providers to be flexible as circumstances require and to recognise and respond to the different needs in rural situations compared to urban ones.

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Assessing a community's capacity to manage change: A resilience approach to social assessment

Publication date: 14 November 2008

This document discusses the relationships between:

  • vulnerabilities (the components which may weaken a community's ability to respond adaptively to a change)
  • adaptive capacity (the resources and ability of a community to cope with change)
  • social resilience (the ability of a community to adaptively respond to change rather than simply returning to a pre-existing state).

The framework points to measures of resilience that identify the capacity of communities and industries to adapt to changes in the availability, access or allocation of water.

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Climate risk and industry adaptation report

Publication date: 16 May 2008

This report provides findings from four case studies that explored the links between people’s climate risk management strategies and their perceptions of climate variability and climate change.

The study took place across both irrigated and dryland communities in the Murray-Darling Basin.

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Climate risk and industry adaptation report PDF PDF Icon1241.4 MB

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Last reviewed:
03 Jun 2019