South West residents warned droughts in region to rise by 80 per cent over next 50 years

Headshot of Sean Van Der Wielen
Sean Van Der WielenBunbury Herald
Droughts in the South West region are expected to increase by 80 per cent in the next 50 years.
Camera IconDroughts in the South West region are expected to increase by 80 per cent in the next 50 years. Credit: Tama66/Pixabay (user Tama66)

South West residents are being told to expect the number of months the region is in drought to increase by 80 per cent over the next 50 years.

The shocking prediction by the South West Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub comes as research showing the significant socio-economic impact of drought on the community is to be presented to community leaders next month.

An online workshop by University of WA human science expert Dr Leanne Lester and hosted by South West NRM will be the first in a series designed to created a community resilience network and connect communities ahead of the predicted increase in drought events.

In her 2022 report Understanding The Social Impacts of Drought, Dr Lester said it was a socio-economic phenomenon alongside being a lack of precipitation.

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“The impact of long-term drought can be measured not only in loss of stock and depletion of resources, but also in deterioration of family relationships, loss of community networks, feelings of uncertainty for the future, and feelings of being abandoned by the rest of Australia,” she said.

“Indirect economic factors which impact on social outcomes include hardship and stress over lost productivity, a declining population, disruption of social connections, loss of services to the local community, and trauma associated with witnessing damage to livestock, crops, soil and native vegetation.”

One of Dr Lester’s seven recommendations in her research is about strengthening social networks and capital within the community.

South West NRM sustainable agriculture manager Peter Clifton said the aim of its community resilience network would be to improve capability and collaboration between organisations and groups to reduce harm.

Community leaders and volunteers from a wide variety of sectors in six South West councils are being asked to participate in a localised working group to champion resilience building and support services.

Mr Clifton said the organisation had partnered with community resource centres throughout the region to hold a series of six meetings between February and September.

“The meetings will be held online and at CRCs in Boyup Brook, Bridgetown, Donnybrook, Harvey, Brunswick and Manjimup,” he said.

The first one-hour workshop, including a presentation by Dr Lester, will be held on February 23.

For more information, contact one of the participating CRCs or Mr Clifton on 0409 680 900 or pclifton@southwestnrm.org.au.

This project is supported by Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal through funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.

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