Melbourne, Australia is a diverse and culturally rich city, touted as an attractive and desirable place to live. But unlike many other cities around the world, Melbourne is made up of 32 local councils and therefore key functions such as transport, energy, and water systems are managed by various government and non-governmental bodies, all of which leads to often complex decision making. Moreover, the city is located in a region prone to extreme weather events, is likely to experience significant climate change impacts, and has many upstream dependencies. In response to these challenges, the city has undertaken significant work to enhance its resilience, including developing adaptation strategies and plans, establishing networks, developing emergency management plans and undertaking risk assessments. Nevertheless, significant opportunities remain to further enhance Melbourne’s resilience, particularly through more carefully coordinated efforts.
Melbourne tackled these challenges head on in its resilience strategy, published in May 2015. The strategy was the product of extensive collaboration: the collective work of more than 1,000 individuals across all 32 Melbourne local councils hundreds of local organizations, and departments of the state of Victoria.
The resilience strategy addresses Melbourne’s most pressing and interconnected challenges, from extreme heat to increasing pressure on healthcare services, from unemployment to broader social inequality. Specifically, the strategy articulated the following key goals:
  • Stronger Together: Empower communities to take active responsibility for their own and each other’s well-being, safety, and health.
  • Our Shared Places: Create and sustain buildings, infrastructure and activities that promote social cohesion, equality of opportunity and health.
  • A Dynamic Economy: Provide diverse local employment opportunities that support an adaptable workforce that is ready for the jobs of the future.
  • A Healthier Environment: Enable strong natural assets and ecosystems alongside a growing population.

A Regional Approach, With State Support

To ensure that this vision is not only implemented, but rather integrated with all other aspects of city operations, for maximum impact and for the long term, the city established a Resilient Melbourne Delivery Office, which will be hosted by the City of Melbourne for five years, jointly funded by both local and state government. The office - an interdisciplinary team of at least 12 people, led by the CRO Toby Kent - is responsible for overseeing the delivery of the resilience strategy. In Melbourne, this means more than simply facilitating the projects and commitments in the strategy, it also means developing resilience capacities in metropolitan local government, and embedding resilience principles across metropolitan institutions. 
Indeed, one of the office’s mandates will be to develop and deliver resilience training for staff across the region, helping develop the skills and capabilities of local government professionals to understand, apply, and practice resilience in their diverse functions. 
The establishment of the Resilient Melbourne Delivery Office is supported by the 32 councils of Melbourne, as well as by Emergency Management Victoria, the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Metropolitan Planning Authority, the Departments of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Department of Premier and Cabinet. This reflects a unique hallmark of how Melbourne has institutionalized its resilience work: by recognizing the important truth that resilience challenges don’t fit neatly within jurisdictional boundaries. 

Building Resilience Champions Across Sectors

Melbourne’s resilience strategy states that it was “developed through collaboration across sectors, led by local government. If we are to realise its full potential, this collaboration will need to continue and grow, drawing in more organisations, communities and individuals. The launch of this strategy is just the starting point.” Correspondingly, the CRO in Melbourne has intentionally designed the structure and objectives of the Resilient Melbourne Delivery Office in a way that will foster cross-sector collaboration, training, and support, so that stakeholders will be able not only to contribute proactively to the implementation of the strategy but also to mainstreaming of resilience thinking within their own sectors.  Some of the recent partnerships that have been established by the Resilient Melbourne team to this end include the Centre for Wellbeing and Resilience in South Australia, a global construction firm, various banks, the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, the Property Council of Australia, and the Planning Institute of Australia.
One of these unique partnerships—and a key way the City of Melbourne is mainstreaming resilience thinking and creating skilled resilience practitioners across sectors—is through the creation of a professorial chair in Resilient Cities at the University of Melbourne. This chair will coordinate academic work in the field of resilience between the university, the City of Melbourne and its metropolitan counterparts, and a range of external parties, including other universities across the region. The chair will play a key role in influencing and stimulating local and international debate and development of policy in urban resilience, as well as supporting the efforts of the Resilient Melbourne Delivery Office to institutionalize resilience.

Flagship Project Institutionalizing Resilience

Among the many projects and actions identified in Melbourne’s resilience strategy, one flagship goal for the near term that will concretely serve to institutionalize resilience not only in the city but beyond, is the development of a comprehensive community resilience framework for the state of Victoria’s emergency management sector. This had been identified as a priority of the Victorian Emergency Management Strategic Action Plan 2015–18, a three-year rolling plan that outlines the Victorian Government’s plans for creating safer and more resilient communities. 
The Resilient Melbourne Delivery Office has now joined forces with state-level actors to innovate an approach to community resilience that is relevant to communities and the emergency management sector alike, and that is practical and consistent across local governments and their communities, including business and community organizations. By working across sectors and ensuring that activities across all the various emergency management agencies in the region have community benefits at the core of their design, Melbourne—as well as the State more broadly—will foster communities that are better prepared to manage shock events and to bounce back strongly. 

Key Best Practices Learned from Institutionalization Efforts

  • Engage and empower local stakeholders and institutions to co-create the resilience movement with municipal government.
  • Partner with neighboring jurisdictions who share common shocks and stresses to innovate together.
  • Focus on training and building the capacity of future leaders across sectors and regions.
  • Integrate holistic resilience planning into existing initiatives and organizational commitments at the local or state level for greater impact.

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Explore another recent 100RC report: Catalyzing the Urban Resilience Market which details how the private sector and cities are innovating to create new solutions and services to address urban challenges.