More than 30 representatives from state health, environment and utility agencies, local governments, health and community service organisations in Melbourne’s west gathered recently to identify shared priorities to mobilise climate justice, as part of a forum organised by Jesuit Social Services’ Centre for Just Places.

Centre for Just Places’ Executive Director, Susie Moloney, said “community service and health organisations are on the frontline dealing with the everyday impacts of climate change on communities, such as heat stress. There are important voices in this room, and these voices can speak up to government and others on what needs to happen in the west to address a range of inequities and also build on the region’s strengths.”

Extreme weather caused by climate change often affects people already experiencing disadvantage first and hardest, exacerbating existing inequalities. And community services organisations themselves are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, through disruption to their services. How we respond to climate change – both its impacts and our approach to reducing emissions – has the potential to create opportunities for people or to cause further marginalisation and harm. We need to elevate questions of justice in how we design responses to climate change – questions such as: who is most impacted and why, how we better prepare for and minimise those impacts, and how we ensure the voices of communities shape responses.

The forum was an opportunity for participants to make connections across organisations, talk about what’s already happening in the west, where the gaps are, and how we might collaborate. Forum participants brainstormed priority actions in a range of areas including:

  • Supporting organisational capacity and change
  • Creating ways to share information and communication channels
  • Shared advocacy to address the drivers of risk
  • Using methods of community organising
  • Supporting community and engagement
  • Improving physical and social infrastructure provision

This action forum will inform a strategic action plan – a shared resource for the health and community services sector in the west of Melbourne. The plan is due for release in September 2022.

This event was part of the Mobilising climate just and resilient communities in Melbourne’s West project, funded by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. The project is delivered by Jesuit Social Services’ Centre for Just Places, in partnership with organisations supporting health and wellbeing in the local government areas of Maribyrnong, Brimbank, Melton, Wyndham and Hobsons Bay, including IPC Health, GenWest, Network West, VCOSS, Brimbank City Council, City of Melton, Hobsons Bay City Council, and Wyndham City Council, and with stakeholder input by the Victorian Department of Health.

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