Climatic Change

, Volume 139, Issue 3–4, pp 461–475 | Cite as

Understanding climate adaptation investments for communities living in desert Australia: experiences of indigenous communities

  • Digby Race
  • Supriya Mathew
  • Matthew Campbell
  • Karl Hampton


Climate change is predicted to lead to warmer temperatures and more intense storms within the century in central and northern Australia. The ensuing impacts are anticipated to present immense challenges for remote communities, in terms of maintaining housing comfort, family health and wellbeing, engagement in education and employment, and community services and businesses. About 50 % of the Australian landmass is considered remote and it is home to a highly dispersed population of about half a million people (with 30 % being Indigenous people). Much of the population in remote Australia is considered highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change as they are highly exposed and sensitive to the impacts, with many having a low adaptive capacity. The lives of Aboriginal Australians living in remote communities are strongly influenced and governed by traditional customs, knowledge and practices. Even when living in large towns, people who are strongly connected to their country are able to blend knowledge from traditional and modern sources to adapt to the current climate. This article explores the extent of adaptive capacity of people to climate change in a small remote community and large service town in the Northern Territory of Australia and provides insights about their capacities and vulnerabilities. Results indicate that the social and cultural capital are of greater importance than commonly assessed and provide scope to enhance effective community-based climate adaptation.


Social Capital Adaptive Capacity Aboriginal Community Climate Change Adaptation Climate Adaptation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank Jocelyn Davies, Rosemary Hill, Nadine Marshall and Siri Veland for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article. We appreciate the constructive comments provided by two reviewers and the Associate Deputy Editor on a revised draft of the article. We would also like to thank the residents of the Alice Springs and Lajamanu who participated in the interviews and focus group discussion. The research was conducted as part of the project – ‘Climate change adaptation and Energy futures in remote Australia’, supported by the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation.

Supplementary material

10584_2016_1800_MOESM1_ESM.doc (50 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 49.5 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic ParticipationAlice SpringsAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Ecosystem SciencesAlice SpringsAustralia
  3. 3.The Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  4. 4.Charles Darwin UniversityAlice SpringsAustralia
  5. 5.Tangentyere CouncilAlice SpringsAustralia
  6. 6.Ninti One LtdAlice SpringsAustralia

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