Vulnerability Amidst Plenty? Food Security and Climate Change in Australia

  • Ruth BeilinEmail author
  • Michael Santhanam-Martin
  • Tamara Sysak


The reality of climate change, and the expectation that agricultural production systems will need to adapt in response to it are now largely accepted by the Australian agricultural policy community. However, the effect of Australia’s market-oriented agricultural policy is to delink the matter of adaptation from questions of Australian food security: national food security is considered assured by national income and global trade and food security is framed as the contribution that Australian farmers and agricultural technologists can make to the food security of others elsewhere in the world. Adaptation in this view is the process of farming system innovation, undertaken at individual enterprise scale, that allows Australian farm enterprises to remain profitable and globally competitive, even as environmental conditions change and on-farm vulnerabilities increase.

In this chapter, we argue that Australia’s export-focused agricultural policy and more general assumptions of domestic food security result in the framing of adaptation as a technical process located at the scale of the farming enterprise and that this framing ignores important threats to Australian food security, in particular at the household scale. In fact, food producers and the rural communities where they live are themselves amongst the most vulnerable. In our reading, climate change is just one of the conditions creating this vulnerability for Australian rural communities, and adaptation must be understood in the context of multiple pressures that threaten the ability of farmers to carry on farming. This includes the volatility and competitiveness of both domestic and export markets and the concentration of market power at key stages of agricultural value chains.


Food security Lock-in Resilience Vulnerability Climate change Adaptation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Beilin
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael Santhanam-Martin
    • 3
  • Tamara Sysak
    • 4
  1. 1.Faculty of ScienceUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Environmental Social Sciences, School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, Faculty of Science, Baldwin Spencer West Annex, G55University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural SciencesUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.University of the Sunshine CoastSippy DownsAustralia

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