Volume 18 Issue 3, 2003

We are all vulnerable

John Handmer

Peer-reviewed Article

Archived Article


The fact that we are all, in one way or another, vulnerable, is of limited value to emergency managers. Priorities need to be identified, and we need assessment methods to achieve this, as opposed to approaches where everyone is found to need support. Clear identification of the purpose and scale of any vulnerability assessment, along with acknowledgement that the details of vulnerability may be inherently unknowable, are seen as prerequisites for this task. Some relevant definitions and approaches to measurement are reviewed, and suggestions made for moving towards an improved approach for Australia and comparable countries. Among other things, it is suggested that the issue of “vulnerability” should be turned around and approached positively as resilience or as the capacity to cope with or adapt to change. This should be politically more acceptable than a focus on the negative connotations of vulnerability. It would also be consistent with the approach being taken by global climate change researchers—a group with much profile and influence.