Elephant in the Room: The role of Context in influencing Tsunami recovery levels


Friday, 12 October, 2012 - 15:00


Biomed Theatre F


School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Type of event: 


Presenter: Dr  Emma Calgaro

Institution: Australia-Pacific Tsunami Research Centre & Natural Hazards Research Laboratory, UNSW


In the aftermath of major disasters when the immediate emergency phase has passed, governments along with emergency management organisations, aid organisations, and researchers look for ways to improve responses and build future resilience based on lessons learnt from lived experiences. In the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami the same calls to ‘build back better’ were made. However, attempts to achieve this in tourism communities of Khao Lak, Phi Phi Don, and Patong in southern Thailand largely failed.

 This paper explores why initiatives to ‘build back better’ failed in these communities. It reveals that context matters. Vulnerability cannot be fully understood or effectively addressed without engaging in the context within which vulnerability and inequality is created and perpetuated. These contextualised factors include place-based characteristics along with wider cultural attributes, the working of dominant power systems, and governance processes that permeate the fabric of society and determine the functionality of daily life.


Dr Emma Calgaro is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Australia-Pacific Tsunami Research Centre & Natural Hazards Research Laboratory at UNSW.  Her  PhD at Macquarie University, Sydney focussed on enhancing destination sustainability and resilience to both fast-onset shocks such as disasters like the 2004 tsunami and the global financial crisis and slow-onset stressors such as environmental degradation, travel trend changes and climate change. Her interest in enhancing destination and business sustainability has evolved over a 10 year period and is founded upon a solid tertiary education in tourism management and industry experience. Emma holds a Graduate Diploma in Tourism Management from UTS and has 7 years of international industry experience.