Building Resilient Communities for Torres Strait Futures

Building Resilient Communities for Torres Strait Futures

Local and global changes are creating new pressures in remote Torres Strait island communities, including substantial increase in the cost of living. The changes are primarily associated with climate change, resource development in Papua New Guinea and disease and biosecurity threats. There is, consequently, strong interest among Torres Strait communities in increasing their resilience so that they can not only cope with the full range of interacting changes but proactively respond to new opportunities that change creates, such as sustainable economic development.

CSIRO Tropical Ecosystems Hub researchers from Project 11.1 ‘Building Resilient Communities for Torres Strait Futures’ joined forces with James Cook University, Torres Strait Regional Authority, Torres Strait Islands Regional Council and other research users to establish a participatory strategic planning and social learning approach to help a number of Torres Strait communities understand and enhance their resilience and adaptation skills to tackle likely future scenarios.

The project involves envisioning the future, valuing and estimating impacts on ecosystem services, identifying steps that communities can take to reach their desired visions for the future, and developing ‘no regrets’ strategies that do not undermine existing sources of community resilience or the ecosystem services on which they depend.

Four workshops have been completed to date: a regional-level stakeholder workshop in Cairns in 2012, and community workshops on Masig (July 2013), Erub (August 2013) and Mabuiag (January 2014).

At each workshop, four alternative scenarios were developed and illustrated by participants along with sets of adaptation strategies that were considered robust regardless of which scenario actually unfolds. Scenarios were designed around two key drivers of change considered most important by participants.

Though developed independently at each workshop, these drivers were invariably defined as: 1) strength of Torres Strait Island or community culture (strong vs. weak) and 2) the nature of socio-economic development at national and global scales (focused narrowly on economic growth vs. focused on sustainability and ‘green’ growth).

In May 2014, the team will return to Masig to conduct a follow-up workshop focused on the community’s resilience to more specific pressures and will work through strategies to respond to unexpected shocks the future may bring. An integration workshop will be held in July that will bring together representatives from all the workshops held to date to cross-check the feasibility of strategies identified in the respective workshops, explore innovative ways to implement these strategies (i.e. aquaculture, horticulture, ecotourism), and review existing programs in the Torres Strait to support these strategies.

In its last phase, the project will focus on training community facilitators to run scenario workshops and showcasing the project through visual products. This project’s expected outcomes for communities and regional stakeholders include information to support adaptation decisions, increased capacity to adapt and avoid maladaptive development trajectories, and support for community adaptation and resilience planning in the Torres Strait

Contact Dr. Erin Bohensky ( for more information.


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