Towards New Disaster Governance: Subsidiarity as a Critical Tool

Maria de Lourdes Melo Zurita*, Brian Cook, Louise Harms, Alan March

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Major natural disasters are events where day-to-day governance activities are disrupted and a large range of different actors - governmental and non-governmental - are required to (re)act. Given the inherently chaotic nature of disaster events, and the diverse groups responding to their attendant impacts, clarity about how authority and responsibility are allocated across key disaster management actors is essential. This raises numerous pertinent questions: Are there areas of shared competence between different disaster management actors? Is there a need for them to act in common? Is credible cooperation feasible? Can responsibilities be allocated in a clear and effective manner? In this paper, drawing upon the subsidiarity principle, we provide a review of the academic literature using the role of different actors in disaster management in Australia as the case. The objective of the paper is to synthesise what is known and to, thereby, provoke greater conversation and research of responsibilities during disaster events in Australia and beyond. The ultimate contribution is to help understand how the roles of different disaster management actors can be better reconciled to ensure more effective and efficient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-398
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Policy and Governance
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Bushfires
  • Disaster governance
  • Floods
  • Natural disasters
  • Subsidiarity principle


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