This Chapter describes the role of public education and training in mitigating the effects of natural disaster in Australia. Emphasis is on weather- and climate-related disasters, which have historically caused heavy economic losses, and sometimes significant loss of life. Three main themes are identified: (a) the continued development of a community-oriented approach to hazard minimisation, in which communities are encouraged and trained to take measures to protect themselves and their property when adverse weather or climate situations threaten; (b) issues involved in educating potential beneficiaries in the effective use of climate information to minimise impacts from climate extremes; (c) underpinning both the foregoing to some extent, the importance of developing a sound communication strategy between authorities responsible for disaster management, the people likely to be affected, and the media.
In describing the community involvement programs (Sect. 13.3), attention is focussed on responses to the threat posed by bushfires in southern Australia, and tropical cyclones in northern Australia. Public education campaigns, designed to minimise adverse effects of severe storms, skin damage due to solar radiation, and heatwaves are also described (the latter two elements are not high profile hazards, but have been responsible for many deaths in Australia). Sect. 13.4 briefly describes capacity-building activities designed to enable the effective use of seasonal climate predictions, a valuable tool in mitigating the effects of drought, both within Australia and over the South Pacific. It is shown that, while extensive educational and awareness campaigns over the past decade have led to increased use of seasonal climate predictions in decision-making by the agricultural sector, a number of barriers remain to more widespread acceptance of this tool. Section 13.5 highlights the importance of good two-way communication between service providers and end users to ensure information is relevant, adequately understood, and effectively applied. The role of the media in communicating information during times of major climate events, such as drought, is also discussed. We conclude with a summary of some promising avenues for improving the effectiveness of managing natural disaster through educational and training activities, along with some thoughts on the implications of future climate change.