Putting the pieces together: how the City of Melbourne is strengthening disaster preparedness through creativity

As cities and communities all over the world look to new models of disaster preparedness and response, how do we successfully activate a whole of community approach where everyone has a role to play and disaster management services are working with not for the community?

In this episode of Creative Responders, we’ll hear what happened when the City of Melbourne tackled this question and engaged artists in the co-design and facilitation of a preparedness exercise, working with the North Melbourne community to imagine better models of response and recovery.

The 2022 disaster preparedness simulation, Exercise Torrent, was a collaboration between City of Melbourne’s Emergency Management Department and Arts House that utilised an arts-based approach to develop a scenario for emergency management professionals, service providers and community organisations to interact with.

City of Melbourne’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Christine Drummond, takes us inside the process of developing the exercise, how it played out on the day, and how bringing the arts into the process provided a different lens for people to participate more readily.

We hear from artist facilitators Jonathan Craig and Dr Jen Rae and Arts House Creative Producer, Sarah Rowbottam, about how creative methodologies provide a layer of depth to the relational aspects of exercises like this, offering a window of opportunity into areas of preparedness sometimes overlooked by traditional processes, like accessibility.

The project provides a model for how creativity and the arts can support community engagement strategies and provide entry points for practicing the skills of collaboration that will help us to better respond when a disaster occurs.


Christine Drummond, Emergency Management Coordinator, City of Melbourne

Jonathan Craig, Exercise Torrent co-facilitator

Dr Jen Rae, Exercise Torrent co-facilitator

Sarah Rowbottam, Creative Producer, Arts House

Participants of the Exercise Torrent program, an initiative by the City of Melbourne created with the support of Victoria State Emergency Services and the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing.

Production credits

Produced by Jill Robson and Scotia Monkivitch

Edited and mixed by Glen Morrow

Field recordings by Glen Morrow

Studio recordings by Tiffany Dimmack

Special thanks to Jess O’Callaghan

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Case study library

Would you like to hear about more arts-based programs supporting and strengthening communities? Our case study library features a range of projects that harness the power of the arts to enhance all stages of disaster planning.