In conversation with John Richardson

As National Resilience Adviser for Red Cross Australia, John Richardson is someone who spends a lot of time thinking about disasters – how we make sense of them, how we can better prepare for them, and how they transform the individuals and communities who go through them.

We spoke to John during Red Cross Australia’s annual Emergency Preparedness Week to hear his perspective on the unchartered waters of 2020 and what lessons we can learn about resilience, response and recovery from the unique set of challenges we are facing.

John discusses how a strong emphasis on social connectedness is key to building more resilient communities and we reflect on how creatives can support the work of service organisations developing rigour around preparedness and recovery.

In this conversation, John and Scotia discuss:

  • John’s career path which began with a foundation in geography and nursing leading on to emergency management where he has been involved in coordinating recovery support for a range of major and minor disasters, including the Bali Bombings, Drought, Alpine Bushfires in 2003 and 2006 and Grampians Fires in 2006
  • John’s involvement in developing the Strathewen Memorial following the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, the importance of a rigorous community-led process in memorial making and how creativity and the arts is an integral part of that process
  • The value of the arts in helping people to make sense of traumatic events and the importance of making meaning after a disaster
  • The importance of strong social ties in managing stress and how the Red Cross 2020 survey shows that seven in 10 Australians credit strong connections with friends and family as the most important factor in helping them manage during what has been a year of extremes with the summer fires and now the pandemic

You can listen via the player on this page or search for ‘Creative Responders’ in Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast app.

Related links

John’s blog, Sastrugi

Big Stories, Small Towns, Strathewen Memorial transmedia documentary project

Red Cross, Emergency Preparedness Week Resources:

Red Cross has a range of resources to help you prepare, including a Get Prepared app, survival kit, emergency contacts list, keepsake list, resources to help manage stress and more. Find them at

Download the Get Prepared app to locate your local emergency services contacts and where to find information, identify a safe meeting place for you and loved ones and create checklists of what to do and what to pack. It’s available on iOS, Android and

Create an emergency plan for your household to protect what matters most with a Rediplan, available at

Visit for advice on how to prepare yourself and your family.

How to Listen

You can find Creative Responders on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or your favourite podcast app. You can also listen to all of our episodes right here on our website and access transcripts and resources related to each episode.

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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.