Sue Lennox and Resilient Communities

Sue Lennox, of Bellingen OzGreen's Resilient Communities.
Sue Lennox, of Bellingen OzGreen’s Resilient Communities.

By Julia Grieves

When Sue Lennox and Anton Juodvalkis put their heads together because of a growing concern about the threats to their community posed by climate change, they had no idea how soon they would need to step up.

However their action meant they were ready to go when the devastating bush fires of 2019-20 hit their community of Bellingen Shire. The new project called Resilient Communities has just been announced as Highly Commended in the Resilient Australia Awards 2021.

Resilient Communities trains local community leaders in vulnerable areas across NSW to deliver action-oriented workshops empowering people to prepare, prevent, respond and recover from disasters. The project emphasises the importance of beginning with a willingness to look directly at the catastrophic impacts caused by disasters like the fires and the threats on a local level posed by climate change.

“Once we feel grounded in being able to look directly at the problems, we ask: what does resilience look like? And, what can you see yourself doing? We’re taking on key themes a bit at a time, for example: food, water, energy, economy and health.”

Participants in a Bellingen Oz Green's Resilient Communities workshop
Participants in one of Sue Lennox’s Resilient Communities workshop.

As a facilitator trainer who has worked in this area for several decades, Sue supports communities to hone in on the important questions facing them and emphasises the significance of keeping the power and decision making close to the ground, training up locals to work with their own community rather than having others coming in.

 “It’s in the taking of action that energy comes back. But it’s a process of firstly being heard and allowing space for the feelings and sense of being overwhelmed to be acknowledged,” says Sue.

“It is only once we feel grounded in being able to look straight on at the reality, that we can then begin to explore the question what does resilience look like?” says Sue.

“To see that there’s a lot of people feeling this at the moment, and that that’s a pretty normal reaction to this.”

Sue Lennox lives on a 150 acre block of land on the NSW mid coast that was threatened, like so many others, by the devastating bush fires of 2019-20. Two years on and Sue is vividly aware of the events that are etched into her memory, as well as the land.

“The starting point for me was: eyes wide open” an idea that was running through her head.

Asking ourselves what’s happening and then creating a space where we can face up to the challenges at the same time as we look at the impact of these times.

“All of us carry this trauma around fires, but there have just been so many things over the last two years – fires, floods, landslides, pandemic.

Central to the effectiveness of projects like Resilient Communities is a focus on the very particular ways that climate change and other challenges are predicted to affect specific localities. By strengthening the webs of connection within communities and pooling together resources- from ideas to food- projects like this offer a framework for resilience starting from the ground up.

Find out more:

  • Julia interviews Lewin de la Motte about using ritual to help you heal. For more on ritual, see  Eco-grief/eco-spirituality leader, Joanna Macy’s Bowl of Tears.
  • Sue is a member of Bellingen’s OzGreen initiative which is working towards a greener future.
  • The NSW state government also has a resilience initiative, Resilience NSW.
A workshop with Bellingen's OzGreen Resilient Communities
Participants in an OzGreen Resilient Communities workshop.

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