Following a challenging summer of bushfires, drought, floods and coronavirus, the world has hit a crucial point and future disaster management is more important than ever to help solve these issues.

In a speech to the National Press Club on 26 February, Universities Australia Chair, Professor Deborah Terry AO, has warned that tapping into expert advice will be crucial to avert future disasters.

She noted experts have been sounding the alarm for decades over threats such as climate change, and recent events have brought home the need for action.

“Something is changing. That’s not just the lived experience of everyday Australians over this longest of summers. It’s also the evidence-based warning of our most informed experts,” Ms Terry said.

“The expertise in our university communities is essential to find clever solutions to our biggest and most complex challenges.”

Ms Terry urged Australians to act on the advice of fire chiefs, scientific researchers and public health officials because “their expertise is our best defence against future terrors”.

“They have helped us understand more about what is happening across our country – and its implications for the future.”

Ms Terry also highlighted how university researchers have turned their expertise into practical tools to help Australians in their daily lives.

“University fire experts are teaching us about the changing scale and behaviour of fires. Social scientists sharing expertise to support our communities in grief and recovery. Conservation scientists sharing knowledge in the race to save endangered species,” Ms Terry said.

“Our water scientists are helping us to protect our drinking water sources and dams from the risks that follow bushfire – when heavy rains risk flushing ash and pollutants into our drinking water.

“So, to the government and to the Parliament, we say: we’re here to help.

“The expertise of our university research community is a resource for the nation. And we want you to tap into that resource.”

In 2019, new research found Australian university researchers and experts are the most trusted group in society to ensure facts and evidence are part of important public debates.

University researchers were the single most trusted group on this question — rating higher than doctors, business leaders, politicians, journalists and churches.