Matt Duckham

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Using spatial technologies to support early education for improved community resilience — a case study from Anglesea Primary School

Matt Duckham, Professor and Deputy Head of the School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences, RMIT University


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Things You Will Learn

  1. Modern spatial knowledge and technology can help with building resilient communities.
  2. Early education can improve community resilience in a bushfire prone

Target Audience

Government disaster management agents, emergency responders, schools, teachers, university academics

Presentation Overview

In an innovative program to educate young children living in a bushfireprone environment, CFA Anglesea, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, and a number of supporting agencies have established a unique community project in the Victorian coastal town of Anglesea, which along with many Australian communities is vulnerable to bushfire. One path to reducing risk is to improve personal resilience. People with sound knowledge and access to good information make safer decisions in bushfires. Resilient societies require resilient information systems, capable of capturing, collating, and communicating timely and relevant information, even in extreme emergencies. Weather conditions are an important component of bushfire knowledge, such as temperature, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction.

The RISER (Resilient Information Systems for Emergency Response) project is assisting this project by teaching Year five children from Anglesea Primary School to plan the deployment locations, establish, maintain, and monitor a small six-node RISERnet network, a high-tech wireless geosensor network armed with four weather sensors. We minimized the pre-training requirement of establishing the RISERnet network so that the children, teachers and CFA were able to deploy the network in the field. Once established, the RISERnet network is simple to be maintained and monitored using the web-GIS interface (RISERview) developed by the RISER project. By monitoring the live weather data streams in RISERview, the children actively learnt the relationship between weather conditions and bushfire behavior.

Twelve months into this project, the children demonstrated improved skills in disciplines such as geography, the environment and technology, leading to an understanding of field craft and bushfire behavior. The students also presented their new found knowledge to family and students at nearby schools. With the success in the Anglesea Primary School, we are planning to extend the program to more schools and bushfire-prone communities.


Matt Duckham is Professor and Deputy Head of the School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences, RMIT University. He previously held a position as Professor in the Department of Infrastructure Engineering, University of Melbourne, before which he worked at the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) at the University of Maine, USA. His research centers on spatial computing, in particular with uncertain geospatial information and with applications to sensor networks. He is author with Mike Worboys of a major GIS textbook, “GIS: A Computing Perspective” and is currently the Program 2 Science Director for the CRC for Spatial Information.