What Determines Australia's Response to Emergencies and Natural Disasters?


  • Simon Feeny,

    1. School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University
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  • Matthew Clarke

    1. School of International and Political Studies, Deakin University
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      This article is the result of work being undertaken as part of a research project entitled ‘Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: The Role of Aid, Trade and NGOs’. The project is generously supported by the Australian Research Council and World Vision of Australia (LP0562486). The authors are grateful to the School of Social Science and Planning, RMIT University, for additional research funding; Ha Nguyen and Anne-Marie Skegg for research assistance; and Michelle Webb and Glenn Mountain (both from World Vision Australia) and AusAID for assistance with data collection. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the funding organisations. The authors are also grateful for comments from two anonymous referees.


This article examines the determinants of Australia's response to emergencies and natural disasters. It examines the response from the Australian public by examining contributions made to the appeals of the country's largest Non-Governmental Organisation: World Vision of Australia. It also examines the response of the Australian Government. The data include 43 emergencies and natural disasters since 1998. Results suggest that the responses from both the public and government are positively associated with the number of people affected, media coverage, and the level of political and civil freedom in the country where the event occurred. The type and location of the emergency or disaster are important for the public's response. Differences between public and government donations exist: support from the Australian Government is positively associated with smaller countries and there is some evidence that the public donates more to events occurring in larger and poorer countries.