Dr Josh Whittaker

PhD, RMIT University
BSocSc Hons, RMIT University

Phone: +61 2 4298 1164
Office: B35.101

  • Research Fellow
Research interests 

I am a geographer specialising in research on the vulnerability of human communities to bushfire (wildfire) and other natural hazards. I have considerable experience collaborating with social and physical scientists and industry end users to produce research that influences policy and practice. Specific research interests include:

  • Innovative methods of vulnerability assessment
  • Factors influencing hazard exposure and capacities to respond (short and long term)
  • Cost-benefit analysis of risk reduction
  • Location decisions after disaster (why people stay, why people leave, why newcomers move to disaster affected places)
  • Discourse analysis as a method for understanding environmental issues and problems
Research grants and projects
  • 2018 Community preparedness and responses to the 2017 Tathra bushfire – Bushfire & Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (
  • 2017 Community preparedness and responses to the 2017 NSW bushfires – Bushfire & Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (
  • 2017 Post-fire analysis of fire, people and property – NSW Rural Fire Service
  • 2014-17 Out of uniform: building resilience through non-traditional emergency volunteering – Bushfire & Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (
  • 2014-15 Investigating safe sheltering practices during bushfire – Natural Disaster Resilience Grants Scheme (Victoria)
Selected Publications

Journal papers:

Blanchi, R., Whittaker, J., Haynes, K., Leonard, J., Opie, K. (2018) Surviving bushfire: the role of shelters and sheltering practices during the Black Saturday bushfires. Environmental Science & Policy 81, 86-94.

Whittaker, J., Blanchi, R., Haynes, K. Leonard, J., Opie, K. (2017) Experiences of sheltering during the Black Saturday bushfires: implications for policy and research. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 23, 119-27.

Strahan, K., Whittaker, J., Handmer, J. (2018) Self-evacuation archetypes in Australian bushfire. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 23, 119-27

Haworth, B., Whittaker, J., Bruce, E. (2016) Assessing the application and value of participatory mapping for community bushfire preparation. Applied Geography 76, 115-27.

McLennan, B., Whittaker, J., Handmer, J. (2016) The changing landscape of disaster volunteering: opportunities, responses and gaps in Australia. Natural Hazards 84 (3), 2031-48.

Whittaker, J., Eriksen, C., Haynes, K. (2016) Gendered responses to the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. Geographical Research 54 (2). 203-15.

Choy, S., Handmer, J., Whittaker, J., Shinohara, Y., Hatori, T., Kohtake, N. (2016) Application of satellite navigation system for emergency warning and alerting. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems 58, 12-18.

McLennan, B., Molloy, J., Whittaker, J., Handmer, J. (2016) Centralised coordination of spontaneous emergency volunteers: the EV Crew model. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management 31 (1), 24-30.

Whittaker, J., McLennan, J., Handmer, J. (2015) A review of informal volunteerism in emergencies and disasters: definition, opportunities and challenges. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 13, 358-368.

Whittaker, J., Haynes, K., Handmer, J., McLennan, J. (2013) Community safety during the 2009 ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires: an analysis of household preparedness and response. International Journal of Wildland Fire 22, 841-49.

McLennan, J., Elliott, G., Omodei, M., Whittaker, J. (2013) Householders’ safety-related decisions, plans, actions and outcomes during the 7 February 2009 Victorian (Australia) wildfires. Fire Safety Journal 61, 175-84.

Whittaker, J., Handmer, J., Mercer, D. (2012) Vulnerability to bushfires in rural Australia: a case study from East Gippsland. Journal of Rural Studies 28 (2), 161-73.

Book chapters:

Whittaker, J. (2018) Fire. In: The Companion to Environmental Studies. Castree, N., Hulme, M., Proctor, J. (eds). Routledge, New York. pp. 502-06.

Whittaker J., Haynes, K. (2016) Bushfires. In: Natural hazards in Australasia. Goff, J., de Freitas, C (eds). Cambridge University Press, Melbourne. pp. 225-53.

Whittaker, J., Handmer, J., Karoly, D. (2013) After ‘Black Saturday’: adapting to bushfires in a changing climate. In: Natural disasters and adaptation to climate change. Cambridge University Press, New York. pp. 75-86.

Handmer, J., Honda, Y., Kundzewicz, Z., Arnell, N., Benito, G., Hatfield, J., Mohamed, I., Peduzzi, P., Wu, S., Sherstyukov, B., Takahashi, K., Yan, Z., Abdulla, A., Bouwer, L., Campbell, J., Hashizume, M., Hattermann, F., Heilmayr, R., Keating, A., Ladds, M., Mach, K., Mastrandrea, M., Mechler, R., Nobre, C., Sanghi, A., Screen, J., Smith, J., Velegrakis, A., Vergara, W., Waite, A., Westrich, J., Whittaker, J., Yunhe, Y., Yamano, H. (2012) Changes in impacts of climate extremes: human systems and ecosystems. In: Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation: IPCC special report. Field, C.B. et al. (eds). Cambridge University Press, New York. pp. 231-290.

Tibbits, A., Handmer, J., Lowe, T., Whittaker, J. (2008) Prepare, stay and defend or leave early: evidence for the Australian approach. In: Community bushfire safety. Haynes, K., Handmer, J. (eds). CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood. pp. 59-71.

Last reviewed: 5 June, 2018