By The CASPR Team

University of Adelaide students Sophie Gordon and Caitlin Williams were summer interns at CASPR, supported by CASPR and the Department for Environment and Water. They spent February 2020 researching policy windows and published a research report for CASPR.

Policy windows, also called windows of opportunity, are a theoretical concept that describes the short period of time following a disaster when there is public pressure on decision-makers and governing bodies to create or change policies to reflect what has been learnt from the disaster, or to prepare for similar disasters.

Sophie and Caitlin’s research report analyses policy windows that have occurred following natural disasters in Australia, such as bushfires, floods and coastal degradation, with a particular focus on the 2019/2020 ‘Black Summer’ bushfires. The report highlights the contrast between anomalous major transformative policy change and more commonly observed minor, incremental policy change. Further, the report demonstrates that policies formed in the policy window are more effective in achieving their desired outcomes when they are proactive and preventative in nature, rather than being reactive. The report concludes with proposals as to what policy change is likely to be seen following the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires, and how such policy change should be structured in order to effectively achieve the outcomes that Australians strongly advocated for on a number of platforms following this event.

Both Sophie and Caitlin said that they found working with CASPR and the Department for Environment and Water to be an incredibly rewarding experience.

‘The report we produced was a reflection of the wealth of knowledge provided by those guiding us at CASPR and the Department for Environment and Water. We met with a number of key professionals who offered insights that could not have been obtained by merely examining articles and secondary materials. In fact, we found that many of the conversations we had with people we met alluded to the fact that much of this area of research was untouched, which made the research process even more exciting.’ – Sophie Gordon

‘Not only did we have the opportunity to learn and be guided by experienced researchers and professionals in the field, we still had enough freedom to explore a number of avenues with our research and draw our own conclusions. The team at CASPR were also very supportive, especially when certain aspects of the project proved to be more challenging than initially anticipated.’ – Caitlin Williams

The Policy Windows Report can be downloaded here.