Nina family photo.jpg

Nina Keath

Senior Strategic Planner, City of Onkaparinga / Willunga Resident

 This photo shows my family amidst the glorious chaos that goes with owner-building whilst also working and raising a young family... our very own Grand Designs! 

We are thrilled to report that the theory of passive-solar design really does work.

Our northerly orientation, double glazed windows, thick insulated walls, internal thermal mass, eaves and strategic plantings mean that we're toasty warm in winter and lovely and cool in summer.  

I learnt about the power of good design during my twenties and early thirties, when I was fortunate enough to find myself working in Melbourne at the centre of the emerging field of Water Sensitive Urban Design - a growing body of researchers, urban designers, developers, policy makers and community members working to improve the way we design and build our cities and towns to improve liveability, water quality, biodiversity and more. These were ten years of purpose, growth and passion, surrounded by inspiring colleagues and outstanding leaders to learn from and emulate.

While passionate about my career as an academic at Monash University specialising in social research and environmental governance, the pull of family and wide open Fleurieu skies proved irresistible after the birth of my first child. Five years later, we had a second child, a mostly built house in the foothills of Willunga, and a growing awareness of just how fortunate we were to call the Fleurieu home.

Whilst at home with young children and casting about for something to keep my mind stimulated, it dawned on me that much of my previous work as a researcher had really been about storytelling - finding out what is important, who needs to know it and how they need to hear it. I drew on these skills to become a regular contributor to Fleurieu Living Magazine, an experience that has confirmed to me the power of heartfelt, locally-oriented storytelling. 

As my children have grown, I have ventured back into the world of work and find myself once again working in a field that ignites purpose and passion – this time as a senior strategic planner for the City of Onkaparinga, supporting council, local businesses and the community to prepare for and manage the risks and opportunities arising from Climate Change. This is important work and it fills me with a sense of positive urgency.

The climate is changing. This is not something that will happen in another country to distant people in a far off future. Climate change is happening here, it is happening now and it is going to keep happening with increasingly dire outcomes. Grape growers know it. So do gardeners, emergency services staff, infrastructure managers, insurance providers, bankers and defense force personnel. There are real risks but also opportunities in areas such as tourism, viticulture, farming and renewable energy if we can be proactive and get on the front foot.

Responding to climate change requires us to engage with the complex question of how we manage change and my break from the workforce raising children really helped to highlight how much change has already been achieved. When I left, the broad science of climate change was clear but the local response was less so. People were still trying to understand the local risks and identify what actions needed to be taken. Upon re-entering the work-force, I found myself surrounded by people across all levels of government, community groups and the private sector who were getting on with the job of implementing climate change solutions.

But, of course, we need to do more, and the change we require is not your every-day garden variety change...its radical, transformational change across all levels of society and technology. And we have very little time left.

In my days as a researcher, one of the key questions I investigated was ‘What are the ingredients required for transitioning societies from one set of deeply ingrained behaviours, practices and technologies to another?’ This is the ultimate question for climate change and we need to do better at applying the insights from the social sciences. I'm relishing the opportunity to put the theory into practice via my role as a Resilient South committee member.

I encourage you to share your own story about how you’re working to build the resilience of our beautiful region. One of the things we know from the social sciences is that stories from our respected peers are motivating… so don’t be shy!

nina.keath@onkaparinga.sa.gov.au