About us

Sweltering Cities works directly with communities in our hottest suburbs to campaign and advocate for more liveable, equitable and sustainable cities.

Heatwaves are Australia’s deadliest environmental disaster and cause more deaths than all other disasters combined. This environmental injustice affects some of our cities’ poorest and most marginalised communities – those with fewest resources to keep themselves and their families cool and safe.

We will empower communities experiencing extreme heat by lifting up stories of lived experience and building community organising campaigns around local impacts and public health. This will increase political pressure for climate justice, adaptation and mitigation which will make communities safer, decarbonise our cities and grow and diversify the movement for climate action.

Working at the intersection of health, economic injustice and climate change, we aim to:

  • win community campaigns to create sustainable, liveable and resilient cities – campaigns with solutions and strategies that can be repeated and applied across the country;
  • put the voices of people most affected by extreme heat in our cities front and centre in media coverage;
  • build powerful networks of diverse people and organisations, working together to mitigate and build resilience to catastrophic global warming.

You can email info@swelteringcities.org to get in contact with us.

The Solutions

We need a whole of government response, including how we plan our cities, transport and healthcare. Here are the four key areas of solutions that the community has raised with us in the Summer Survey, in community meetings and .

Photo of a woman and a child sitting on a trampoline in a backyard

Safe homes for everyone

Energy efficient homes will lower electricity bills and keep us safer during heatwaves, but they need to be a minimum, not a luxury. By increasing building standards at a state and federal level we’ll make sure the the houses we’re building today will be safe in the future. Lots of our existing housing stock will be unsafe as temperatures climb, so we’ll need a retro-fitting program across our hot suburbs and for hot homes to make sure nobody is left behind. Let’s start with public and community housing.

Services for vulnerable groups

Heatwaves kill more people than all other environmental disasters combined, and it’s our most marginalised and vulnerable groups who suffer most. We need to get serious about heatwaves by supporting people to access cool spaces or heat shelters, increasing health outreach and resources during periods of extreme heat, supporting precarious workers to stop work in during heatwaves, and making sure homeless people have somewhere welcoming and cool to go.

photo of older person wiping their face
photo of bench under shady trees in a park

Cooling infrastructure

There are lots of simple ways to cool our hot suburbs, including increasing tree cover, creating blue infrastructure, updating planning controls to reduce the urban heat island effect and making sure parks and cool public spaces are available across the city, not just in wealthy areas. Better public transport will also make our cities more sustainable and equitable. It’s important that our workplaces, schools and community centres are climate resilient and safe during periods of extreme heat.

Justice and Participation

Across our hot suburbs, we’ve met hundreds of people who want to contribute to making our suburbs more equitable, liveable and sustainable. Unfortunately , at the moment our planning systems and building regulations care inaccessible when it comes to community participation. By sharing data and plans with the community, and making space for feedback, counter-proposals or local decision making, we can make sure the great ideas people have about their suburbs can help create the cities of the future.

Post it notes with ideas for cooler suburbs

Our Board of Directors

Emma Bacon

Emma is the founder and Executive Director of Sweltering Cities.

She is a passionate organiser, campaigner and activist. She has worked across movements for social and environmental justice for over 10 years on campaigns including an international asbestos ban, 10 cent deposits on bottles and cans, and union campaigns with shopping centre cleaners. She has run successful political campaigns and been part of winning significant outcomes for progressive change at local to international levels. Emma is committed to building a broad movement for climate justice.

Julie Macken

Julie Macken has worked in the field of communications and advocacy for over thirty years. As a senior feature writer with The Australian Financial Review for over a decade she initiated the successful Power Edition of the AFR Magazine, covered investigations into Australia’s asylum seeker policy, climate change, forestry practices and the early attempts to develop a nuclear energy industry in Australia. From there she worked with federal Labor, a number of unions, ActionAid and Greenpeace Australia Pacific, before working as head of Communications for the historically successful 2015 Greens NSW state election campaign. She is now doing a PhD at Western Sydney University, volunteering with the RFS and working with the Justice and Peace Office of the Sydney Archdiocese.

Rachael Jacobs

Rachael Jacobs is a, academic, a community activist, advocate and artist living on Gadigal land. She is a lecturer in Creative Arts Education at Western Sydney University, a former secondary teacher (Dance, Drama and Music). She conducts research in arts and creativity education that works towards social, racial and climate justice. Rachael has facilitated arts projects in community settings all over Australia, including in refugee communities, in prisons and in women’s refuges.

She is a freelance writer, aerial arts instructor, South Asian dancer and choreographer. She was a founding member of the community activism group, Teachers for Refugees and runs her own intercultural dance company. She is on the boards of several community organisations including Wide Eyed Wonder and Sweltering Cities. Rachael is politically engaged with her involvement in politics spanning over three decades.

Grace Vegesana

Grace Vegesana (she/they) is a 22 year old woman-of-colour fighting for climate, economic & racial justice on stolen Dharug, Gundungurra and Tharawal land across Western Sydney, Australia. She is pioneering an intersectional portfolio as the Climate & Racial Justice Director for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), and was previously the first Western Sydney Organiser. She sits on the Boards of the Foundation for Young Australians and the Australian Conservation Foundation, and volunteers as the Organising Support Officer for Democracy in Colour. Grace has previously worked with Future Super, Australia’s first fossil fuel free superfund, to instigate the Not Business as Usual Alliance where 3000+ Australian businesses striked for the September 20 Climate Strike.

Grace is also currently studying a double degree of Environmental & Climate Science and Law at Macquarie University, with a specialisation in geophysics and natural disaster adaptation. She is passionate about working in the intersection of climate and racial justice to build the power of young people in culturally, linguistically, and religiously diverse and climate-affected communities in Australia to forge generation-wide solutions to the climate crisis at a systemic level.

Chris Cooper

Chris is a founder, campaign strategist, advocate, and father of two. He has built his career at the intersections of advocacy strategy, media production and cultural anthropology, working with communities to leverage culture and storytelling to change behaviour and systems. Through participatory strategies that enable vulnerable and marginalised communities to self-advocate and design their own progress, Chris has co-designed and implemented issue-driven programs and campaigns across a number of continents and issue areas. He is executive director and co-founder of Reset Australia, a tech policy think tank and research organisation that tackles digital threats to democracy; as well as Senior Campaign Director and Head of APAC at Purpose, a strategic consultancy and social impact agency that partners with leading organisations, philanthropies and businesses across the globe.

Clara Williams Roldan

Clara believes storytelling and community building are at the heart of movements. She has worked using documentary as a tool for change as Clara as an Impact Producer on films such as Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation, Backtrack Boys, Incarceration Nation and Delikado. Previously, Clara worked as a policy and legislation advisor in NSW Parliament. In 2019, Clara co-authored the non-fiction book, Quitting Plastic. She is the Impact and Education Director at Documentary Australia

Our supporters, partners and networks

Sweltering Cities is supported by organisations including The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, tripple and Liverpool City Council.

Sweltering Cities is a member of the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance, Sydney Alliance and the Climate Action Network Australia.

We are excited to be collaborating with researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales on extreme heat related research projects.

Sweltering Cities was founded in 2020. We started our work in Western Sydney and have since expanded to collaborate with organisations across Australia and internationally. Sweltering Cities is Australia’s only national campaign and advocacy organisation working specifically on issues related to extreme heat. We work directly with communities in the hot suburbs and homes of Sydney and Melbourne and plan to expand our organising program in coming summers.

Sweltering Cities is a small team with a big impact. If you would like to support our work, please consider making a donation.