We’re hiring: Melbourne Community Organiser [Applications extended]

Sweltering Cities is looking for an experienced and enthusiastic community organiser for a part time role based in Melbourne from January to March 2022. 

Sweltering Cities works directly with people affected by extreme heat and rising temperatures to advocate and campaign for more liveable, sustainable and equitable cities. 

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. 

Sweltering Cities is a small team with a big impact. In 2020 we launched a community survey that engaged 700 people across the hottest suburbs in Sydney and secured funding to expand the program into Victoria. In 2021, Sweltering Cities’ work was covered in the Sydney Morning Herald, the ABC online, in local media and Domain

The Melbourne Community Campaigner will report to the Sweltering Cities Executive Director. They will be responsible for community outreach and coordinating community events. 

An average day may involve calling community contacts on the phone to talk about their experiences with heatwaves, meeting up with someone at a cafe or near their home to talk about local ideas for cooler suburbs, booking a location for a community event or confirming people’s attendance at an upcoming training session. 

Selection Criteria

Essential: 

  • Experience with successful community organising or engagement projects in the environment, social justice, community, health or union sectors
  • Knowledge of the impacts of extreme heat and rising temperatures on Melbourne communities
  • Confidence in organising community events 
  • Ability to develop and maintain respectful relationships with community members and organisations
  • High level written and verbal communications skills
  • Experience working independently

Desirable: 

  • Experience with digital organising or social media
  • Experience delivering training sessions

The role is 10-15 hours per week (negotiable) at $35/hour plus superannuation. 

Work days by negotiation with occasional weekend or evening work. This role would suit someone who wants to work some set hours and some flexible hours each week. 

Sweltering Cities celebrates the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace. We encourage applications from women (cis and trans), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, sexuality and gender diverse people and people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Applications close at 11:59 pm on January 9th however please apply as soon as possible. The role begins in January.  

To apply please send your CV and a cover letter of no more than one page addressing the selection criteria and why you’re interested in the role to emma@swelteringcities.org with the subject line ‘MELBOURNE COMMUNITY ORGANISER APPLICATION’.

We’re Hiring: Western Sydney Community Campaigner

Sweltering Cities is looking for an enthusiastic community campaigner with a proven record in mobilisation and engagement for a part time role based in the Western Suburbs of Sydney from January to April 2022. 

Sweltering Cities works directly with people affected by extreme heat and rising temperatures to advocate and campaign for more liveable, sustainable and equitable cities. 

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. 

Sweltering Cities is a small team with a big impact. In 2020 we launched a community survey that engaged 700 people across the hottest suburbs in Sydney and secured funding to expand the program into Victoria. In 2021, Sweltering Cities’ work was covered in the Sydney Morning Herald, the ABC online, in local media and Domain

The Western Sydney Community Campaigner will report to the Sweltering Cities Executive Director. They will be responsible for community outreach in Western, South West and North West Sydney with a specific focus on the Penrith area, as well as coordinating community events and working with activists. 

An average day may involve calling community contacts on the phone to talk about their experiences with heatwaves, meeting up with someone at a cafe or near their home to talk about local ideas for cooler suburbs, booking a location for a community event or confirming people’s attendance at an upcoming training session. 

Selection Criteria

Essential: 

  • Experience with successful community organising or engagement in the environment, social justice, community, health or union sectors.
  • Knowledge of Western Sydney communities and geography
  • Confidence in organising community events 
  • Ability to develop and maintain respectful relationships with community members and organisations outside of personal networks
  • High level written and verbal communications skills
  • Experience working independently

Desirable: 

  • Experience working in a community facing role in Western Sydney
  • Knowledge of the impacts of extreme heat and rising temperatures on urban communities
  • Experience with digital organising or social media
  • Experience deliverinh training sessions
  • Experience with door knocking or other community outreach activities

The role is three days per week (0.6 FTE) and paid at $68,000 pro rata, plus superannuation. Work days by negotiation with occasional weekend or evening work activities. Some work will be done remotely as desired, but there will be frequent work activities across different locations in Western Sydney and in particular the Penrith area.

Sweltering Cities celebrates the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace. We encourage applications from women (cis and trans), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, sexuality and gender diverse people and people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Applications close December 13th however please apply as soon as possible. The role begins early January.  

To apply please send your CV and a cover letter of no more than one page addressing the selection criteria and why you’re interested in the role to emma@swelteringcities.org with the subject line ‘WESTERN SYDNEY COMMUNITY CAMPAIGNER APPLICATION’.

Open letter: NSW needs to be more ambitious to reduce extreme heat

MEDIA RELEASE: Experts, community leaders, local government leaders and NGOs call for more ambition in NSW to tackle urban heat emergency

November 3rd 2021

Experts, community leaders, local government leaders and civil society have signed onto an open letter calling for the NSW Government to lead Australia in reducing the impacts of extreme heat on our communities and building climate change resilient cities. Over 20 experts, leaders and organisations have signed onto the open letter to the NSW Premier, Planning Minister and Minister for Western Sydney that is being launched publicly on today. 

“The current Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy review is a huge opportunity to be as ambitious as possible for more energy efficient homes and more liveable and equitable communities,” said Sweltering Cities Executive Director Emma Bacon. 

“People in our hottest suburbs are dreading the summer. They’re anxious about how they can stay safe with their families during heatwaves, how they’ll pay electricity bills for cooling, and how they’ll be able to work in the baking heat of summer. 

“Sweltering Cities has worked with experts, leaders and organisations who all support more ambitious action to reduce urban heat in NSW to develop this letter. We believe that NSW can be more ambitious in reducing urban heat, delivering climate mitigation and adaptation, and supporting communities in our sweltering suburbs.”

“We need to stop building urban heat islands and commit to higher standards for healthier, greener, more sustainable suburbs. The next few years must be transformational years for reducing extreme heat in NSW.

“Today we’re writing to the NSW Premier, Planning Minister and Minister for Western Sydney asking for them to meet with a delegation of signatories to discuss the urgent need to build more climate resilient cities and consult with the community for local solutions to extreme heat.” said Ms Bacon. 

Barry Calvert, President of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils said: 

“Heat impacts all parts of our city – heath, energy networks, transport, telecommunications, economy, worker productivity and our environment – and Western Sydney is suffering the worst effects. WSROC has been working with councils on guidance for planning cooler suburbs, community heat preparedness, and extreme heat management, but we need the state government on board to take the next steps.”

Dr Kim Loo, Riverstone GP and member of the NSW Australian Medical Association Council said: 

“I can see the impact of extreme heat on the health of my patients. Increasing inequality is deepening the health divide in Australia. Too often health is a distant consideration when we’re developing planning, energy or infrastructure policies. The social and environmental determinants of health can be addressed through better policies that prioritise community safety and climate action.”

Heatwaves aren’t a day at the beach: heat related illness and resources

Heat waves and extreme heat can cause heat related illnesses from heat rashes to heat stroke. Existing medical conditions can be exacerbated by heat include heat disease, diabetes, respiratory or circulatory illnesses or mental illnesses. There is lots of information about how heat impacts our health. We’ve collected some resources for you here:

Top image created by the Climate Commission.

Community joins conversation on the health impacts of rising temperatures

On Tuesday 11 May over three dozen community members from across Western Sydney met in Blacktown to join the conversation on the health impacts of rising temperatures. The two main speakers for the evening were Dr Kim Loo, NSW Chair of Doctors for the Environment, Riverstone GP and newly elected member of the NSW Australian Medical Association Committee, and Dr Andrew Melito of Kildare Medical Centre, long time Western Sydney resident and Wiradjuri man.

Dr Loo presents on the health impacts of heat

The attendees heard that extreme heat can have significant health impacts for people of all ages. The impacts of heat can be wide ranging, from respiratory distress, pressure on heart function and circulation, to mental health and anxiety. Vulnerable members of our community at in the most danger during heatwaves, but even healthy people can be impacted by heat exhaustion or mental fatigue caused by sleeplessness. Dr Melito spoke specifically about his passion for Aboriginal and community health and how heat impacts that community.

You can find the slides for Dr Kim Loo’s presentation here:

Dr Melito discusses Aboriginal and community health in Western Sydney

Emma Bacon from Sweltering Cities also gave a report back on the local results of the community survey. Across Sydney, 87.5% of people have trouble sleeping on very hot nights or during heatwaves; in Blacktown LGA it is 92% and in Penrith LGA it is 88.5%. You can read the report of the results of the Sweltering Cities Sydney community survey here.

Emma Bacon presents on

The audience contributed engaging questions. They raised local issues including the construction of the Western Sydney Airport, planned garbage incinerators in the Blacktown area, energy efficiency in homes, and the need to cool down classrooms for students in our hottest suburbs. Audience members also added notes with issues they care about or want more attention on.

Some of the solutions to extreme urban heat are large and complex policy issues, but many of the solutions raised at the meeting could be implemented simply. Increasing awareness of the health impacts of heat will help communities protect themselves and know the warning signs for heat stroke. If we start with planting trees, creating more shade, using renewable energy for affordable air conditioning, using cooler materials and installing water features, we will be able to cool our suburbs and prevent heat related diseases. These community priorities are a good place to start as we take on the more complex challenges of making our cities more liveable, sustainable and equitable.

Audience members raise local issues

Residents gather in Campbelltown to discuss rising temperatures in SW Sydney

On the 2nd of May 2021, twenty-five people gathered in Campbelltown for the Sweltering Cities South West Sydney community meeting. The passionate residents shared their great vision for a liveable, healthy, sustainable and equitable local community. They discussed the biggest challenges that come from living in hot suburbs with rising temperatures, as well as the solutions they feel best meet the community’s needs.

Residents sharing challenges and solutions

The biggest issues related to extreme heat and rising temperatures locally were: 

  • Transport. Many people were frustrated that South West Sydney still has to deal with old hot trains and bus stops without shelters. People discussed the health impacts of having to stand in the sun to wait for a bus without shelter or a seat. There is also too much air pollution from cars and trucks. 
  • Housing. Hot homes are a big health risk. We need higher standards for energy efficiency and passive cooling so people don’t have to rely on air conditioning. 
  • Not enough support for the most vulnerable. Heat impacts the elderly, people with disabilities, people with health conditions and poorer people. We aren’t doing enough to make sure people are safe during heatwaves. 
  • Unsustainable or bad planning resulting in more urban heat islands that are dangerously hot in summer. Dark surfaces, concrete and treeless streets are increasing temperatures. 
  • There are big impacts on the natural environment, including our lakes and rivers, native animals and green spaces. There is too much deforestation. 
  • It’s difficult for the community to contribute to building a better suburb. Many participants said that they had contributed to many government consultations but don’t feel listened to. They want to participate in sustainable development but feel shut out.
  • Schools are too hot and under resourced. Kids struggle to learn in hot classrooms and some areas are impacted much more than others.
Solutions include reforming the legal system to make it fairer

The solutions the community propose are: 

  • A planning system that creates liveable, green, and nice suburbs that people can be proud of. People should be able to have a voice in the planning process. 
  • A transportation system that supports all residents. People want green transportation that won’t contribute to air pollution. 
  • The environment and the community should be put first. 
  • Bus shelters and cool trains should be mandatory. 
  • Sustainable principles for development that include low pollution, access to water, trees and green space, and local jobs. 
  • Better funding for schools for cool buildings, play and learning spaces. 
  • Invest in technology for renewable energy powered transport and homes. 
  • Health services to support people who struggle in the heat. 
  • Climate action to stop rising temperatures. 
  • More trees!
  • Transparency in the use of public funds and the government approval process.

We think that when decision makers are looking for ways to mitigate and adapt to rising temperatures they should start with these great ideas. The next steps are for us to continue working together for a more equitable and sustainable planning system, climate action and funding to support communities in our hottest suburbs. We’re going to take these challenges and solutions to the candidates in the upcoming NSW Local Government election, and to the NSW Planning Minister. Representatives will hear first hand about the community health impacts of rising temperatures and urban heat islands.

SMH: Sydneysiders using unconventional methods to cool down

By Andrew Taylor March 8, 2021

“Almost one-third of Sydney residents leave their homes to cool down during hot weather, while 55 per cent of people do not turn on their airconditioners because of the cost of energy bills.

A survey of how people cope with hot weather found nearly half of all apartment dwellers leave their homes for a cooler location such as a shopping centre, cinema or library, compared to 27 per cent of people who live in houses.

The survey conducted by the community-based Sweltering Cities found 62 per cent of people aged 25-34 did not turn on airconditioning at home because of concerns about cost.

Amanda Forbes lives in a three-level townhouse in North Parramatta with her husband Jake, daughter Harriet and brother Grant.

Ms Forbes said it was difficult to cool her home because there was so much open space and no awning over the back sliding doors meant “the sun just directly pours into the house”.

“The vertical blinds which most renters would be familiar with do nothing in terms of reducing the amount of heat that can come into the house,” she said.”

SMH: ‘I wrapped myself in a damp towel’: Sydneysiders risk health inside hot homes

By Andrew Taylor January 24, 2021 — 12.00am

“Some Sydney residents are living in homes with room temperatures nudging 40 degrees, as climate change raises temperatures and fear of big energy bills stops people from cooling down.

study of indoor air temperatures in Sydney homes found 51 per cent of residents surveyed in the summer of 2018-19 felt “uncomfortably hot”.”


“Emma Bacon, founder of community group Sweltering Cities, said homes in Sydney had not been built to deal with the rising temperatures caused by climate change.

“Too many houses in Australia haven’t been built to keep cool without aircon in the extreme heat of our summers,” she said.

“They aren’t insulated well enough, or aren’t designed to take advantage of cross breeze, have dark surfaces that attract and absorb heat, or don’t have trees to provide shade or cool the land around the house.

“You’ll see new suburbs with houses barely metres apart with almost no eaves.”

Corrie Diamond said she was “dreading” the summer after a couple of days of hot weather last month left her in discomfort and unable to sleep.

“I wrapped myself in a damp towel with ice cubes,” she said. “This helped for a little bit, but I was melting and felt really uncomfortable.””

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ABC: Heatwaves may mean Sydney is too hot for people to live in ‘within decades’

Sunday 24 January 2021

“Parts of Victoria and NSW are sweating through an extreme heatwave that started sweeping across Australia’s southeast on Saturday.

This may seem like just a good excuse to go to the beach, but as the planet warms and summers become longer and less bearable, heatwaves are coming to represent an existential threat to Australian suburbs.

Already, heat kills more people in Australia than any other natural disaster, including floods, cyclones and bushfires.

Now, faced with the prospect of 50-degree-plus summers, experts say highly urbanised parts of Australia may become unliveable within decades.

The race is on to re-imagine, redesign and rebuild the Australian suburb.”

“A project called Sweltering Cities is surveying residents to hear what it’s like to live, work and travel around Western Sydney on days of extreme heat.

The responses so far paint a scary picture, says Emma Bacon, who’s running the survey.

“The amount of people who use the word ‘dread’ with me about summer is shocking,” she says.

“Overwhelmingly, they’re saying political parties should have policies to address the heat in the city.””

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