Claudia Benham wins an ABC Top 5 residency

CBCS researcher Dr Claudia Benham is one of five Australian researchers selected for the 2022 ABC Top 5 Humanities and Social Sciences media residency program.

The ABC Top 5 is a two-week intensive residency that offers early career researchers the opportunity to work alongside some of Australia’s leading journalists and broadcasters to develop communication skills and share their work. The program, supported by ABC Radio National, gives researchers a platform to share their research insights through podcasts and other media.

GBR grief – and resilience

Dr Benham’s research focuses on understanding how environmental change affects local communities in the Great Barrier Reef, including how communities are being affected by ecological grief following coral bleaching or other environmental declines. Ecological grief and climate anxiety are becoming more and more prevalent, particularly among children and young people. In Australia, the 2019–20 Black Summer bushfires and recent coral bleaching have increased the focus on these issues.

Over the next three years, Dr Benham will be working with local communities across the Reef to examine how factors such as place attachment (individuals’ links to the environment) influence the likelihood of experiencing ecological grief. Her research will also look at how communities are responding to climate grief, and how community-based decision-making can help Reef communities to build resilience and plan for the future.

Importance of social science

Dr Benham said, “I am thrilled to have been selected for the ABC Top 5 this year. Environmental change is already having a significant impact on local communities in many parts of Australia, and research plays an important part in understanding the full impacts of climate change and environmental losses and how these impacts are distributed. Social science research plays a key role in supporting adaptation but also in identifying how communities are working to combat climate change and environmental decline at a local level”.

She also cautioned, “While we urgently need to tackle the causes of climate change, we also need to support communities who are already dealing with the effects of a changing climate, including those who are impacted by climate grief. These tend to be communities that depend strongly on the environment for their livelihoods, society or culture.

“This research is about the Reef, but it will also raise awareness of community-based solutions for coping with the climate and biodiversity crises, which are relevant to communities across Australia”.

The ABC Top 5 Humanities and Social Science residency is underway in August–September 2022. The ABC also runs annual Top 5 residencies for Science and the Arts. Find out more at:

Teaser image: Dr Claudia Benham, at home in Brisbane. Photo: Dr Charlotte PetitImage above: Green Island. Jodi Nelson/Unsplash

Project members

Dr Claudia Benham

Lecturer in Environmental Management and Planning Policy and ARC DECRA Fellow
School of the Environment