The Beyond Bushfires: Community Resilience and Recovery study was conducted to examine the impacts of the Black Saturday and related bushfires of February 2009 on community members’ physical and mental health and wellbeing. The research also aimed to build understanding of the interplay between individual, social and community-level recovery. The six year study involving over 1 000 participants across Victoria was conducted by The University of Melbourne in partnership with community members and a range of community, academic, government, emergency, and health agencies.
The results showed individual and community capacity to recover from a disaster experience and subsequent disruptions, and to adapt to changed lives and environments. There was progressive recovery at community level over time but there was also evidence of delayed impacts on individual mental health and extended impacts at five years post bushfires. The results highlighted the influence of close friends and family, social networks and community groups, and natural environment on resilience and recovery. There are clear opportunities to use these findings to inform individual decision making, community level strategies to strengthen resilience, and targeting and timing of recovery services.
The overall findings of the Beyond Bushfires study were presented in a major symposium for approximately 120 stakeholders (community, government/agencies, academics) in October 2016 to mark the end of the funded period of the Beyond Bushfires study. It coincided with the release of a final research report designed to engage non-academics while still referencing the academic papers as the source of the findings. The Beyond Bushfires study has already contributed 21 publications to date to the international evidence base and over 50 conference and seminar presentations.
The Beyond Bushfires research findings are being used across Australia and internationally to guide emergency recovery planning. For example, they have
- been distributed by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
- informed improvements to the Australian Red Cross Register Fine Reunite service and community monitoring data collection
- been used in the preparation of the draft of the Emergency Management Victoria 2017 Resilient Recovery Framework.
- been used by the State Government of Western Australia to prepare the State Emergency Response and Recovery Plan
A/Prof. Lisa Gibbs, Prof. Richard Bryant, Prof. Louise Harms, Prof. David Forbes, Dr. Karen Block, Dr. H Colin Gallagher, Mr. Greg Ireton, Mr. John Richardson, Prof. Philippa Pattison, Prof. Colin MacDougall, Dr. Dean Lusher, Dr. Robyn Molyneaux, Connie Kellett, Ms. Alana Pirrone, Ms. Lauren Kosta, Marian Lok, Ms. Gisela Van Kessel (Prof Elizabeth Waters dec.)