"We found that the social connections were a huge factor in terms of how people recovered further down the track,"
Professor Lisa Gibbs

For a long time, the scope of disaster resilience was mainly focused on communicating risk and actions to reduce material loss from specific hazards.

However, in recent years the Emergency Management Sector has been getting out of its comfort zone. Now there is a strong emphasis on understanding the social consequences of disasters, including mental health issues, depression and family violence.

Emergency management agencies will continue to communicate risks and the best way to prepare for them. However, they are engaging communities in different ways, doing less telling and more listening, and working with other groups to build resilience more broadly. This includes fostering community connection as a form of disaster resilience.

The recently released Beyond Bushfires report, a six-year study into the effects of the Black Saturday bushfires, supports this approach. The study found has found more than a quarter of those in high impact areas still suffered serious mental health issues years after the event. It also found that having close personal ties or being part of local community groups was an important means of building resilience.


This insight was written in response to the article ‘Black Saturday Bushfire study finds serious lasting mental health issues’ by Patrick Wood which first appeared on abc.net.au on 29 November 2016.