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 research findings are being shared through a range of outlets including website, facebook, twitter, academic journals, scientific conferences industry and community seminars to ensure that the learnings from this event can help those who were directly impacted and also help others to prepare for future disaster events. We have worked in close partnership with key government, emergency and community agencies to use the research findings to improve planning, response and recovery services – and we continue to seek funding to support this ongoing work.
This report presents an overview of the findings and key recommendations.