Building resilience during and after bushfires

Lessons from the 2019-20 bushfires in NSW and the ACT


In July 2020, researchers from the University of Canberra began work on the three-year Building Resilience During and After Bushfires project. The project is funded by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and is exploring what best helps to maintain and build the resilience of communities during and after bushfires. The findings will help inform future preparation for and responses to bushfire. This will ultimately contribute to improved outcomes for communities affected by and at risk of bushfire.

The project involves collecting data via both the Regional Wellbeing Survey and in-depth discussions with (i) people living in bushfire affected communities, and (ii) people and organisations working with those communities to support recovery and rebuilding efforts. We will explore the wide range of unique experiences and perspectives on the 2019-20 bushfires, how they have impacted households and communities, and what helps and what doesn’t in preparing, responding, recovering and rebuilding using an iterative process in which we collect data using surveys and in-depth discussions. We will produce findings along the way to support those working with bushfire affected communities.

How are we using the Regional Wellbeing Survey in this work?

During 2020 to 2022, the Regional Wellbeing Survey will examine the experiences of bushfire-affected communities as they work to rebuild and recover after the 2019-20 bushfires (and we hope to continue our work beyond 2022). We are uniquely placed to examine both the impacts of bushfire and recovery, as we have been examining wellbeing and resilience since 2013 in communities across Australia, including most regions that were affected by bushfire during 2019-20. This means we are able to compare ‘before’ and ‘after’ data to better understand what things most help (and hinder) communities as they work to recover and rebuild after bushfires.

In 2020, the Regional Wellbeing Survey is asking about the cumulative impacts of the bushfires, drought, floods/storms and COVID-19 that many bushfire affected communities have experienced in the last 12 months. It also asks what is working well — and what is not working so well — in bushfire recovery and rebuilding. You can help out by participating in the survey, and encouraging others to do the survey. This year, winners of our annual prize draw can choose to either use the prize themselves, or donate the equivalent value to a charity supporting bushfire recovery and rebuilding.

In-depth conversations and discussions

From 2020 to 2022 we will also be asking those living in and working with bushfire affected communities to share their experiences with us through participating in individual and group conversations, online diaries, graphical story lines and photo voice talk. We’ll be talking with:

  • Community members who experienced the bushfires
  • Organisations (government, NGOs, businesses) involved in assisting communities preparing for, responding to and/or recovering from the bushfires and regenerating after the bushfires

In these discussions, we will be asking participants to tell the stories of their personal and professional experiences of bushfire preparation, response, recovery and rebuilding — and about lessons learned and future pathways for continuing to build bushfire resilience.

You can find out more about the conversations in our Information Sheet.



    Sharing findings

    Throughout the research, we will share our findings via public reports and media articles, and will update this webpage as publications become available. We will have a particular focus on ensuring our findings are shared with bushfire impacted communities and organisations (government, community organisations, businesses, charities) involved in recovering and rebuilding in ACT and NSW to inform and further improve their ongoing efforts. The findings will also be shared nationally and internationally via academic publications including conference presentations and journal articles.

    Find out more or get involved

    You can be involved in this project through taking part in the Regional Wellbeing Survey. If you are interested in participating in discussions about your experiences of bushfire, or would like more information about the project, please contact us at bushfireresilience@canberra.edu.au

    Please note that we may not be able to include everyone who contacts us in our discussions, as we have some limitations on numbers of participants.



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