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The role of community in long-term disaster resilience in Australia

Debra Frances Parkinson, Alyssa Duncan, Jaspreet Kaur, Caroline Spencer, Frank Archer

Abstract


Little research exists on long-term disaster resilience, particularly through the voices of disaster survivors. New research in Victoria, Australia, draws on the long-term disaster experiences of 56 women and men aged 18 to 93, some experiencing disasters as children. A key finding is the importance of community development principles and practices in the years after disaster – and in preparing and strengthening communities before adversity. Experiences at the time of the disaster and the way the immediate aftermath is managed have a profound effect on women’s and men’s resilience. In ignorance, people ask, ‘Aren’t you over it yet?’ Five words that judge another person’s lack of resilience and convey failure. This question was asked of survivors only weeks after disasters and continues to be asked. In reality, there was no getting over it. The seeds of long-term disaster resilience are planted in the immediate post-disaster period, As communities move through the stages of disaster from prevention through to long-term resilience, communities, and the people in them, change. Key recommendations are to ‘Review and extend training opportunities for community leaders’; to ‘Address community-wide trauma after disaster’; to ‘Educate children on how disaster experiences can affect survivors and the importance of sensitivity towards them in the aftermath’; and to ‘Promote awareness of increased domestic violence in disaster, and improve response from emergency services, support services and the community. This paper focuses on the potential of community development principles and professionals to build community resilience, fortifying women, men and children in times of disaster.


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