Cover Image

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

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


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.

Full Text:

Full Text


Addis, M. E., & Mahalik, J. R. (2003) Men, masculinity, and the contexts of help seeking, American Psychologist, 58(1), 5-14.

Aguirre, B., Enarson, E., & Morrow, B. (2000) The Gendered Terrain of Disaster, Through Women's Eyes, Contemporary Sociology, 29(2), 398.

Atkins, C. (2011) Aftershock: The ongoing impact of disasters, Insight 5 Emergency Management, Trauma and Resilience, 5, 4-7.

Austin, D. W. (2008) ‘Hyper-Masculinity and Disaster, Gender Role Construction in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina’, paper presented at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Sheraton Boston and the Boston Marriott Copley Place, Boston, MA, accessed at http,// (4/12/2019)

Australian Disaster Resilience Knowledge Hub (n.d.) Victoria and South Australia Ash Wednesday Bushfires, 1983, Australian Institute of Disaster Resilience, accessed at (4/12/2019)

Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience. (2018) Australian Disaster Resilience Community Recovery Handbook, Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience, Melbourne.

Birnbaum, M.L., Adibhatla, S., Dudek, P., Ramsel-Miller, J. (2017) Categorization and Analysis of Disaster Health Publications: An Inventory, Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 32(5), 473-482.

Camilleri P, Healy C, Macdonald E, Nicholls S, Sykes, J, Winkworth G, Woodward M, (2007) Recovering from the 2003 Canberra bushfire, A work in progress, Emergency Management Australia, Canberra.

Derickson, K.D. (2016) Resilience is not enough, City, 20(1), 161-166.

Elinder, M., & Erixson, O. (2012) Gender, social norms, and survival in maritime disasters, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, pp. 13220 - 13224.

Enarson, E., & Scanlon, J. (1999) Gender patterns in flood evacuation, A case study in Canada's Red River Valley, Applied Behavioral Science Review, 7(2), 103-124.

Eriksen, C. (2014) Gender and wildfire, Landscapes of uncertainty, New York, Routledge.

Fothergill, A. (1998) The neglect of gender in disaster work, an overview of the literature. In E. Enarson & B. H. Morrow, eds, The Gendered Terrain of Disaster, Through Women's Eyes, Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT, pp. 11-25.

Gibbs L, Bryant R, Harms L, Forbes D, Block K, Gallagher HC, Ireton G, Richardson J, Pattison P, MacDougall C, Lusher D, Baker E, Kellett C, Pirrone A, Molyneaux R, Kosta L, Brady K, Lok M. (2016) Beyond Bushfires, Community Resilience and Recovery Final Report, University of Melbourne, Melbourne.

Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967) The Discovery of Grounded Theory, Strategies for Qualitative Research, Chicago, Aldine.

Gordon, R. (2013) After the fires with Dr Rob Gordon [Video], accessed at: (4/12/2019)

Henrici, J. M., Helmuth, A. S. & Braun, J. (2010) Women, Disasters, and Hurricane Katrina, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, accessed at: (4/12/2019)

Hoffman, S. (1998) Eve and Adam among the Embers, Gender patterns after the Oakland Berkeley Firestorm. In E. Enarson & B. H. Morrow, eds, The Gendered Terrain of Disaster, Through Women's Eyes, Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT, pp. 55-61.

Moreton, M R J. (2016) A study of four natural disasters in Australia, how the human response to fire, flood and cyclone contributes to community resilience and recovery, a thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of the Australian National University, Canberra.

Ostadtaghizadeh, A., Ardalan, A., Paton, D., Jabbari, H., Khankeh, H.R. (2015) Community Disaster Resilience, a Systematic Review on Assessment Models and Tools, PLOS Currents Disasters, 8(1).

Parkinson, D. (2019) Investigating the Increase in Domestic Violence Post Disaster: An Australian Case Study, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 34(11), 2333–2362.

Parkinson, D. & Duncan, A. (2018) What’s so hard about writing a fire plan? The central role of gendered expectations in bushfire planning, Australian Journal of Emergency Management Monograph 3, pp. 69-75, accessed at:

Parkinson, D. & Zara, C. (2016) ‘Emotional and Personal Costs for men of the Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria, Australia’ in E. Enarson & B. Pease, eds, Men, Masculinities and Disaster, Routledge London, pp. 81-91.

Parkinson, D., & Zara, C. eds. (2011) Beating the Flames, Women's Health Goulburn North East, Wangaratta, Victoria, accessed at: (4/12/2019)

Parkinson, D., Duncan, A. & Kaur, J. (2018a) Long-term disaster resilience. Vol. 1 Executive summary and recommendations, Gender and Disaster Pod, WHGNE, Wangaratta, accessed at: (4/12/2019)

Parkinson, D., Duncan, A. & Kaur, J. (2018b) Long-term disaster resilience. Vol. 2 Full report, Gender and Disaster Pod, WHGNE, Wangaratta, accessed at: (4/12/2019)

Pease, B. (2019) Facing Patriarchy, Overcoming a Violent Gender Order, Zed Books, London.

Rivers, J. (1982) Women and Children Last, an essay on sex discrimination in disasters. Disasters, 6(4), 256-267.

Rubin, Claire B. (2009) Long Term Recovery from Disasters - The Neglected Component of Emergency Management, Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 6(1), Article 46.

Spencer, C., Majeed, S. & McArdle, D. (2018) Long-term disaster resilience. Vol. 3 Literature Review. Wangaratta, Gender and Disaster Pod, WHGNE, accessed at: (4/12/2019)

Tolhurst, K. (2009) Report on the physical nature of the Victorian fires occurring on 7th February 2009, University of Melbourne, accessed at:

Tyler, M. & Fairbrother, P. (2013) Bushfires are ‘men’s business’, the importance of gender and rural hegemonic masculinity, Journal of Rural Studies, 30, 110-119.

Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. (2010) The lessons learnt Volume 1, The Fires and the Fire-Related Deaths Melbourne, Victorian Government.

Zara, C., Parkinson, D., Duncan, A., and Joyce, K. (2016) Men and Disaster: Men’s experiences of the Black Saturday bushfires and the aftermath, Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 31(3).


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.