‘Support communities to lead their own disaster recovery’

A new university survey has found that experiencing a disaster greatly influences how prepared and resilient people feel if disaster strikes again.

Researchers at the Monash Fire to Flourish project surveyed 3,522 Australians about their perceptions of preparedness and resilience to natural disasters such as fires, floods and major storms.

The survey compared responses between those who had lived through disaster and those who had not. It found that 67 percent of respondents said they would cope “well” or “very well” in a future event, compared to 48 percent of those who had never experienced a disaster.

But some respondents living in disaster-prone areas were completely unaware of their level of risk, and almost half of all respondents indicated they did not feel their community was prepared for a natural disaster.

Fire to Flourish CEO Briony Rogers said that with natural disasters projected to increase in frequency and intensity, the study shone a light on the need for increased and ongoing investment in initiatives that build community resilience and support a community-led approach to recovery when disaster does occur.

“While disaster survivors are often depicted as victims with reduced capacities, this is not how they see themselves.”

“In fact, Australians who have gone through a natural disaster bounce back, more confident in their ability to cope with whatever the future may throw at them.”

“Communities form the backbone of any disaster response, yet they’re often under-utilised in broader disaster preparedness and recovery,” Associate Professor Rogers said.

“Harnessing the strengths and unique lived-experience of disaster survivors can support community-led recovery, tailored to local priorities and place.”

The findings will help to inform Fire to Flourish’s ongoing program work.