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After the fires, a plan to build resilience

October 01st, 2021

A new report into the impact of the 2019-20 bushfires offers an approach of “transformative resilience’’ that seeks to co-ordinate community resources and build coping capacities in disaster recovery and build community wellbeing over the long term.

The Fire To Flourish – An Agenda for Change: community-led disaster resilience is the result of a collaboration between The Paul Ramsay Foundation, Monash University, The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TASCSI) and Metal Manufactures Pty Ltd.

One of the report’s key approaches is to outline an agenda for community-led bushfire recovery processes that improve long-term resilience, particularly for those communities dealing with entrenched disadvantage.

The report points to a community-led and strengths-based approach to disaster recovery as potential way of moving individuals and groups from vulnerability and out of disadvantage.

“We refer to this as transformative resilience,’’ the report states, “… a holistic approach to community resilience that seeks to co-ordinate community resources and build capacities for coping and adapting to disaster in ways that improve outcomes in the next disaster event and facilitate larger scale shifts that serve to improve community wellbeing more broadly.’’

“It represents a paradigmatic shift away from the dominant model of disaster recovery and support, which typically focuses on what individuals, groups or entire communities are lacking and is largely driven from the top down.’’

The report goes on to identify four future directions to implementing a transformative approach to community disaster recovery.

*Understand communities as place-based systems: resilience is the result of a community system. And that system reflects and captures the interconnected local network of social, institutional, physical and environmental structures.

*Connect to country: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities hold traditional wisdom that offers invaluable ways of thinking and knowing about place-based community systems.

*Increase communities’ transformative capacities: These kind of capacities help communities drive proactive, creative and systemic change over a longer time. And transformative capacities can also held address the root causes of vulnerability in communities dealing with disadvantage.

*Strengthen local leadership and social capital: building partnerships with community during disaster recovery is essential to fostering trust and ensure that activities address local needs and reflect community values. That, in turn, promotes a sense of ownership and collective leadership, and improves the likelihood of successful recovery.

The 80-page report is the result of systematic literature reviews, and examination of national disaster resilience policy, practices plus the numerous independent and commissioned Commonwealth and State Government reviews of the 2019-20 bushfires. It also included discussions with those individuals and communities who experienced the bushfires.

“This report articulates a way of thinking about the intersections between disaster, resilience, community and entrenched disadvantage,’’ it says. “It highlights a range of opportunities for place-based, mission-driven and research-supported policy and practice to take the next steps in Australia’s ongoing collaborative efforts to improve community resilience and steer positive community development trajectories in the aftermath of bushfire and other disasters.’’

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