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This content is taken from the The University of Newcastle Australia & CIFAL Newcastle's online course, Bushfires: Response, Relief and Resilience. Join the course to learn more.
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Support for Communities

Community led bushfire recovery

Community members often become first responders during an emergency and take actions to save their neighbours and families. An effective community-led recovery is one that encourages the following:

  • Active participation of individuals, families and community groups in recovery efforts.
  • Collaborative partnerships between communities and other stakeholders involved in the process of recovery
  • Prioritisation for the needs of individuals that are directly affected.

The role of communities in disaster recovery

Communities can greatly contribute to resilience and speedy recovery by encouraging individuals and families to actively participate in the process of recovery. Forming collaborative partnerships with fire services, police and healthcare workers also helps communities to recover faster from bushfires. The impact of religious and other community groups can greatly contribute to recovery and resilience.

Reconnecting with community for sustainable recovery

In the aftermath of a bushfire, communities need to reconnect as part of the recovery process, this is called social capital.

Social capital is defined as effective networks and relationships among people of shared sense of identity, understanding and norms. This enables every community to function effectively and peacefully.

There are three types of social capital, all of which enhance bushfire recovery and resilience. They are:

  • Bonding capital - Bonding social capital enables community individuals undertake disaster preparation, locate shelter and supplies, and obtain immediate aid and initial recovery assistance together.
  • Bridging capital - Bridging social capital comes from involvement in organisations including civic and political institutions, parent–teacher associations, sports and interest clubs along with educational and religious groups.
  • Linking social capital - Linking social capital concerns relations of individuals and communities with societal institutions-links to people or groups further up or lower down the social ladder, essentially breaking class barriers.

Bridging capital can also reduce a communities’ likelihood of seeking formal aid from organisations during disasters and increase the likelihood of social action to respond to disaster victims’ needs.

Communities with higher social capital and community leadership show the highest satisfaction with community rebuilding and quickest recovery. Mutual trust and dependence increases awareness of disaster management and volunteer opportunities and responsibilities. This in turn supports disaster preparedness and future recovery.

If you would like to learn more about the role of social capital in disaster recovery we recommend watching this talk by Dr Daniel Aldrich for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency, USA).


Let’s discuss

Is there an example of ‘bridging social capital’ (such as a club or society) that you are connected with? How helpful do you think that connection would be in a time of community crisis?


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This article is from the free online course:

Bushfires: Response, Relief and Resilience

The University of Newcastle Australia