Recovery from Disaster: Resilience, Adaptability and Perceptions of Climate Change

Helen Boon, Joanne Millar, David Lake, Alison Cottrell, David King

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A step-wise mixed methods research design was adopted.1. Demographic data were used to profile communities for comparison,representativeness of samples, and comparisons of pre and post disasterimpact upon communities.2. Interview data from 186 participants from the four communities were used to a)identify factors that supported disaster resilience and b) explore attitudes toclimate change.3. Surveys, constructed from empirical interview data and the literature, were completed by 1,008 residents to generalize findings.4. Rasch analyses quantified the factors identified, and structural equationmodelling (SEM) assessed their links with disaster resilience using a modelbased on Bronfenbrenner's theory.Disasters and climate change impacts have cross-scale effects, disrupting functioningacross multiple levels of socio-ecosystems. Bronfenbrenner's bioecological systems theory was used to analyse individual and, by proxy, community resilience across Beechworth and Bendigo in Victoria and Ingham and Innisfail in Queensland, sites recovering from bushfire, drought, flood and cyclone respectively. Project aims were to:1) Identify private and public sector groupss'beliefs, behaviours and policies that have supported community resilience to a disaster event; 2) Examine the commonalities of the experience for the four types of disaster and the possible impact of their respective intensities, duration and perceived frequency, as well as how well communities cope with the unexpected; 3) Assess the degree of community resilience in each of four study sites indisaster affected areas; and 4) Construct a model with findings to help implement appropriate and equitableemergency management policies and mitigation strategies for climate changeevents. A key hypothesis underpinning our research was that individuals remaining in thedisaster impacted communities were likely to be resilient to disaster.Results showed that resilience is both an individual trait and a process. The strongest direct predictor of resilience was adaptability and a sense of place. Indirect influences,mediated via adaptability, were: financial capacity, family and neighbour support, communications and climate change knowledge and trust in communication sources. Community demographic data supported our hypothesis that individuals remaining in the community were resilient. They also suggested the four communities were resilient to disaster. Results showed that: A sense of place kept people in a community and supported disaster resilience. Disaster resilience was a trait and a process developed through socialrelationships and supported by financial capacity. Household preparedness was highly predicted by financial capacity and byadaptability and resilience. Unique community characteristics made communities different in the levels ofindividual resilience to disasters and the factors supporting resilience.The relationship between climate change views and disaster experience wascomplex, needing further exploration in rural and regional Australia. Individual safety and wellbeing was likely to have been a strong contributor tocommunity resilience and recovery. Support for individual and community resilience was found at several parts ofthe communities' socio-ecosystems. Economic support assisted individual and community resilience, but social support wasalso critical. Initiatives designed to increase a sense of place need to have as muchemphasis as those that focus on rebuilding the physical and economic infrastructure of a community.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGold Coast
PublisherNational Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility
Number of pages467
ISBN (Print)9781921609633
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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