Community Resilience and Community Led Recovery: One is Reality, the Other an Achievable Goal

Australian emergency management strategies, frameworks and plans consistently reflect the desire to create and support resilient communities, capable of responding and adapting to any disaster that affects them.  

This aspiration is reflected at the national level (the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, 2011), and at the state level (e.g. the Victorian Community Resilience Framework, 2017). Local Councils are also engaging with this work, as the level of government closest to affected communities. Principles for Disaster Recovery.  In contrast, many communities describe the

‘Community led recovery’ is often the aspiration, as reflected in the National assistance they receive as ‘the second disaster’.  Rather than leading the process, they often feel dis-empowered. Government and non-government organisations struggle with how to enable community led planning, preparation, response or recovery.

The language used by agencies differs from the language of communities themselves. This difference can erode trust and prevent the relationship needed to enable community led action and community resilience. There is also a view (conscious or not) that communities are incapable of leading recovery after a crisis. The evidence of my research strongly suggests that this is not true.

The focus of my work is to empower the voice and actions of communities. I work with agencies and communities to ‘translate’ between them, and to assist in establishing a relationship of trust and openness, so that communities and agencies can work together to strengthen resilient communities.

The key protective factors for resilient communities in the face of natural disaster are as follows:

Before the crisis:

  1. Pre-existing social and community capital (including leadership)
  2. Disaster planning and preparation
  3. Community history, identity and shared values
  4. A sense of attachment to place.

During and after the crisis:

  1. Respectful engagement between the community, response and recovery agencies and other ‘outsiders’
  2. Community leadership – both pre-existing and emergent
  3. Community engagement and action
  4. Partnerships with individuals, groups and communities (led by the locals)

The most important lesson for policy makers and service delivery agencies is to listen to affected communities, to work in partnership, and to follow their lead.

This update was kindly provided by Dr Margaret Moreton, Principal at Leva Consulting, who presented ‘Community Resilience and Community Led Recovery: One is Reality, the Other an Achievable Goal’ at the 2017 Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference. 

Find out what’s on the program for this year and register for the 2018 Conference here.