Resilient communities | Natural Hazards Research Australia

Resilient communities

Communities are integral to society and are subject to a wide range of short-, medium- and long-term impacts from disasters caused by natural hazards.

We know that disaster exposure, risk and impact is context-specific, being felt immediately and intensely at the local level. To reduce this exposure, approaches that enhance resilience within and between communities to single and cascading hazards (and learning from past experiences) is an important goal in a world exposed to increasing natural hazard risk from a changing climate.

During the development of the Australian Disaster Resilience Index, it was apparent that the capacity for resilience has many facets that cannot simply be averaged across a country or region. Within a region, resilience differs depending on the nature of the hazard. Building capacity and capability for disaster resilience needs to reflect the understanding, engagement and capacity of all groups and sub-groups within any given community, including those experiencing any form of disadvantage or vulnerability, and more transient groups such as tourists, new arrivals and itinerant workers.

Community resilience will be strongly influenced by:

  • the way in which a community is likely to evolve over time, and the shocks and stressors that will drive, or influence that change
  • the built environment, critical infrastructure and lifeline services that support a community
  • the natural landscape, its proximity to their community, and the current and future risk(s) and benefits that the natural landscape will provide to the community.

There is still no agreeance on the core features or capabilities of truly multi-hazard disaster-resilient communities. In the absence of this information and understanding, it will continue to be difficult to determine which approaches will best achieve outcomes that truly strengthen disaster resilience.

Research in this theme can explore this area from many perspectives, including:

  • disaster relief and recovery
  • community mental health
  • risk understanding and communication
  • individual and community behaviour under pressure
  • economic impacts of natural hazards on communities
  • community participation in hazard risk identification and mitigation
  • resilience of essential lifelines
  • roles of, and benefits for, governments, businesses and community groups
  • community strengths and capacities
  • sources of vulnerability.