This study was conducted to examine the impacts of the Black Saturday and related bushfires of February 2009 on community members’ physical and mental health and wellbeing. The research also aimed to build understanding of the interplay between individual, social and community-level recovery. The six year study involving over 1000 participants across Victoria was conducted by The University of Melbourne in partnership with community members and a range of community, academic, government, emergency, and health agencies.
The results showed individual and community capacity to recover from a disaster experience and subsequent disruptions, and to adapt to changed lives and environments. There was progressive recovery at community level over time but there was also evidence of delayed impacts on individual mental health and extended impacts at five years post bushfires. The results highlighted the influence of close friends and family, social networks and community groups, and natural environment on resilience and recovery. There are clear opportunities to use these findings to inform individual decision making, community level strategies to strengthen resilience, and targeting and timing of recovery services.