This report discusses how community-led approaches to disaster recovery are regarded as the optimal approach to sustainable disaster recovery, fostering self-reliance and self-determination within affected communities (Dibley, Mitchell, Ireton, Gordon, & Goron, 2019; Olshansky, 2005). However, as noted by Dibley et al. (2019), “[w]hat is less clear in the literature is how government might best foster and enable community-led recovery while maintaining their role and responsibilities in coordination after a disaster,” (p. 3, emphasis in original).
The objective of this research was to address this gap by examining ways in which governments can better support and enable communities to lead their own recovery after bushfire disaster events. Specifically, the following research questions were explored:
- How can government best support community-led deliberative decision-making processes in post-disaster bushfire recovery?
- How can government best leverage existing and emerging community organisations, structures, and networks in post-disaster bushfire recovery?
This project developed a set of resources to broaden the knowledge base and disseminate best practice, both within and beyond end-user organisations. Research findings from this project expand our knowledge on how community structures may modify the decision-making function of community recovery bodies (i.e., Community Recovery Committees), and shape residents’ perceptions of community recovery. These resources include:
- a theory and evidence-based factsheet on community-led recovery
- an analysis of community group structures that will inform how Community Recovery Committees (CRCs) and government bodies engage with existing community social structures.
- a self-assessment tool for CRCs to describe their own key dimensions and anticipate forms of support that they will likely require.
- research guidance for end-user organisations to support recovery progress monitoring to provide a broad benchmark by which to track recovery, service utilisation and satisfaction over time, and to identify recovery priorities within the community.
These resources are intended to be utilised by community engagement staff, other state and local government staff, CRC members, and not-for-profit staff who are involved in recovery. In all, the resources developed as part of this study are intended to be useful beyond the current cohort of CRCs operating in the wake of the 2019/20 bushfire season, which formed the basis of this research analysis. We hope that these efforts will form the basis for recovery progress monitoring, benchmarking, and support activities within disaster-affected communities and risk areas. However, it is a complex field, and so a proposed agenda is also provided for next steps in research and applications.