The goal of this exploratory study was to better understand the breadth of disaster recovery volunteering following the Pinery Fire in South Australia in 2015, with a particular focus on faith-based groups. The report draws upon experiences and perspectives from a key group of individuals (8) involved in the recovery phase of the fire. The study sought to learn from the experiences and perspectives of these individuals. The study also focused on the disaster recovery structure in South Australia within which this volunteering is embedded.
The move toward engaging volunteers and NGOs not traditionally involved in disaster recovery alongside those with more established roles can be of benefit in a range of ways. The pool of volunteers to assist impacted communities will obviously be greater. Many of the members from community development and faith-based organisations have skills and approvals to volunteer and undertake a breadth of tasks and can be well-suited to provide much needed social support. However, an influx of people can put pressure on administrative processes, such as timely placement of new volunteers. In addition, organisations can incur costs undertaking recovery roles and this cost shifting of financial burden from disasters is one they do not want to, or cannot support. Furthermore, as NGOs their autonomy is important because they are NGOs and independent of government and this arrangement they do not wish to forgo even during disaster recovery.
NGOs with a common goal to assist in the recovery generally worked well together, although some rivalries and jostling about processes occurred. The experiences and reflections of interviewees about the recovery processes for the Pinery Fire were in general very positive. They acknowledge their involvement in fires like Pinery and the collaborative approaches such as South Australia’s Stakeholder Forum for disaster recovery can prepare them to better share data; streamline processes and differentiate roles for future events.