Community behaviours and attitudes towards bushfire

Studies have shown the cost of bushfires in Australia could reach $2.2 billion over the next 30 years. Preparedness and resilience within communities are key to lessening this impact as well as the effects of other crises.


A burnt bicycle lies on the ground in front of a house recently destroyed by bushfires on the outskirts of the town of Bargo on December 21, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. Photo Credit: David Gray via Getty Images.

Research by The Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research and Methods demonstrates a link between community functioning and bushfire preparedness.

The research was commissioned to inform the work undertaken for the Resilient Communities Mission program.

Since January 2020, ANU has collected data nationally from more than 3,000 Australian adults – equally representing all states and territories. The results are presented in three papers, the first focusing on bushfire resilience and bushfire behaviour, the second on wellbeing and the environment, and the third on bushfire recovery and response.

A summary report of the key findings showed that bushfire exposure impacted human behaviour and therefore the functioning of communities, but also that well functioning communities can support the type of activities that minimise future impacts.

The analysis found that high functioning communities are more likely to have taken action to reduce the threat of bushfires, or considered volunteering, clearly demonstrating the potential added benefits from supporting resilient communities.

The research also highlighted not only the need for community-focused investment in all phases of disaster management (prevention, preparedness, response and recovery) but also investment in community function and resilience even when there is no apparent relation to bushfires. This will assist in reducing incidence and costs of fires and drive returns to other investments.

According to Professor Biddle, lead author of the reports, “the Black Summer bushfires impacted on all Australians, with large economic, health and social costs. Our data suggests that these impacts have continued over the COVID-19 period. Bushfire seasons are only likely to get more intense and impact more people in the future, so the costs of fires in the future are likely to far outweigh the investment needed in our most vulnerable and affected communities.”

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