Phase one of my fieldwork was to conduct interviews with a selection of key leaders of disaster recovery, each of whom has had a strong leadership role in relation to fire, flood or cyclone in Australia’s recent history.  I interviewed the following people during 2013:

  1. Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland during the 2010-2011 floods and cyclones;
  2. General Peter Cosgrove, appointed to lead the Cyclone Larry Taskforce in 2006;
  3. Christine Nixon, previous Chair of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority, established after the ‘Black Saturday’ fires in Victoria in 2009;
  4. Richard Wilson, Chair of the Queensland Recovery Taskforce that was established after the 2010-2011 floods across Queensland;
  5. Andrew Coghlan, National Emergency Services Manager at the National Red Cross;
  6. Norman Archer, Director of Emergency Services, Salvation Army (Eastern Region);
  7. Dr Rev Stephen Robinson, National Disaster Recovery Officer, Uniting Church (Australia);
  8. Mara Bunn, Chief Executive Officer of Green Cross (Australia);
  9. Colleen Clark and Greg Ireton, who occupy senior advisory or managerial positions in the Emergency Management Branch of the Department of Human Services in the Victorian State Government; and
  10. Rob Gordon, Consultant Psychologist working with communities and organisations following disasters across Australia.

These interviews identify a range of factors that these leaders believe combine to protect communities from some of the impacts and long term social consequences of disaster, and also those that assist communities to adapt and recovery after the experience of disaster.  Community leadership, community engagement, and community action were all identified as key factors in the recovery process.

I am interested to explore how much agreement exists between what these key leaders believe and what communities themselves say of their own experience.  This informed Phase two of my fieldwork.