A new independent research project is underway, seeking to learn from the experiences of those affected by flooding in New South Wales and Queensland this year, with results expected to improve community safety and resilience to floods.
The Community experiences of the 2022 eastern Australia floods project is being conducted by Natural Hazards Research Australia (the Centre) in partnership with Macquarie University, the University of Southern Queensland and the Queensland University of Technology. It is supported by the NSW State Emergency Service and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
An extensive team of qualified researchers is being led by A/Prof Mel Taylor from the Macquarie University’s School of Social Sciences, and the project is being managed at the Centre by Node Research Managers Dr Kat Haynes and Nicola Moore. You can learn more about the project at www.naturalhazards.com.au/floods2022.
Researchers are hearing directly from people impacted or affected by flooding to gather vital insights into preparedness and response and how we can adapt to reduce future flood risk. They have been conducting in-depth, one-on-one interviews and are currently collecting responses to an online survey.
This collaborative post-disaster research approach has been successfully used following other disasters, including the 2019/20 bushfires, the 2011 floods in Queensland and the 2009 heatwave in South Australia and Victoria. Outcomes from these projects were used in important submissions to Royal Commissions and inquiries, reports for specific agencies, as well as contributions to the academic literature around post-disaster research, and in influencing disaster management policy and practice.
A/Prof Taylor said the views of anyone impacted by the floods, whether directly or indirectly, were helpful and unique. ‘Every story is important. We’ve heard about so many different experiences during the research so far and the rich information that has been shared with the team will help our research make a difference during future floods,’ A/Prof Taylor said.
The research methodology was designed with attention to participants’ potential trauma, grief and anger, creating an opportunity for people to debrief in a supported environment. Participants in this kind of research often feel more positive after having their story heard by a skilled researcher, as they have been able to raise their concerns in a neutral environment and are comforted by the knowledge that their voice and opinions will reach decision makers. The research project, including methodology, data management, qualifications and experience of researchers, was approved by the Human Research Ethics Committees at both Macquarie University and the Queensland University of Technology.
NSW State Emergency Service Deputy Commissioner Daniel Austin reiterated the importance of this research to safeguard the community in future floods. ‘Flood preparedness and response is a community effort that goes beyond NSW SES volunteers,’ he said. ‘By sharing your story and experiences through this research, you are providing valuable information to help arm the NSW SES and partner agencies. This research will help inform our plans and response to each region.’
The results of the research will be available in February 2023 and will be used to inform strategies and improve flood safety, not just in New South Wales and Queensland but across Australia.
This important research is the first project funded through the Centre’s Responsive Disaster Research Program. This program enables the Centre to conduct much-needed, time-sensitive research in the wake of a significant natural hazard.
The Centre’s CEO Andrew Gissing explained that post-disaster research such as this flood project is an ongoing capability that the Centre offers its partners and communities.
‘Learning after any disaster is critical,’ he said. ‘Post-disaster research such as this flood project will ensure lived experiences of the community can be incorporated into agencies’ lessons and management processes.’
This project also marks the start of an ongoing partnership between the Centre and Macquarie University.
For more information, go to www.naturalhazards.com.au/floods2022